Dave Joly interview

By Scott Stilphen

Dave Joly was one of Atari's talented in-house Games Animators.  Although only being at Atari for a short time, his contributions to the company extended beyond the games he was involved with.


Q: What is your educational background?

Dave Joly: I was an illustration major at the Art Institute of Boston (now part of Lesley University) with a minor in graphic design, having started there in the late 70’s.  From childhood my real interest was in animation (stoked by years of watching Tom and Jerry, Bugs Bunny / Road Runner Hour, Disney, etc), but the industry was at a low point in those years and only a couple schools in the country offered programs in character animation, the best being CalArts, Disney’s training program.  I’d written to Disney Studio when I was 16, asking how I could get a job there and received a nice letter back and a CalArts brochure.  But funds were tight, I lived in Connecticut, and the Art Institute of Boston’s illustration program was only 3 years (one year less $$ to self-fund), so I made the decision for AIB.

Most of my illustration work at AIB was whimsical and children’s book oriented, and I was often trying for a ‘classic animation’ vibe in a lot of projects, even though they were static images.

Q: How did you come to apply at Atari?

Dave Joly: After graduating in ‘81, I was determined to get to get to California, never having been outside the Northeast.  I’d done a lot of bicycle touring around New England, and decided to do a solo bike trip to the west coast, packing slides of my work in with my gear so I could interview at design firms when I arrived.  Long story short, by the time I got to Ohio I was lonely and bored with the solo daily grind and bailed on my CA goal.

Returning home, tail between my legs, I spoke with the Illustration Dept. chair back at AIB who I knew had connections with a few design firms in CA.  She sent a copy of my portfolio to a designer she knew in Palo Alto, while meantime I found an entry-level design/illustration position at a screen printer in Gloucester, MA.

I’d pretty much forgotten about my portfolio out west after working for 3 months at the screen printing place when one day in early February of ‘82, after returning from work, I got a call from someone saying they were from Atari HR, had seen my work, and were wondering if I was interested in an interview.  I thought it was a crank call, but she assured me they would indeed fly me out to Sunnyvale.  I vaguely knew that Atari had to do with a game called Pong, but that was the extent of my knowledge of the company and computer games.

Given my non-existent knowledge of either computers or games, I never expected to be hired, but after my aborted bike trip I was pretty excited about a free trip to CA, even if only for a couple days (and in an airplane, another first)!  In early 1982, I interviewed with Marilyn Theurer (Churchill), head of the Graphics Group for VCS games.  It was a fun interview.  I met a few others in the graphics group, and a week later I was offered the position of Games Animator.  Marilyn hired me right after hiring Mimi Doggett.

I subsequently found out my portfolio of slides had been handed around a few times to various folks in the Bay Area and eventually, somehow ended up being seen by Alan Murphy, another games animator in the group, who suggested they interview me.  He also mentioned in passing, about a year later, that he received a ‘finder’s fee’ once they hired me!

My first week on the job, our group (Jerome Domurat, Alan, Mimi, Marilyn, and myself) headed over the Coast Range mountains to the beach in Capitola for a ‘departmental meeting’.  I took that as confirmation I’d made a good career move. ;-)

Dave Joly's desk at Atari in 1982

Q: You worked at the 1195 Borregas Ave building, correct?

Dave Joly: I’m hazy on the number of our building back then.  I think that was it, but I'm not positive that was the number.  I do remember the building was split between us in Consumer Engineering (2600, 5200 games) and the chip designers in the other part of the building.  We almost never interfaced with those guys; they were like TOTAL grown ups (no fun!).  I used to park my motorcycle on the sidewalk, just off to the side of the main entrance.  Doesn’t seem that’d be possible these days!

Q: You mentioned you were Jerome Domurat’s roommate for a few years.  Did you know Jerome prior to working at Atari?

Dave Joly: No.  The first time we met was during my interview with Marilyn.  After working together for about 6 months, we realized we were both interested in moving out of Sunnyvale.  We found a great place in Los Gatos and decided to try the roommate thing, which worked out well.

Q: What was the creative process like?

