Animator, dinosaur enthusiast lives geek life to the fullest

When it comes to the geek lifestyle, Christine Simon isn’t holding back.

An animator, artist, and maker of exquisitely nerdy sock monkeys, Christine is active in several prestigious animation guilds and societies, a sign of her enduring passion for her craft and desire to keep learning about and growing in her field.

Christine also finds time to embrace a broad spectrum of fandoms, including “Game of Thrones,” Harry Potter, Star Wars, “Doctor Who,” “The Twilight Zone,” the films of Tim Burton, “The X-Files,” “Jurassic Park,” and Nintendo.

She never misses an opportunity to immerse herself in all things Disney at the D23 Expo, cosplays with her family, and has actually attended the Annie Awards, which are the animation equivalent of the Oscars.

However, the thing I find most delightful about her — besides her adorable 1-year-old daughter, Amelia — is that she has never lost her childhood fascination with dinosaurs. She loves the prehistoric beasts so much, in fact, her wedding was dino-themed.

I am not kidding you. You’re going to want to see the pictures!

You studied film directing and animation. Were you interested in visual arts as a child?

I was very into all kinds of creative arts as a kid. I started drawing at age 2, and remember noticing differences in animated TV shows as a kid. I appreciated certain shots and lighting in films that I know no one else my age paid attention to.

Why did you decide to pursue these specific forms of visual media?

Directing caught my attention because it’s a way of orchestrating your creative vision by working with other creative passionate people. Animation has been a part of what I love for so long that it seemed like a no brainer for me. I wanted to make my drawings come to life in the magical way that only animation can.

Art by Christine Simon.

Is there a certain type of animation you specialize in or a style that’s uniquely yours? Who are some of your influences?

I feel that all artists have their own style, which is what makes art so amazing. Mine has always been cartoonish looking. Some say more Disney-like. There are several artists I look up to and admire their work, but I could never be the level they are. Haha. The nine old men of Disney, as well as the newer nine. Chuck jones, Tim Burton, J. Scott Campbell, Don Bluth … the list goes on.

Have you made any films or shorts? If so, tell me about them.

I made a few short animated films years ago. They were done traditionally (minus a few which were stop motion) and were no more than three minutes each. I made a few short live action films as well. I’ve done illustrations, story boarding, and maquette making more recently.

Art by Christine Simon.

You’re a member of the Burbank chapter of The Animation Guild. Why did you decide to join this group?

Someone told me about it, so I went to check it out and took a liking to it. They offer classes for professionals to brush up on their craft, or for students looking into getting into the business. They’re taught by working professionals who are all very hands-on and kind. There are some great opportunities there. They also make sure animators are getting treated fairly in the workplace and keep records of wages, etc.

Christine with a maquette of Shaun the Sheep at an ASIFA event.

You’re also a member of the International Animated Film Society in Hollywood and participate in many of their events. What are some of your favorites?

ASIFA is absolutely fantastic. They restore old animations, educate the public on animation history, and hold special events for aspiring artists. There are many screenings a year of anything animated (shorts and features) with professionals and filmmakers for members. While those screening are among my favorites, the absolute joy for me is the Annie Awards. This is the biggest night in animation, for the Annies are like the Oscars, just for animated works. They happen in February and talent from all over come together to celebrate. It’s been slowly growing and I’m glad for it.

Christine with an Annie Award, the animation equivalent of an Oscar.

What do you find beneficial about being a part of this society?

I love this group and what it does for animation. It preserves and respects it. It is full of kind people who are part of animation history but are also so down to earth and helpful. They encourage young artists, offer advice, and provide opportunities to interact in ways not many people get to. I’ve met so many amazing people through their events, and learned so much about the craft I love.

Christine and her husband, Joshua, at an ASIFA event for “The Boxtrolls.”

Are there many women in the field of animation?

