What is your name and your current occupation?
Mick Cassidy. I am currently one of Family Guy’s character designers.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I’ve only ever worked in the animation industry. I mean, there was a brief foray in a model kit store in Dublin in 2001 but thankfully that didn’t last long. I missed the sun. And a wage. And a life.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
The Land Before Time and All Dogs Go To Heaven were fun. I loved working on Sinbad at Dreamworks. Great environment and great artists. Lot of good work on that one.
How did you become interested in animation?
I was always interested in it as an observer but never really saw it as any kind of career possibility until Bluth arrived in Ireland in the mid-eighties. Up to that point it was comics and illustration that I immersed myself in. I had vague notions about making a career as an artist but Ireland in the eighties wasn’t a particularly welcoming place to consider a career in art.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from Dublin, Ireland. It’s not much of a story. My neighbor had a job at Bluth’s and knew I drew so he brought in a pile of rolled up Judge Dredd artwork and showed it around. It’s as much luck and timing as anything else breaking into the industry. The studio was looking to fill spots and somebody there with some pull saw the art and thought I’d be worth a shot as a Clean-up artist. What’s funny is I was only sixteen years old. Still had a year to go with high school and had to get a letter of permission from my parents to be even employed at Bluth’s.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Depends on the day. I share custody of my daughter so any days I have her can be somewhat stressful dropping her at school and condensing an entire workday into the time before I have to go pick her up again. Generally though, it’s pretty routine. There’s a list of characters that need to be designed broken down from the storyboards. There’s a deadline usually scrawled across that list. Haha! Sometimes there’s reference to work from, other times it’s a free rein.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Variety, I suppose. Feature animation can be somewhat laborious to work on. You get your tiny little chunks of the movie and you get lost in that making it as good as you can. The TV schedule is a far different animal. I suppose the simplest answer to the question is still the thought that I’m actually making a living (and have been for the last three decades) doing something I love. May not always love the project but I always try to make sure the work I do is as good as it can be.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Los Angeles traffic. Seriously.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
I’ve been very fortunate with Family Guy in terms of how long I’ve been here but I think probably the underlying uncertainty about what happens after this job. What next, y’know? I think that’s a very common feeling in this industry.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Well, we’re mostly all digital here at FG so usually just a Cintiq loaded up with Photoshop.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I worked quite closely with Don Bluth and Gary Goldman for a number of years. Close enough that Don once called me a cabbage. I’m sure it was meant affectionately! Worked (and drank) with the almighty Dean DeBlois before the rest of the world found out how all-round talented he is. Seth MacFarlane’s usually around here somewhere as well.
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
There’s a list of projects I’m trying to get to. Mostly comic work and mostly just simply for my own fulfillment but you know how it is: It can be very tough revving up the engine again after an 8-10 hour day bracketed by a long drive to and from work. I’m currently trying to work on a nostalgia-driven comic based around when I discovered Metallica back in the late 80’s in Ireland.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
I don’t know if there is! Haha! The industry’s so different now than when I broke into it. There’s no learning curve anymore. My first day at Bluth’s I was working on a production scene for ‘Land Before Time’ and you stood behind a supervising artist (The almighty Mark Pudleiner!) to learn what mistakes you’d made. A real sink-or-swim experience but a far more direct learning process. I would say to learn to be flexible. Your dream job may not be the first one you get but anything that moves you closer is the way to go and you may discover a different path along the way that works just fine for you. Learn to be humble. You may think your shit doesn’t stink but there are always going to be artists better than you who will have something to teach you. Always. That should spur you to try and do better. Try not to be too cynical or negative. Every job I’ve had, no matter how good or horrid the experience, has taught me something I’ve brought to the next one and as hokey as it sounds, has made me a better artist. Just practice, practice and practice. You have to want this.