John MacFarlane – I love to create beautiful fairy tale worlds and the creatures that live in those worlds. So animation inspires me. And moving water, fire, smoke, and the like is awesome.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Before animation I used to manage our families printing business. But I did have a crazy job one summer working on a movie called “Roar” in Acton California. Part of my job was building fences to fence in lions and tigers on the sets and moving them from their holding cages to the sets and back. That was an experience I’ll never forget. I don’t think they ever finished the movie.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
“Iron Giant” It was great to be a part of that, and work with Brad Bird. I also got to do efx on DreamWorks
first animated feature “Prince of Egypt” and most recently Disney’s “Princess and the Frog”. Animating the
gooey inside of Frank in “Osmosis Jones” was a lot of fun. Futurama is cool to because that show always
something to blow up or disgusting gunk to slosh around. I also Illustrate children’s books and I loved working for my friend and author Felix Mayerhofer helping him bring his stories to life.
How did you become interested in animation?
I was always awed as a child and still am, over the beautiful Disney features.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I grew up in southern California. In collage my art teacher informed me of the animators union school, American Animation Institute. I took class there and submitted a portfolio to Warner Brothers Feature Animation and got in on there internship program. I was given assignments in character and efx animation. For efx I was assigned a really great animator, Michel Gagne who happened to be the efx department supervisor. At the end of the internship I was given a choice of going into character clean up or efx. Inspired by Michel I chose efx. Space Jam was the first film I worked on.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
First, when I am handed a scene I go over the story boards for that scene and look at the animatic if there is one, figure out what has to be done in the scene and how much footage I have to accomplish what I in-vision to animate. Then I do a rough design and show it to the director, ask any questions I have and give my input on the situation. When I get the director’s ok I will do the rough animation and show it to the director for approval. I like it when He or She will say awesome, I love it.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I like the rough designing part of my job the best, because you get to use your imagination and be creative.
The satisfaction of seeing your animation sing on a pencil test or on the big screen is a part I like also.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Being laid off after a project and looking for more work is the pits.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Finding another project to work on after finishing one and being laid off.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
It is different from job to job, but I’ve worked with soft wares such as Maya, Photoshop, After Effects, Harmony, Flash, Shake, Pencil test programs, InDesign to name some.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Brad Bird, was director and approved my animation on “Iron Giant”. Michel Gagne was my supervisor on many films. Eric Goldberg was the director and approved my animation on “Back in Action”. I met Glen Keane while working at Disney.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I guess a tough situation for me and others in this business is the worry of when you will be working again after getting laid off and how to support your family until you find another project has finished.
Any side projects you’re working on you’d like to share details of?
I have been developing some stories for children and they will be books someday. I would like to see at least one become an animated film. One is a little fairy tale story where beauty and awe are really pushed in the illustrations. Another is a sorta funny cute goofy theme like the Muppets. And there are others and more to come.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Try to stay in school and graduate before getting into the animation business. Have a side career or something you can fall back on when the animation jobs are hard to find.