There aren’t as many women in the animation industry as men, but the numbers and diversity are growing. Another amazing group for this is Women in Animation, very much like ASIFA but highlighting works done by and/or for women. They, too, organize screening events that allow you to meet and hear exactly what current professionals have endured and experienced. I encourage any female looking into animation to become a part of their group as well as ASIFA.

Art by Christine Simon.

You have many creative outlets, including painting, sculpting, illustrating, sewing, crafting, and photography. Many of your creations are geek-related. Tell me about some of the things you’ve made and how they express your fandoms.

I’ve done a lot of different fandoms through a lot of different art forms, but I feel my splash paintings and sock critters are some of my most creative works. I feel like splash paintings can show a feeling in a neat way. They’re a little bit random and a lot of fun to make.

I must know more about the custom sock monkeys you make.

I started making sock monkeys many years ago. My friend Heather taught me how to make one, and it was so enjoyable that I had to learn more. I got every book and followed all the patterns. I learned what I liked and didn’t like, what looked good and didn’t, and started to craft my own pattern and designs.

I sew more than monkeys!

I adore making something as seemingly mundane as socks come to life. Each one is sewed by hand (That’s right — no sewing machines.) so that the personality of each sock can come through the best possible way. Every one is different, even if the pattern is the same. I’ve done regular ones as well as geek related ones. They each get names (renamed when the new owner tells me) and numbers. I remember every single one I ever crafted. They take about an hour to two hours each to make –depending on the animal.

Art by Christine Simon.

Have you sold your wares at vendor events? What about your Etsy shop?

I have sold my sock critters at events, yes. There are craft fairs I’ve been a vendor at a few times. They’re actually my favorite because I get to see the new owners’ reactions to them. So many amazing little moments. Kids who light up and want one above all the other amazing crafts nearby. Adults who stop with a smile and share stories of their sock monkeys as kids. Fellow geeks like me who reach that wonderful level of excitement when they find something to add to their fandom love collection.

I do have an Etsy shop but it’s been inactive for a while (since I was pregnant with my daughter). My shop and sock creations are under “Feeture Creatures.” They have their own Facebook as well. I still do custom orders but my vendor events are less.

Christine with Nathan Fillion at the “Castle” wrap party.

Aside from your many artistic pursuits, you’re into a lot of different fandoms, including Star Wars, Harry Potter, and “Game of Thrones.” Who do you think should sit on the Iron Throne?

Oh, man, yep — there are too many fandoms I love. Haha! I am a fan of Jon Snow. I like that he has a more grounded base of morals than the rest, but Tyrion intrigues me as well. He’s a character with a lot of depth. But if I had to say who should actually rule — I say, Jon.

How are we going to survive the long wait until the final season airs? (No, really, please tell us.)

I’m already dying without it, hahaha! I’ve been filling the void with funny GOT memes. They make me laugh and keep it fresh. Rewatching from season one  is helping, too.

Art by Christine Simon.

What’s your earliest Star Wars memory?

When I was a kid, my dad (who is where I get my nerd side from) proudly watched it with me on VHS. We popped popcorn and he explained the intricate universe with such an exciting passion that I could not help but get into it, too. The sounds caught me, as well as the effects (the animator in me).

Do you lean more toward the Light Side or the Dark Side?

Well, I am light side, but the newer Star Wars releases have me intrigued by Kylo Ren. He’s the only one who fights to keep the light out while all others fight the dark. I suspect he will turn light by the end of it.

Do you have any big plans for the release of “The Last Jedi”?

I already have my tickets and my outfit — counting down the days for the Thursday night release!

What about Harry Potter? How did J.K. Rowling’s series first grab you?

I was a little older than the target audience age for the books when they were released, so I read book one before the film was released. I enjoyed the story and got into the world quickly, but after I saw the first film opening day, the love of Harry Potter solidified in me. I enjoyed the movie so much, that I did a very hard and rare thing — I vowed to NOT read any of the books until after it’s corresponding movie came out.