Dave Joly: I recall initially being assigned to the first projects, but over time developing good working relationships such that programmers would request to work with me, based on availability.  At that point we’d meet and talk about the direction the programmer wanted to go, I’d start doing some rough designs/animations, and we’d take it from there.  It was a pretty organic back-and-forth process, really fun and enjoyable creatively.

Q: What program(s) did you use?

Dave Joly: As Jerome mentioned: Dave Theurer’s Graphics Stamp Design Aid animation program running on the Atari 800.  In the attached color image of me at my desk, you can see it on screen with a cycle of Mickey Mouse from Sorcerer’s Apprentice I was working on.

Dave Joly in a February 1984 Electronic Fun article.

Q: VCS Sorcerer’s Apprentice was released in the fall of 1983; the photo of you using Dave Theurer’s program was from the February 1984 issue of Electronic Fun. The graphics shown for Mickey are far more detailed than what’s in Sorcerer’s Apprentice.  Could this have been for another game?

Dave Joly: Good catch on this!  I’ve been trying to remember more about that Mickey sequence.  I think that sequence on the screen in the photo was a test; I remembered after looking closely that it was a ‘Mickey shaking hands’ movement, done to see how good I could get him to look at that size (I think that was the largest size we could get in Theurer’s program).  We used to do that kind of thing when we had the chance, to kind of push to see how good something could look, outside of the actual game graphics, which made doing stuff for the 5200 something to look forward to.  I remember the day the photographer did that shoot for Electronic Fun, it was a real production, with lights, Polaroid test shots, etc., and I’m sure I put up that Mickey sequence because it was way more impressive looking than the 2600 game version.

Atari VCS Sorcerer's Apprentice (LEFT); Pigs in Space (CENTER); and Donald Duck's Speedboat (RIGHT)

Q: Besides Sorcerer's Apprentice, what other VCS games did you work on?

Dave Joly: Suki Lee and I worked on a Disney game together, as well as on Obelix, where we traveled to Paris with some international marketing folks to meet the artist of the series and the publisher; one of a bunch of amazing trips.  Michael Sierchio and I worked together on a Muppets game, Pigs in Space, which led to some great get-togethers with their creative people, including at Henson Assocs. HQ in NYC.  An amazing opportunity for a 22-year-old kid.

Q: Do you remember what Disney game you worked on with Suki Lee?

Dave Joly: At the time I was working on it, the title was Donald Duck’s Sailboat Regatta, which was eventually changed to Donald Duck’s Speedboat.  Not sure how it came to be credited to Peter Niday by other sites, though I do recall working with Peter on Sorcerer’s Apprentice.  With that game, I did the Mickey cycles, title screen, game backgrounds, brooms, etc.  While I no longer have the working files (tossed it all about 10 years ago), I shot a bunch of slides of the Sorcerer game screens to use as part of a portfolio back then.  I also have a distinct memory of it because I was going back-and-forth with Carson Van Osten (a well-known Disney creative director/cartoonist who was the contact person for this project) for his input on a lot of this stuff.  I’m not sure how it came to be credited to Jerome.  Perhaps I handed him copies of my working files as I was leaving Atari (October 1983), so modifications could be made if needed by Peter.

Q: Sorcerer’s Apprentice was slated for release in October 1983 – same month you left Atari, and was advertised in the Oct/Nov 1983 issue of Atari Age, so it was far too late for Peter to make any changes to it by then.  I don’t recall if Jerome specifically mentioned doing that game in my discussions with him.  At the time, I was using information from a popular series of collector's guide books from Digital Press, and I know they credited both Peter and Jerome for the game (LINK).  I don’t know where they got the info for Jerome being involved.  The only credit (in the game’s manual) is for Peter.  There’s no names mentioned on the box.  I know other sites have used those books as a source of information for years as well, but I’ve personally come across several factual errors were traced back to them.

Did you also work on Asterix?

