Hi, I'm Mike
With a background in traditional 2D animation, I've been working predominantly in 3D Animation since 1999. Everything from Animated Features, Visual Effects, Commercials, Games Cinematics, Trailers and even a little Web TV.
I'm an Animation Director, Lead Animator, Layout Artist, Character Designer, Video Editor, Character Rigger, Storyboard Artist, Previs Animator and Generalist... phew, that's a long list so I'll just settle for Animated Filmmaker, that seems to encompass most of it.
Looking back I seem to have worked for a lot of big names either directly or indirectly including Disney, Warner Brothers, Lionsgate, Microsoft, Nintendo, Coca Cola, Capcom, Activision, Sega and Electronic Arts to name but a few!
Mike's work in the Animation Industry
I picked up a Diploma with Distinction in Art and Design at Alton College in the UK then headed out to the Glamorgan Centre for Art and Design Technology for three years where I got a First Class Degree in Animation, and picked up three awards for my films in GCADT's excellent industry awards. I was an Animator for Rare for seven and a half years where my first game, Starfox Adventures was a very respectable success selling not far short of 2 million copies. That was when the company worked exclusively with Nintendo. After Starfox I became the Lead Animator on Kameo: Elements of Power which was released under the new management of Microsoft when Rare was made a first party studio in 2002. I worked on design pitches for loads of new games after we'd launched the XBox 360, which turned out to be a very interesting period of self discovery and I eventually took a sabbatical.
For my first foray into the movies, I spent five months living in Sydney working on the animated feature film, 'Happy Feet' which amazed us all by winning an Oscar. I learned a lot about the industry and realized I had to expand my horizons. I returned to Rare for a few months and presented at one more festival before moving up to Scotland to work on a new Cartoon style CG feature film as their Animation Supervisor. This turned out to be a bit of a troubled production and, although I hope someday to see the film released, I knew I had to switch gears and get something more immediate in my portfolio. I moved to Sheffield where I joined Ark VFX as their Senior Animator. I loved their visual style and felt it would be great to try something new. I completed a few small commercials while I started to develop a certain short film idea. I polished off a few pet projects before starting at The Moving Picture Company in London where I worked on a couple of adverts before starting on Narnia - Prince Caspian. Then I moved to Passion Pictures to do some very interesting Game Cinematic & Commercial work. I took some time off to continue developing my short film script and designs while I enjoyed the London summer. I had a bit of fun animating Churchill over at Glassworks for a bit and briefly dabbled with another budget Feature Film.
But life in London was expensive and I had always wanted to live in a warmer climate. It was time to take the plunge and I moved to Austin, Texas to take on the Lead Animator role at Armature while I continued to work on my film in my free time. I worked on a number of very interesting projects for a couple of years and helped them staff up, before taking the ultimate plunge to work on my short film, 'Devils Angels & Dating' full time with some freelance work on the side. Working on this film was everything I loved to do rolled up into one project; artistry, design, characters, story writing, technology, animation, effects, editing, filmmaking, marketing, website development, the internet, constant evolution of the craft and techniques, recruiting and working with talented people from all over the world!
While I was freelance I worked for Psyop on their latest Happiness Factory Movie 2 for Coco Cola, and Rooster Teeth working on the Halo comedy spin-off series, Red vs Blue.
After three years of online production with the team (over five years for me if you include the idea development period), we finished 'Devils Angels & Dating' and put it online for the world to see. The film was released onto YouTube in January of 2012. Since then it has attracted over a million views, a good number of festival screenings, an Award for 'Best Short Film' at the Burbank Film Festival, another for 'Best Animation' at The Indie Fest, a Nomination for 'Best in Festival' at AnimMazSpot and even the 'Orson Welles Award', presented at the California Film Awards. It was also screened at the Holly Shorts Festival taking place at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. A Director's Cut was released on Vimeo in October of 2012. Working on it full time was a huge sacrifice and not something that can be sustained for long. It was a big risk but one that rewarded me artistically, and will hopefully lead to other interesting opportunities in the future. Please go to www.DevilsAngelsAndDating.com to see the final film.
