What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Kyle McQueen and I am the studio Art Director at East Side Games in Vancouver, B.C.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I went through a placement agency once and ended up getting a job taping boxes shut it a powder painting factory. The parts would be passed through the assembly line and then placed into a box. Once the box was full, I taped it shut and put it on a skid. It took roughly 2-3 minutes to fill a box. Nobody spoke for 8 whole hours. The factory was located across from a mental institution, which is an unsettling thing to have to walk past when your shift ends at 2 am. I quit after one shift.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I think my favorite project would have to be the “Block Party for Blockheads” animated PSA I did for Nexon America. I had a really great Creative Director who trusted me and gave me complete creative freedom and support and just let me get on with it. Such a rare opportunity in this industry, but the most rewarding as well.
How did you become interested in animation?
I’ve always known that it’s what I wanted to do. I grew up on The Muppet Show, Transformers, Spiderman comics and was always drawing. When I was small I thought of animation as this magical thing so beyond anything I would ever be capable of, but strangely that was the very thing that inspired me to keep trying for it.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from a small town called Parry Sound in Ontario, Canada. It’s most famous for being the birthplace of hockey legend and Chevy hustler, Bobby Orr. I got into the animation industry after graduating from the classical animation program at Sheridan College, starting as a Layout Artist at Studio B Productions (now known as DHX Media) here in Vancouver, BC.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I come into the studio around 8:30 am, check emails and then sort out where I’m going to put my focus for the day. There are usually meetings, followed by lunch, after which I actually get to do a bit of production work. More meetings, providing revisions and feedback to artists and animators as well as addressing any other company art needs regarding the studio and individual game branding has my day ending around 6:30.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I love those first few months of a project where everything is new and anything goes. It’s very loose and exciting, everyone is inspired and ideas are flying around in all directions and sparking other ideas that spark other ideas. Then you finally hit on something that feels like the thing you’re trying to make and it’s like knocking over the first domino of the line. The rest comes tumbling after.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
I don’t like having to fire people. That’s the worst. Even if the reasons are valid, there is no escaping the awful feeling it leaves you with.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
With social and mobile gaming, we’re constantly testing and playing both ours and other companies products on iOS and Android devices such as phones and tablets. Technology changes so rapidly that your product can become obsolete before it’s even out the door, so you need to be constantly looking around and seeing what’s out there, what other companies are doing and what’s coming up next.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
I’ve had a job in one form or another since I was 8, so I find it really difficult to be between contracts for too long. Most people use that time to relax. I start to freak out after about a week.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Having Kai Pindal as an animation history instructor was about as great as it gets. He showed me that there is much more to the world of animation than Walt Disney. He quite literally opened my eyes and changed the way I thought about animation, art and film making.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Being happy is extremely important and unhappiness can be a real mental roadblock for creativity. Prolonged periods of unhappiness can become really difficult to overcome alone, and can have a substantial impact on the way you view your job, your art and yourself. It’s easy to lose confidence in yourself and your work and all the compliments and accolades in the world can’t shake this perception. In this situation, it’s important to find out if there is something more going on, something deeper and to find the support to get yourself mentally healthy again so you can get back to making amazing things and enjoying life.
Any side projects or you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I have 2 short films that I’m trying to get off the ground. One is about the man in the moon, and the other is a darker film about a small village that suffers a devastating drought.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Armpit farts. Nobody does them anymore, but they will always be classic.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
1. Be socially active. Get out to conferences, festivals, openings and job fairs and talk to as many people as you can. Even if your portfolio isn’t as strong as the next person, company culture is extremely important (or at least it should be!). If nothing else, you’ll make friends and gain valuable insight into what companies are looking for. I’ve often hired people because they are fun, funny or interesting, not because their work was the best. 2. Try to develop a well rounded skill set. The more you can do and do well, the less likely your career will ever be boring. 3. Have outside interests. The more hobbies or experiences you have that aren’t related to your work, the richer and more genuine your work will be. 4. Be a sponge for creativity. There is so much amazing work being done by filmmakers, authors, musicians, poets, artists and designers that you can find new avenues of inspiration every day.