(LEFT) Dave's sketch for VCS Obelix title screen; (RIGHT) actual title screen from VCS Obelix

Dave Joly: According to what both Suki and I remember, I only worked on the Obelix game - title screen, animations, icons, etc.  I do remember Jerome doing the title screen for Asterix, and Steve Woita confirmed he and Jerome did the whole game.

In one of the videos you linked to, I saw a short clip of Asterix and Obelix walking.  Boy did that bring back memories!  I remember that was one of those early test animations I did, done to see how they’d look together and how good a walk cycle would look.  It’s amazing how much seeing things in motion triggers distinct memories of working on them, compared to still images.

Test animation of Obelix and Asterix walking together

Q: Do you recall what part of Pigs in Space you worked on?  I know Michael Sierchio worked on Pigs in Space and RealSports Soccer.  Pigs in Space had several people attached to it.  The game consists of 3 separate games, and I think each game was done by a different team.

Dave Joly: The game Sierchio and I worked on had the characters Link Hogthrob and Gonzo in it (Ed.: Chickenvaders).  The article in the 1983 V2N7 issue of Atari Life mentions some of that.

Photo from 1983 V2N7 issue of Atari Life


The 4 different prototypes of Miss Piggy's Wedding that are known to exist

Q: The same Atari Life article mentions Gary Shannon was the designer and programmer for Miss Piggy's Wedding, and that you did the graphics for it.  The game was never released, or even completed as far as I know.  Do you recall any more details about it?  In all the known prototype versions, the guests are represented by blocks.  Was there any plan to create more detailed graphics for those?

Dave Joly: Wow - I hadn’t actually read that Atari Life article in a long time, and those screenshots of Miss Piggy’s Wedding did bring back memories.  I remember animating Miss Piggy - that chunky dress really jumped out for me.  I wish I still had those working files/disks I ditched years ago.  They were all organized by game, and I do remember having a few disks specifically devoted to Miss Piggy’s Wedding.  I remember Gary pretty well, though we overlapped at Atari for only maybe six months.

In 1983, Atari hired a bunch more folks in the CED, including Gary and two more animators in our group: Michael Kasaka and Courtney Granner.  I know Michael left after me and went on to Electronic Arts.  I’m still in touch regularly with Courtney (who worked there into the Tramiel era); we went to art school together in Boston where we became good friends, and when we were looking for more animators, I suggested we interview him.  He became roommates with Jerome after I left, was Best Man at my wedding, eventually became Art Director at Guitar Player magazine for a while, taught as an adjunct at San Jose State University, and eventually started the animation and viz dev dept. there (along with Alice Carter).  He married Alice (aka Bunny), who had previously been the Illustration Dept. Chair at Art Institute of Boston when Courtney and I were there, and whom I mentioned had sent my portfolio out to the west coast, which got that whole Atari thing rolling for me.  Courtney and Bunny retired from San Jose State about 7-8 years ago then set up and directed the education program at the Disney Family Museum in San Fran over a couple years.  Small world!

Q: Besides the VCS, did you work with any other systems, such as the 400/800 computers or the 5200?

Dave Joly: I worked on Atari Tennis for the 5200.  I recall having some Vic Braden tennis reference video for that.  I think the intention was for it to be branded as Vic Braden’s Atari Tennis, or something like that.  It was a big deal to work on 5200 games, given the increased memory, which for the graphics people meant twice the number of colors (16!) and larger sprite size compared to the 2600 games.

I recall sometime around in 1983, DeAnza Community College put on a show of computer graphics work being done around the Bay Area at the time, and Jerome collected a lot of our sketches, printouts, screenshots, etc., and we put together some great display boards of the work from our group for the show:

Q: These are fantastic!  Here's what I recognize from them:

Display board #1
VCS Sorcerer's Apprentice
5200 Sport Goofy - early name was Sport Goofy "Biathalon"?  Should be Biathlon :) And Biathlon is a winter sport (skiing and shooting).

Display board #2
5200 Road Runner
5200 RealSports Tennis

Display board #3
5200 RealSports Baseball

Display board #4
Misc. character running animations - 1st looks liks VCS Berzerk, 2nd I don't recognize - character on a horse.  Do you recall what this was from?  The 3rd running character animation might be from a sports game, but I'm not sure.  The closest would be VCS RealSports Baseball but it's not an exact match.