I worked on some great cartoony cinematics and commercials for Panda Panther in New York as an Animation Director on the Skylanders franchise of games. The first was a full 25 minutes of cinematics, with a very large crew of animators. The second was shorter but I had an even bigger role running the animation floor, and even got to explore stereoscopic filmmaking for the first time.
I finally got an opportunity to work with my old friend Lucas Martell on his short film, The Ocean Maker. Together we developed a the story and visuals in record time with a small crew of talented artists. The exact details of which are still underwraps but expect great things. It was a very interesting production, unlike anything else that's been done before.
I spent some time doing previs for commercials in New York, before heading west to Los Angeles. I've always been circling Hollywood in my career and I was finally free to make my own choice so I decided to make the move myself so that I could be true to my goals in life. I quickly picked up a couple of short projects. The first was a stint animating at Logan on a Skylanders commercial, then I created a few shots for Third Floor for a film.
I'm now working in the LA area keeping an eye out for interesting creative opportunities, both long and short term.
Mike's Pet Projects
I'm big on story and character, so I'm always working on an idea at work or at home. During my traditional 2D years I always had to develop ideas that I could bring to the screen in an achievable fashion. This usually meant that they had to feature characters I could draw efficiently and stories that could be told in a few minutes of screen time. Despite these limits I always pushed myself to try things that I hadn't done before. I tried to push the limits of the technology and techniques we were taught whenever possible, and experimented with numerous ideas that hadn't been seen much back in the 90s. Not that you can tell now, some of these techniques are a little over used these days. I guess you realize, after a while, that you don't live in a vacuum and everyone else is inspired by the same things you are, and the chances of you doing something first are slim to nil. Still, I keep trying.
One of my first pet projects, after my Degree, I started with the intension of freeing myself from those limits, since I was just doing it for fun with no intension of ever necessarily making it... and eventually the script grew to the size of a feature film! With that in mind I started working on something smaller and more personal in it's initial scope just to make sure its achievable.
That wasn't my only personal venture, and as a short film can take a long time I added to my animation portfolio by doing individual shots with specific original challenges. First there were two dogs on a seesaw, which required an enormous amount of variable juggling to make it convincing. Then there was the parkour piece that was something I'd wanted to do in 2D since I was at university and I finally decided that I'd found a rigging method strong enough to carry out my wishes in CG.
Of course I dabble from time to time in the same performance style pieces you see more commonly on showreels, including an 11 Second Club entry that did quite well. I'd like to have a go at that again someday, when I have a clear one month run at it.
A few years after graduating I was exploring the modern dating world with things like Speed Dating and Internet Dating and my experiences were so positive (and dramatic) that I couldn't help making it the subject matter of my next film. As I flew back from Australia I had a story idea that I quickly wrote down the follow evening. Twenty or so drafts later with a pile of character sketches I decided it was time to storyboard it and reach out to the internet to find collaborators. It attracted hundreds of artists and we formed an online community around a dedicated social networking site I setup. You can watch the film and go behind the scenes at www.DevilsAngelsAndDating.com
Mike in the wild
I've been very lucky to have a number of interviews and articles written about me these days. Here's one in 3D World magazine, and another in 3D Artist. There's an article about crowdfunding short films that I was interviewed for, and an earlier feature before the film came out, both in earlier issues of the same magazines. There's an interview with me at the 11 Second Club about 'Devils, Angels & Dating'. I put on a presentation about the film at Autodesk's 3December event, which you can see in video form. I publish the 'Animation in Progress' Podcast about the film, and I was a guest on the Alt Animation Podcast and the ReAnimators Podcast.
You can read an interview with me at what used to be Kameo.com. If you know me already you might like to get back in touch through LinkedIn to become one of my professional contacts.
I've also been to a few Animation Festivals over the years putting on presentations, getting involved in panel discussions and speaking on my passion as an animator. Over the years I've been lucky enough to present my work twice at the Bradford Animation Festival, and I was invited over to Stratford-Up-Avon College to spend a day talking to the students there.