What is your name and your current occupation?
Michael Hitchcox / 2D Background Instructor Sheridan College, Oakville, Ontario andÂ freelance 2D background artist.(Photoshop either colour keys or productionÂ 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 aÂ 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?
MagicÂ School Bus, Beetlejuice (the animated series),Gargoyles, Gift Eater promo, variousÂ productions for Atomic Cartoons.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
Oakville, Ontario,Â Canada. I went through for ï¬ne arts, never thought of animation or anythingÂ commercial…but thanks to a friend who was working at Nelvana (a Toronto animationÂ studio) I was hired on as a traditional background painter. I worked at Nelvana for 16Â years (eight years as BG supervisor when they had a background department). LeftÂ Nelvana to become an instructor at Sheridan College and continue to be a freelance bgÂ painter for a variety of Canadian animation studios.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Instruction time usually wouldÂ be either 4 to 6 hours of class time ( two days a week) When I am freelancing on a fullÂ production hours can be 8 to 12 hours / day. Freelancing on the net deals with allot ofÂ downloading time, uploading for feedback and posting approved backgrounds. When IÂ am painting colour keys, allot of time is spent on developing the art direction and style ofÂ backgrounds as well as building ï¬les 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 takeÂ your content and create something new and beyond expectations. In productionÂ 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 forÂ obvious reasons. But feel lucky to have what I have of course. Also, how corporateÂ attitudes change people. I ï¬nd it hard to understand how egos and ambition can turn theÂ 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 technologyÂ changed in the last few years in your ï¬eld and how has that impacted you in your job?
When I started painted backgrounds, we used real paint. We had to trace the line workÂ onto watercolor paper. We used air brushes, gouache, took photos of the work, took twoÂ weeks to send the art direction to overseas for production, there were no computers atÂ work……now everything is computer based. Any work that is sent to overseas orÂ anywhere takes a few seconds…no photography, air brush is just another tool inÂ Photoshop, revisions usually is just a few clicks and adjustments. Technology has madeÂ things more predictable, more production friendly but not as speciï¬cally unique.
What is the most difï¬cult part for you about being in the business?
Day to day stability.Â Most jobs now are only contract based. This means that if you do have work, youÂ should always plan ahead for future contract work. Job placement also is based on theÂ current market activity. Meaning that an artist has no control on the job activity in theÂ ï¬eld. This can be difï¬cult to live with…..but is just part of the business. Times can beÂ 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 thatÂ have been difï¬cult. My son is now in the UK which is amazing for him,but tough as aÂ parent.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I have a fewÂ 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?
IÂ 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 toÂ break into the business? Always be your self, keep focused, push yourself, learn fromÂ others, be humble, be ready to change, treat others well, be patient, watch for changesÂ in the industry, build a good net work, try to be ahead of the crowd, help others, beÂ honest, always have a plan A, B and C……, and never let the corporate attitude becomeÂ your norm.