Dave Joly: The horse sequence that Jerome did that’s visible on the boards wasn’t for a game.  It was an animation sequence similar to my Mickey sequence above.

Q: Do you have any stories from your days at Atari, either at work or on business trips that you’d like to share?  You mentioned one trip to Henson Associates HQ in NYC, and another to Paris to meet with the artist of the series (Albert Uderzo, René Goscinny, and Jean-Yves Ferri) and the publisher, when you were working on Obelix.

Dave Joly: The trip to Paris included myself, Suki Lee, a couple Atari International marketing folks from CA, Steve Kuhn and Barbara Mechlowitz, and a few others I can’t recall.  We were there to meet Albert Uderzo (the illustrator and one of the originators of the series) and the representative of his publisher.  We presented some examples of our work, and I gathered up a bunch of character reference materials (animation model sheets, series books) that Albert provided.  I remember buying a suit for the trip, something that was totally out of character for how we operated back in Sunnyvale.  I wore it twice - once for that trip, and once again when I got married.

Studio Idefix's Asterix model sheet

Studio Idefix's Obelix model sheets

It was effectively a 3 day trip for a 3 hour meeting, leaving us time for some sightseeing.  At our morning meeting, the rep for the publisher, a very urbane and sophisticated guy who was also the president of the French chapter of the Ferrari club, recommended a ‘very nice’ restaurant for us for that evening, and he made a reservation for us.  I don’t recall the name, but it was in a beautiful park-like setting on the outskirts of the city, and the decor was full-on Art Nouveau, the absolute fanciest restaurant I’d ever seen.  At our table was a discreet little card, in French, that said ‘With compliments’, which we immediately interpreted as meaning the publisher was graciously picking up the tab for dinner.

Steve Kahn was a wine sophisticate and he ordered us bottle after bottle of his favorites.  The meal was many courses, some presented as covered dishes with a waiter at the side of each of us, removing the covers in one synchronized movement - a total performance.  After a 3 hour experience, the final touch was the presentation by the head waiter of a humidor of cigars from which to choose.  I wasn’t a smoker, but I wasn’t going to pass it up, and so lit up with the rest.  On the way out of the restaurant, the Maitre’d asked us for a business card, which we assumed he’d like as a memento of our visit; we were feeling pretty fabulous, I think ;-).  I had a hangover for the remainder of the trip, but it was worth it!

About two weeks after we returned to Sunnyvale, George Kiss called us into his office and asked what the hell we’d ordered for that meal, as he’d just received a bill from the restaurant for $2,200 (in today’s dollars).  It turned out ‘With Compliments’ was meant for the first bottle of wine, not the meal, and the business card for the Maitre’d was for tracking whom to send the bill.

I was on multiple trips to Disney Studio in Burbank in prep for the games we were doing with their characters.  Working for Disney had been a dream of mine for years, so it was amazing to be there and get behind-the-scenes tours of the studio, animation building, eating in the exec dining room, etc.  I recall the animators went out on strike during our first visit, and seeing some amazingly creative picket signs.  While working with Disney, it was clear how long it took the artists there to work their way up to significant positions & projects, and here I was, a 22-year-old, working on projects I never would have had the chance to if I’d been a Disney employee.

Working with the Muppets/CTW/Henson folks was a lot of fun, both at their offices in Manhattan and back in Sunnyvale.  I recall meeting in brainstorming sessions with Chris Cerf, Mary Ann Horstmeyer, Michael Frith, and Rick Wetzel.  Chris gave me a copy of the Muppets album Born to Add, for which he had written and performed.  Walking into the Henson Assocs. offices was impressive; a skylight at the top of the open lobby featured a Kermit’s eye-view of a forest scene in stained glass.