I successfully achieved my goal and am very glad I did. Reading the books immediately after seeing the movie made it more like a behind the scenes experience for me. Nothing was spoiled beforehand and I had no expectations for how the film “should have” been made, and I was able to enjoy the books and view them more as an in-depth look into the characters’ experiences that the movies weren’t able to show. For this I love them both, the books and the films.

What’s your Hogwarts house?

I’m proudly a Hufflepuff.

Have you been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter?

Heck to the yes! I’ve been to both parks in Florida and LOVED it. What a fantastic world to disappear into.

Art by Christine Simon.

Were you into geeky stuff as a child? How did the “geek life” begin for you?

Definitely my dad started it for me. He loved “The Twilight Zone” and so I watched it with him while small. Those short stories of sci-fi and fantasy with a touch of intriguing creepiness got my brain going. He also loved Star Wars, “Back to the Future,” Star Trek, and Godzilla films. His passion and excitement when watching these is what got me and still gets me with fandoms of all kinds.

People love them and that love is infectious. It’s great to get excited about something. I also watched animation nonstop between these sci-fi wonders and found that love for myself in those on my own –creating the wildly eclectic jack of all trades girl I am now.

Christine’s daughter, Amelia, with Belle and the Beast.

I understand that your 1-year-old daughter, Amelia, is a geek, by default, and your husband is supportive, even if he doesn’t necessarily share your enthusiasm for certain fandoms. What geeky activities do you enjoy together as a family?

Halloween was the first time I included them both in my geek love. Amelia was a month old and it hasn’t stopped. We all enjoy Disney related outings and I do drag them to some of my ASIFA events. We watch Harry Potter and Star Wars at home together and I’ve been reading Harry Potter to Amelia since she was born. She reacted to the theme music in the womb so I think she’s destined to be a fellow lover of geek related fun.

Christine and husband Joshua at the Hollywood Bowl’s live concert event for “A Nightmare Before Christmas.”

As a woman, is there anything you’d like to see change in the world of fandoms and geek culture?

I do honestly believe it’s getting better, and my experiences with the geek community have been fairly positive, but there are still quite a few men who don’t believe women are as into it as they are. Try and talk video games with some and they look at you like you’re faking it, for example. I think it would be nice to have a mutual respect for all genders who love the same thing.

A dino-themed photo from Christine’s wedding.

I love the fact that you are a huge dinosaur enthusiast. This passion began in childhood, apparently, and never died. What was your first dino love? And why has this love endured for you?

Thank you! Dinosaurs have always been a bit of magic of their own for me. As a kid, they were like a puzzle, and they made my imagination soar with what they must of sounded like, how big they could of gotten, and how they even could of smelled. Haha! I had posters, books, toys, even wallpaper as a kid. I knew all their names and how to say them.

My favorite dinosaurs (and non-dinosaurs) are deinonychus, dimetrodon, and plesiosaur. “Jurassic Park” is one of my all-time favorite movies, and I still enjoy seeing them at museums and talking about them. I think it’s still strong for me because they’re still so incredibly amazing. I mean …. millions of years these things have been on Earth, and we are STILL discovering new things about them.

Literally this year in March the most intact fossil of a Nodosaur was shown to the public (discovered initially in 2011) and has created a ton of new insights on dinosaurs. Freaking amazing.

You mentioned that there were dinosaurs at your wedding. Please elaborate.

There was no question that when I got married it would deviate from the norm. I chose a vintage, time travel, dinosaur themed wedding. Now, adding dinos to a wedding is a fine line between cheesy and a kid’s birthday party, and there are even more limited things available to purchase, so I put my creative skills to work and made a lot of things myself.

Our centerpieces were dinosaur topiaries (made from scratch), there were dinosaurs in my bouquet, as well as the boutonnières. Our musician played the “Jurassic Park” theme song as we walked down the aisle after we were wed. Our photographer made some amazing shots with dinos cause he knew my love for them.

As a “Jurassic Park” fan, did seeing those amazing CGI dinosaurs for the first time blow your mind?

