What is your name and your current occupation?
Mike Collins. I’m a digital clean-up artist.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?I don’t know about crazy but I worked at the swing shift at Kinko’s to put myself through college. I was also an assistant inker to Sean Parsons of Roughhouse Ink. It was unpaid and I got no credit in the comics but the experience was invaluable. It was a lot of fun working with someone who became one of my best friends. And it helped prepare me for clean up work.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?I’ve really enjoyed working on all of them. But I’d have to geek-out and say The Powerpuff Girls 10th Anniversary Special and Sym-Bionic Titan due to being able to work with my animation idols Craig McCracken and Genndy Tartakovsky. So cool!
How did you become interested in animation?When I was 10 years old, I remember walking out of a movie theater in Colorado Springs, CO after seeing Who Framed Roger Rabbit and thinking to myself, “I wanna do that!” Later on The Disney Channel aired a making of a special that my parents taped for me. I studied that tape at every opportunity. I even brought it to school for our class to watch on a Friday. I remember that on career days, when kids were dressed up like cops or firemen, I wore a polo short with a name tag that said Animator on it.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
My dad was in the Air Force and we moved around every 3 years so I don’t really have a “where” I’m from. We never lived anywhere that could foster me in my desire to become an animator. I found Preston Blair’s oversized books on animation at a thrift store and carried them around wherever I went though middle school. In my Junior year of High School in Albuquerque, I met Jeff LaFlamme who had moved to New Mexico after having worked on the Simpsons, to start his own commercial animation business. He gave me my first peg bar (which I still have) and actually started teaching me about animation more in-depth than the Blair books. Then I went to Arizona State University since Fox Animation had relocated to Phoenix and ASU actually had set up a new animation department. When my family moved to Cailfornia, I followed them and transferred to Cal State Fullerton because they had a specified animation program and I could afford to go there and California is the world-wide base for animation. I always knew I’d end up here.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I ink on a digital pre-production level. I help with the step between the rough design and color processes. Depending on the show, I can work on BG’s, characters, props or EFX. Regardless, I make sure the models are consistent with the style of the show, as established by the creator and art director. I joke that I make the drawings look pretty. Basically, I take the designers models and clean them up in Illustrator, making vector art, in prep for color.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Not to sound like a total nerd, but I love just working in animation. I love being able to say I worked on a show and seeing kids eyes light up. That’s the best! There are days where I arrive at work and think, “Wow. I’m doing what I always wanted to.” Does it get better than that?
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Cleaning up crowd shots. But only because they take so long to finish. Staring at the same file for a day and half makes me feel like I haven’t accomplished anything although when it’s finished, it looks so cool!
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Consistent work. But I think that is the problem most of us animators face.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I use Adobe Illustrator CS3 on a Cintiq. I regularly use Photoshop and Flash as well.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Well, Craig and Genndy would be there. I mean, I skipped Cross Country practice sometimes to go watch Dexter’s Lab and The Powerpuff Girls. I worked with Alan Bodner and Mike Kunkel as an Intern on Juniper Lee. Truthfully, I feel very blessed to have worked with awesome people on every show.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Being unemployed and having to take care of a family. That’s pretty stressful but it always works out in the end.
Any side projects you’re working on you’d like to share details of?
I am co-owner of a self-publishing company called Tiki Machine working on some graphic novels and children’s books. I was fortunate enough to work with a collective of artists in putting out an illustrated book called Monster Mythos last fall. It’s a folklore bestiary with our illustrations based on actual monster legends from cultures all over the world. It’s available for purchase on the blog: www.tikimachine.blogspot.com
I’m currently working with another collective of artists on an illustrated book about Mythological Deities. Very much in the same vein as the monster book. And I’m illustrating a children’s book that my wife is writing, that is the ABC’s of Halloween. Both books are due out later this year.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Regardless of what you want to do in animation, it’s all about practice and patience. Keep learning. Keep growing as an artist and as a person. And draw, draw and draw.