(LEFT) Bruce Springsteen's Born To Run album; (RIGHT) Sesame Street's parody album Born To Add

The day Chuck Jones popped in was completely unexpected.  I looked up from my desk and there he was, along with his daughter/business manager, and some Atari exec/guide.  He was there because Atari had licensed some of the Looney Tunes characters for games, and as the creator, Chuck was very interested in it as a new medium.  Chuck's visit was a little after the announcement that Atari would be doing games based on his characters, so I’m sure that’s why he was there at that time.  Not sure who instigated his visit, but I do remember he was genuinely interested in what we were doing, as opposed to someone dragging around purely as a PR exercise.  I recall years later he actually worked on a game or two himself (separate from Atari) using his characters, so he obviously was into the idea of new mediums.

During his visit, Chuck stopped by my desk to see some of how we animated characters for the games, and I took the opportunity to tell him how much I admired his work and some of my favorite cartoons he’d directed.  He was gracious and generous with his time, giving me a few background details on some of his favorites.  Just before he left, I worked up the nerve to ask for his autograph, and he grabbed my notepad, signed it from Wile E. Coyote and Chuck Jones, and it’s something I’ve cherished ever since, along with a print of his Christmas card for that year.

(LEFT) Chuck Jones' personal autograph to Dave Joly; (RIGHT) Chuck Jones' Christmas card to Atari

The actor Todd Bridges (who at the time was starring along with Gary Coleman in the series Diff’rent Strokes) stopped in our office for a visit.

A bittersweet memory was during a time that our graphics group was interviewing candidates to fill the manager’s position after Marilyn Theurer left.  An older gentleman came in to interview, and I was the only person available to speak with him.  At the time in the VCS group, we were mostly in our early to mid 20’s, and I don’t think anyone in the dept. was much older than 30.  This man, in his mid/late 60’s, had been an animator at some of the studios in the golden age of theatrical animation, and had a briefcase loaded with samples of work from those days.  I felt immensely awkward as a very young guy to be interviewing someone who could have been my grandfather AND had been doing classic cell animation long before I was born.  I had tremendous admiration for his knowledge and background and told him how interesting his experiences were.  On his way out he gave me a little gift; an animation timing sheet from the old Leon Schlesinger Studio, the predecessor to Warner Bros.  In the end, as a group, we decided we liked how things were working directly with the programmers, and rather than a manager, we needed a secretary to handle more administrative tasks, so the manager position went unfilled.

Rare Leon Schlesinger Productions animation timing sheet

Some time in 1982, Atari bought a Via Video graphics system and wheeled it into our office.  Compared to today’s desktop computers, it was the size of a small refrigerator, saved files onto 10” floppy disks, with less resolution than a VGA monitor, all for about $100K.  But it did have a tethered pen and tablet interface, which made it pretty attractive compared to drawing with a joystick.  At the time, I think it was generally used in the early days of creating digital weather maps or similar.  Atari was throwing money all over the place and someone decided the Via Video was cutting edge and we should have one, despite not having a plan for how it could be used for game development.  It was fun to play with, and I spent quite a bit of time creating drawings, and became the most knowledgeable user within our group.  One day a crew from the TV show You Asked For It showed up, to answer the question, "How are Atari video games made?"  Larry Kaplan was showing the film crew around, and they were intrigued with the Via Video system.  They shot footage of me drawing with it.  A year later, I was back in Connecticut and my grandfather said he’d turned on his favorite program the previous night and saw me drawing on a computer. :-)

Dave Joly at his desk at Atari in 1982

Dave Joly demonstrating the Via Video graphics workstation at Atari in 1982

Q: Alan Murphy mentioned doing some drawings with the Via Video and he felt he was the only one that ever did anything with it, and that it sat mostly unused after much hype about how it was going to be used to prototype games.

Dave Joly: Funny how both Alan and I thought of ourselves as the only significant users of the Via Video!  Alan’s memo jogged my memory of attending both CES in Chicago and SIGGRAPH during that time.  It was exciting to see all that was going on, especially coming from zero knowledge of computer graphics prior to landing at Atari.

