It’s not everyday you see a brother from the projects with his hat cocked to the side, whose main hustle is animation. If you ever did, chances are you just met Bronx native Lesean Thomas (LeseanThomas.com). Taking the untraditional route, Lesean was schooled in art and animation by the few professionals in the game that he happened to meet. And what he didn’t learn from them, he learned from the art books he used to steal from the library as a kid.
Lesean’s first break came when he was hired as an assistant designer for a children’s accessories company, drawing Disney characters for backpacks. Two years of drawing Mickey helped him develop a cartoon style that was perfect for animation. In 2000, he used those skills to create Whirl Girl for Showtime, marking the first time a major network picked up a flash cartoon.
After Whirl Girl and another series called Battleseed, Thomas started freelancing for MTV, Warner Brothers and Disney working on Lizzie McGuire, Kim Possible, and Teen Titans. At the same time, he was heavy in the comic book scene producing the series, Arkanium, taking over lead design for a revamped Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles project, developing his own comic, Cannon Busters, and designing characters for Beanie Sigel’s show, The Playpen. During the latter, he was offered his current position as the lead character designer/assistant director for Aaron McGruder’s animated adaptation of his popular strip The Boondocks, debuting this fall on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim lineup.
“When The Boondocks got picked up, Aaron did a pilot but he wanted to redo the show in a style that hasn’t been done before,” explains Lesean. “He saw Cannon Busters and my work on Beanie’s project and called me on the spot. He told me he wanted me to design his show and supervise the character design. [I think] people are gonna look at the show and say, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this before’ because it’s in my style and no one really knows about me yet.”
Prepare for that to change though, cuz he ain’t going nowhere. “I stay hungry and focused and treat everything like it’s my first project,” he claims. “As long as I look around and I see that there are not a lot of brothers in the game really bringing it, it reminds me that I’m one of those dudes that need to come through.”