What I love about the first “Jurassic Park” is that almost all the dinosaurs you see on screen are practical effects. They’re really there with the actors on that set as truly frightening things that only the puppeteer knows how they’re going to move. No amount of CG can replicate that. I was fascinated by the computer animation it did have, but being the keen-eyed nerd I am, even at age 10, I was wowed by the practicals. Those sound effects too! Ahh! I still love them.

You’re also into Nintendo. What’s the first Nintendo game you played?

I honestly don’t remember. I wanna say it was Mario, but I also remember playing “Donkey Kong” on Atari.

How do you currently keep the Nintendo flame alive in your household?

I proudly own every single Nintendo console (minus original Atari and Virtual Boy) from original to now. They all work and they’re set up to play with a wide variety of games for each one. Ironically, my husband had a great collection of Xbox and PlayStation consoles, so when we got married we gained a vast mass of gaming entertainment.

You are also an “X-Files” fan who sometimes answers to the nickname “Scully.” How were you first introduced to the truth that is out there?

I was told the show was good when it first came out, but didn’t pick it up till a little bit later upon another suggestion that I would like it. Sure enough I did, and do. It’s very much like “Twilight Zone” in a way, but with the FBI duo that kept everyone on edge with their relationship.

Why do you associate yourself with Scully?

I gained that nickname in high school, when I chopped my long brown hair to shoulder length and dyed it for the first time in my life to Scully’s auburn red for Halloween. I had not told anyone I was going to do it, so it shocked and hence gained me the nickname. I loved it, and it likely solidified my enjoyment of cosplay. I got way into it, copied her badge and even got a replica cross necklace that she donned on the show. I enjoyed how smart she was. How she’s seen a lot and experienced a great deal, but still tries to remain grounded and use logic.

Were you excited about the series’ recent return to television?

Yes! And I’m excited about the next (season) coming out next year, too!

One of your other TV fandoms is “Doctor Who.” Who is your Doctor?

Hands down, No. 10 — David Tennant.

Christine with animation writer-director John Musker at D23.

This interview would not be complete without mentioning Disney. You’ve attended Disney’s fan convention, D23, since it began. What are some of your favorite memories from that event?

My favorite is when I had lunch with (Disney animation writer-director) John Musker. It was one of the earlier years of D23 and I was lucky enough to be at the same table as the animation legend. It was just us and my best friend. We ate our lunch and talked about films. It was absolutely amazing and still one of my favorite memories. Another is meeting friends there that I still have to this day because of that convention.

Christine, far right, partaking in some “Gatsby”-themed cosplay.

You’ve cosplayed a few times, along with your baby, dog, and hubby. Tell us about the costumes you’ve put together.

I’ve done steampunk and “True Blood” myself, did Wonder Woman and Joker with my husband, as well as 1920s “Great Gatsby”-style cosplay. My dog has done Target (he’s the Target dog) and Frankenweenie. Amelia’s done Wonder Woman, Disney princesses, and Pokémon. Actually, we did Pokémon as a family — it was our first together.

You’ve also dressed up for midnight movies and screenings. Tell me about some of the specific events you’ve done that for. What do you like about dressing up as characters you love?

Harry Potter all the way. I quickly found other lovers of the films with the same passion as I for getting excited enough to dress up for a movie — and we all collaborated to go as a group. I was Hermione for those. I love getting into it so much. Playing the parts makes it that much more fun.

What’s the next upcoming release (movies, TV shows, video games, etc.) you’re looking forward to?

Next up is “Coco.” I already feel like it’s going to win a lot of awards, and I’m personally very excited for it. After that — Star Wars!

Is the truth really out there?

Absolutely.

About the Geek Goddess Interviews:

No Man’s Land chats weekly with a “Geek Goddess” whose devotion to her fandoms manifests itself in unique and inspiring ways. We’re always looking for interview subjects, so if you know someone who would be ideal, please respond via the comments, private message, or email lavendervroman@gmail.com.

 

 

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