At the time, word spread around the company about the Via Video system in our office.  One day I received a call from a guy named Russell in the package design department, asking if I could speak to him about what we were doing in our group and if I would demo the system for him.  When we met, he mentioned he wished he was in our group rather than doing print design.  He returned many times after to experiment with the system in his spare time.  Years later, I recognized him in some Adobe Photoshop promo materials.  He was Russell Brown, one of the original Photoshop evangelists and a senior creative director at Adobe.  In the end, I think it was Russell who benefited the most from the Via!

In winter of 1983, Suki Lee and I were sent to Cambridge, MA to meet over two days with programmers at an outside vendor who had subcontracted to do some games for Atari.  At lunch with a couple programmers and their graphic artist, they quizzed me about working at the Atari mothership.  In passing I mentioned the recently instituted royalty deal, where programmers received a royalty based on sales and that they cut the animators in on each completed game.  I noticed their eyes widened at that, but nothing else was said or asked about it.

A few days after returning to Sunnyvale, George Kiss called me into his office and said he’d just gotten off the phone with Ray Kassar who was demanding he fire some guy who worked for him named Joly.  George explained that immediately after we’d left, the Cambridge programmers demanded their management cut them into the Atari royalty deal, creating all kinds of headaches for their management, and subsequently, for Kassar.  I (so young and foolish!) had no idea the deal was not to be spoken of outside the company, and fortunately George defended me to Kassar and saved my job.  I still owe him one for that.

A couple reference books we used often were 19th century photographer Eadweard Muybridge’s Human and Animal Locomotion and The Illusion of Life by veteran Disney animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, which had just been published at that time.

Eadweard Muybridge’s Human and Animal Locomotion, from which photocopied excepts were used for the DeAnza display boards.

Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston's The Illusion of Life

Jerome and I both started juggling in the office as a break during work and we got good enough that we were able to each juggle three balls while tossing one back and forth to each other.

Q: Do you recall any Easter eggs in any of the games you worked on?

Dave Joly: I never left any, but I wish I had!

Q: You mentioned leaving Atari in October 1983.  What led to that decision?

Dave Joly: George Kiss, the director of the home games division, left Atari in the summer of 1983 to become a vice president at Coleco in Connecticut, to head up the Adam computer project they were building.  George and I got along well, he knew I was from Connecticut, and before he left he asked if I’d be interested in moving back to work at Coleco.  I was interested because at the time Coleco was using a chip that allowed for some (relatively) better graphics, and I was interested in anything that seemed like it might be a step up, artistically.  I took the job and landed there in late 1983.

I only worked at Coleco for about 4 months.  When I interviewed there, they promised they’d be using an animation development software similar to Atari by the time I arrived.  In fact, when I got there they were still doing all the animation using graph paper to plot character actions, and then interpreting it into hex code by hand, a method that had been obsolete at Atari for a couple years.  I don’t recall what I worked on there.  Something having to do with the ADAM computer is all I remember.

I knew I wasn’t going to last long taking that giant step backward, and within a couple weeks I interviewed at an educational software developer called Optimum Resource in Norfolk, CT.  They developed a series of games for Weekly Reader featuring a character called StickyBear, for Apple computers.  The company was started by the illustrator Richard Hefter, and the graphic quality was pretty promising.  I started there in spring of 1984, and I worked on Stickybear Math and Stickybear Shapes for the Apple II and Commodore, as well as illustration for packaging.

Apple II Stickybear Shapes (LEFT); Apple II Stickybear Math (RIGHT)

After a year there I moved to Boston, and while looking for a new position as a games animator, began freelancing as an illustrator for magazines, doing traditional analog artwork (this was around 1985, prior to Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.).  More work started rolling in and I went completely freelance for the rest of my career.  I knew I’d eventually go back to creating on the computer when the image quality improved, and I still played with whatever graphics programs could run on the Atari 800.

Illustration for the April/May 1988 issue of The Walking Magazine

Eventually, with the introduction of the color Apple Macintosh, I saw the image quality was really improving enough to jump back and use it for commercial work.  In 1993, I bought a Mac and started creating my illustrations in Photoshop, Illustrator, and Painter.  Around 1994, I started playing with Macromind Director for animation, and later Flash, when it was introduced as FutureSplash.  I then was able to pursue doing animation again for commercial clients.  Since then, I’ve worked with various 3D (Cinema 4D, Blender) and 2D programs (After Effects, Adobe Animate) as I continued freelancing both illustration and animation.

