What is your name and your current occupation?
Michael Hitchcox / 2D Background Instructor Sheridan College, Oakville, Ontario and freelance 2D background artist.(Photoshop either colour keys or production backgrounds)
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Worked as a highways ticket guy for construction crews. Worked as a landscaper for a dutch owner (nice guy, just a very hard worker)
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Magic School Bus, Beetlejuice (the animated series),Gargoyles, Gift Eater promo, various productions for Atomic Cartoons.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
Oakville, Ontario, Canada. I went through for ﬁne arts, never thought of animation or anything commercial…but thanks to a friend who was working at Nelvana (a Toronto animation studio) I was hired on as a traditional background painter. I worked at Nelvana for 16 years (eight years as BG supervisor when they had a background department). Left Nelvana to become an instructor at Sheridan College and continue to be a freelance bg painter for a variety of Canadian animation studios.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Instruction time usually would be either 4 to 6 hours of class time ( two days a week) When I am freelancing on a full production hours can be 8 to 12 hours / day. Freelancing on the net deals with allot of downloading time, uploading for feedback and posting approved backgrounds. When I am painting colour keys, allot of time is spent on developing the art direction and style of backgrounds as well as building ﬁles that will work well in the pipeline process.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
In teaching, I love how the students take your content and create something new and beyond expectations. In production painting I really enjoy working with a good team and creating something worth while.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Being out of work…….is on the top for obvious reasons. But feel lucky to have what I have of course. Also, how corporate attitudes change people. I ﬁnd it hard to understand how egos and ambition can turn the animation business into a very competitive and brutal place to be.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis, how has technology changed in the last few years in your ﬁeld and how has that impacted you in your job?
When I started painted backgrounds, we used real paint. We had to trace the line work onto watercolor paper. We used air brushes, gouache, took photos of the work, took two weeks to send the art direction to overseas for production, there were no computers at work……now everything is computer based. Any work that is sent to overseas or anywhere takes a few seconds…no photography, air brush is just another tool in Photoshop, revisions usually is just a few clicks and adjustments. Technology has made things more predictable, more production friendly but not as speciﬁcally unique.
What is the most difﬁcult part for you about being in the business?
Day to day stability. Most jobs now are only contract based. This means that if you do have work, you should always plan ahead for future contract work. Job placement also is based on the current market activity. Meaning that an artist has no control on the job activity in the ﬁeld. This can be difﬁcult to live with…..but is just part of the business. Times can be good or times can be bad.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I met Mr. T
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
As a parent, I have had many situations that have been difﬁcult. My son is now in the UK which is amazing for him,but tough as a parent.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I have a few things on the go, but cannot share them as of yet.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I love to build things like solar heaters but nothing to unusual.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business? Always be your self, keep focused, push yourself, learn from others, be humble, be ready to change, treat others well, be patient, watch for changes in the industry, build a good net work, try to be ahead of the crowd, help others, be honest, always have a plan A, B and C……, and never let the corporate attitude become your norm.