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Editor's pick:He found the luck of the draw

Leandado found luck of the draw on ‘Family Guy’

By Eric Butterman

Dante Leandado '98 likes doing family drawings. Of the doting father. The children. Their playful dog.

Whom are we kidding? He works on "Family Guy."

Many of their jokes aren't even printable in this magazine. What is printable is that it's a phenomenon like few shows in the history of TV. Canceled twice in its first few seasons, it's become a cult classic. Leandado, with pen or computer at the ready, is one of the artists who make sure if you're drinking milk that it will come out of said nose.

He's been an artist and designer for the Fox comedy for the past 14 years. His work usually appears on four to five shows a season.

Leandado grew up drawing comics in Virginia Beach. But he didn't think he had the talent to become a professional artist.

Old Dominion University, where he studied fine arts with a concentration in studio, helped him visualize how to improve his work, paying attention to "proportions, anatomy, lighting, that sort of thing."

Within a year of receiving his degree, Leandado ventured, like so many entertainment hopefuls, to L.A. in the hope of breaking in. And like so many others, he tried to keep his head above water by working retail. At the register at a Borders bookstore, he got the call. Leandado had landed a job at Klasky Csupo, a studio that made cartoons for Nickelodeon.

It was the luck of the draw.

Leandado soon found himself a character designer on "The Wild Thornberrys," one of the most popular animated TV shows at the time. A character designer assesses the style of the show and draws panels to fit that style.

Leandado still recalls the first time his work was broadcast. "It was super quick, not much screen time, but I was just happy it stuck close to what I submitted," he says. And "it was weird to see it on TV in color."

His work has appeared on other shows, including "Rugrats" and "As Told by Ginger."

In 2007, Leandado began working for "Family Guy." He's drawn them all. Peter, Lois, that innocent baby. Oh so innocent.

The show's humor requires just the right touch. "It's kind of deadpan, so in some scenes the dialogue carries it," he says, "but if it's a physical gag, you have to depend on your own sensibilities."

Leandado, who has worked from his Pasadena living room since March 2020, gets the greatest satisfaction when "a show goes over well.

"When you put the work in, and the director and supervising director are happy with it, and if it gets good laughs in the screening, it's like euphoric."

Eric Butterman is a freelance writer in McKinney, Texas.