Post-Atari editorial illustrations

I also started teaching illustration, design and animation in 1990 as an adjunct at a local community college, which I still do.

Q: Is teaching illustration your 'full time' job now?  How are you handling the current situation as far as that?  I'm guessing you're doing 'virtual' classes now?

Dave Joly: I still take on freelance jobs when they're fun or challenging in an interesting way, but I'm not pushing at it now, instead preferring to do my own projects as my interests evolve.  I do still teach one class (mostly animation) most semesters, though not this current one.  Last semester my class was asynchronous online, which I thought would not be too big a deal as I've made a lot of video tutorials in the past.  But it turned out to be 10x more work than being in the classroom, with almost zero % of the enjoyable parts of teaching.  It was really tough to try and get student engagement going.

Q: How would you summarize your experience working at Atari?

Working at Atari was very much like freelancing (albeit with a steady paycheck), in that you had a lot of freedom to work in the manner best suited to you in order to get the job done.  You didn’t have to ‘look busy’; you were either working, or you weren’t there.  Meeting the deadline with the programmers was the important thing.  That was much different than the corporate atmosphere I encountered back on the east coast, where you were expected to arrive early, stay late and look busy, even if you weren’t.  I always felt that the work culture at Atari spoiled me in a good way, and I found nothing compared to the freedom of working there, aside from freelancing.

Q: Do you still own any of your games for these systems, either as a keepsake, or to show friends or family?

Dave Joly: Unfortunately, no.  I gave a lot of them away to younger relatives back in the 80’s.  I also got rid of the Atari 800 when I started using a Mac, and then threw out all the development disks I’d hung on to of my Atari work.  I’ve held on to some 35mm slides I’d shot of games I’d worked on, and a few other mementoes.

Q: Have you stayed in touch with any of your former co-programmers?

Dave Joly: I continue to exchange emails with Suki Lee, and also had an email conversation with her and Steve Woita a couple years ago, reminiscing about Atari days.  I was also in touch with Jerome over the years until he passed away.

(From left to right) Jim Huether, Mike Ekberg (Carla Meninsky's husband), Rosie Hitchens, Keith Hayenga, Michael Sierchio, Mimi Doggett, Marilyn Churchill, Howard Scott Warshaw, Suki Lee, Dan Hitchens, and Steve Woita.  Photo courtesy of Suki Lee.

Q: What are your thoughts on how the video game industry has evolved, either in general or from a graphics artist’s standpoint?

Dave Joly: While I don’t play games myself (I’m sure I’d get addicted and I’d rather spend my time creating stuff), it’s amazing to see how the graphics and animation of games has evolved, to the point where the work is as good (sometimes better) than theatrical movies.  I often point my animation students toward game development college programs.

Q: Do you (or did you) play video games, either for work or personal enjoyment?

Dave Joly: I was an ace Gravitar player back in the Atari game room!  That was my peak as a gamer and other than playing the Sims with my daughter years later when she was young, I haven’t played since.

Atari's fabled game room circa 1982.  Machines shown: (top photo) unknown cocktail table, Pac-Man, Wild Western, Tempest, Qix, and Kram; (bottom photo) unknown, Defender (sans marquee), Kangaroo (in a Namco bootleg cab, possibly by Karateco), Jungle King, Galaxian, and Centipede.  Photos courtesy of Dave Joly.


Sorcerer's Apprentice Atari VCS/2600 Atari released
Obelix Atari VCS/2600 Atari released
Pigs In Space Atari VCS/2600 Atari released
Donald Duck's Speedboat Atari VCS/2600 Atari unreleased
Miss Piggy's Wedding Atari VCS/2600 Atari not complete
RealSports Tennis Atari 5200 Atari released
Stickybear Math Apple II, C-64 Optimum Resource released
Stickybear Shapes Apple II, C-64 Optimum Resource released

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