It's always great to put a face to the amazing visuals that is seen in movies and today, at Tea Time Animation, Mike Midlock came in to talk about his journey to where he is at now. Mike recently finished working on Pacific Rim at ILM and his other credits include The Avengers, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Rango. Mike knew that he wanted to go into animation since a very young age as he was taught how to draw cartoons by his grandfather and made a connection of cartoons with animated films that Disney was producing. Later on Star Wars came and Mike immediately fell in love with that and further kindled his passion. Unfortunately the art program at his high school got cut and so he went on to focus in graphic design during college. It was then that movies such as Rodger Rabbit, The Little Mermaid, and Terminator 2 came out that he saw that the path was not closed and wanted to go back to animation. Thus Mike started the animation program at Sheridan University. Being in Chicago, Mike was later hired at Calabash as a traditional animator and he not only worked on commercials such as Lucky Charms and Trix, but was also given the opportunity to work on the film Space Jam. Unfortunately he felt the need to move on from cereal commercials and feeling that one of the best ways to get breaks is to be where the action is. Unfortunately back then there were only a few small studios on Chicago so Mike moved over to California and worked at MondoMedia (famous for the webtoons Happy Tree Friends) and then after that went to work on various The Sims games at Maxis. Then eventually Mike got a job at LucasArts to work on Indiana Jones and Star Wars games. After awhile, Mike realized that while he liked games he was not a gamer and wanted to get more out of animation. Mike started looking over towards ILM, even though it meant having to give up his staff position and the benefits and become a contract worker. Mike felt stronger that he needed a change and needed to take the chance. The first project Mike then started on was Rango and now while in-between contracts at ILM he finds freelance work and currently is teaching character animation at the Academy of Art University.
Some final words of inspiration that Mike gives is to start thinking about your dream job and tailor your path and work towards it. Even while doing exercises and school work, start thinking about how to incorporate it as a portfolio work. For example, many animators want to go to Pixar. While it is important to show good animation, even more important is to show good acting. A really good example of such a case is dialogue. Find a piece of dialogue and portray the action in contradiction to the dialogue to give it depth. Another very good recommendation is to have your best stuff prepared at any given time. Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. As the industry has grown, no longer cornered in California but has grown world wide, be adaptable and flexible. Be willing to go where work is at and start getting experience.Don't be intimidated. Get out of your zone and meet people, show enthusiasm. Always be nice as the industry is actually pretty small and as people move around you will be working with them and creating connections.
[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/54347314 w=500&h=310]