For decades, writer and cartoonist Steve Moore has been reinventing himself and expanding his creative reach from newspapers to the silver screen and now to the world of children’s books.
“Most people’s careers don’t just stay in one place anymore,” Moore says. “You segue into one and then another and another, and they all sort of relate.”
Moore will share how he approaches this creative evolution and how things came together from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 21, at Jack’s Urban Meeting Place. The free talk will launch JUMP’s “Local Innovators” speaker series. (Look for the next installment in April.)
For Moore, it all started with sports. He played baseball seriously as a kid until “my ability crashed in college,” he says.
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Though he hung up his glove, he picked up a love of journalism. And eventually he combined both worlds. Moore created his comic “In the Bleachers” when he was the sports editor at the Maui News in 1985. It’s a funny and insightful glimpse into the world of sports that’s syndicated to more than 200 papers internationally — including the Idaho Statesman, where the comic runs in the Sports section on page 2.
In the 1990s, Moore moved back to the mainland to work at the Los Angeles Times as a executive news editor for features. He also stepped into the newsrooms’ breaking news team when something big happened.
“It was six years of extraordinary news,” Moore says. “I was there for two major fires and the Northridge Earthquake (in 1994).”
He also was part of the Times’ team that won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Spot News for its coverage of the Los Angeles riots after the verdict in the Rodney King beating case and that won again for its coverage of the 1994 quake.
He left Los Angeles and the Times in 1996 to focus on “Bleachers,” and moved to Boise with his then-wife Dru and their three kids in 2002.
While here, he developed his first film project — the animated feature “Open Season” (2006), a comedy about a grizzly bear (voiced by Martin Lawrence) that becomes domesticated by living off the garbage of a small mountain town inspired by Ketchum. The bear is relocated into the wild just before hunting season.
The film was a box-office success and went on to spawn a series of straight-to-DVD movies, but a quirk in contract language cut Moore out of the sequels that continue on.
“I’m not bitter about it,” Moore says. “It was an amazing experience and it opened a lot of doors for me.”
However, Moore has kept his hand in his “Alpha and Omega” (2010), an animated romantic comedy about wolves from opposite ends of the pack being relocated together from Canada to Idaho. That series is still producing sequels. There are six that have been released and two more are in the hopper.
Living in Idaho did strongly influence his films, he says.
“I was originally thinking of setting ‘Open Season’ in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., where black bears dumpster dive often. But after we moved to Boise, it became more Ketchum and McCall,” Moore says. “And ‘Alpha and Omega’ never would have happened if we lived anywhere else.”
His next animated film project involves another Idaho topic, salmon recovery. The main character is a salmon with a bad sense of direction.
“Its journey starts and finishes in Idaho,” he says.
In the meantime, Moore is working on a middle-grade book series, the semi-autobiographical “King of the Bench” (HarperCollins Children’s Books), the first of which comes out in March.
It’s a new genre of a comic novel instead of graphic novel, Moore says.
“I’m writing it in first person, and I think it’s the most fun writing I’ve ever done. I started calling the character Steve. I wanted to trick my brain into going into my own experience,” Moore says. “The best way to describe it is that it’s about a kid who is extraordinarily average. I have this theory that you can be average but depending on the arena you’re in, you also can be extraordinary.”
The best example, he says, is that your average NBA player is still pretty extraordinary.
The first book is 220 pages and contains about 150 drawings inspired by Moore’s childhood.
“As a kid I was small for my age — and average — so I sat on the “pine” a lot. That’s what my coach called the bench,” Moore says.
Although Moore grew up in La Cañada, Calif., near the San Gabriel Mountains, the books are set in a modern-day fictional city, with a Midwestern feel.
“The publisher wanted to make it more universal,” he says.
Moore will talk about all of this and other projects that are bouncing around his brain at the JUMP talk.
The idea for the “Local Innovators” series came about when Moore took a tour of JUMP with JUMP’s audio/visual manager and Play Studio coordinator Jesse Cordtz. Cordtz invited Moore to give a talk and that sparked the idea for the series.
JUMP is Downtown Boise’s new event and community center that’s filled with classrooms and working studios for film and crafts, a park, amphitheater and more.
Moore will focus on how his projects come together through innovative thinking. He gave a similar talk last year at Trailhead, a resource center for tech and other business start-ups in Downtown that focused on a different angle.
“Each (project) is like a mini-business, and there are parallels to being an entrepreneur,” he says. “You have to come up with your idea, and then figure out if there’s a market for it. That’s ironic because I don’t like being a salesman, but I sold a $150 million project to Sony.”
Steve Moore: Local Innovator
5 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 21, Jack’s Urban Meeting Place, JUMP Room, fifth floor, 1000 W. Myrtle St., Boise. Free. Registration is encouraged at JUMPBoise.org.