Media Arts & Animation
The Art Institute of Houston
There's more to being marketable in this industry than just creating a good 2D or 3D design... you need to understand a story. Michael Henderson , Instructor , The Art Institute of Houston
M.F.A., Film/Television/Animation, University of California, Los Angeles
B.A., Media Study, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York
Professional experience since 1979 includes: Animator, ASUCLA Merchandising; Timer, Warner Brothers Animation; Editor, Squeaky Wheel; Animator, Urban League; Animator, New Genesis Studios; Illustrator, Parliament/Funkadelic Casablanca Records, Inc.
Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?
Early one Saturday morning, my little sister Marcia was having some problems trying to draw the character Henry from the comic strip. I’d never drawn anything for anyone before...but when your little sister asks you, you can’t help but comply. In junior high I created comic books and drew caricatures for the yearbook. Later, I worked on things like greeting cards, flyers, posters, album covers, editorial cartoons, comic strips, and animation. My other sister, Barbara, suggested that I go into teaching…and here I am.
How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?
I use industry techniques and practices in the classroom to help students fully understand the process from practice to finished animation. I want them to develop a deeper sense of storytelling in order to become more marketable.
What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?
One example is using a storyboard/layout to help create a soundtrack for a project project where “sheet timing” helps track movement in each scene. This hands-on approach, that includes a follow-up discussion, can really motivate students.
What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?
Understand story. Know how to use the tools of animation: Concept, script, sound, storyboard, layout, timing, testing, discussing and re-testing. There’s more to getting hired in this industry than just creating a good 2D or 3D design...you need to understand story.
What’s the most critical advice you would offer any student embarking on a creative career?
If you really want work in this industry, turn off your Game Boy—and stop watching YouTube unless it’s to learn about animation. Watch cartoons with the sound down and explore how stories are told. Look for the premise. Search for the “A-story” and the “B-story,” even the “C-story.”
Anything else you’d like to share?
I love what I do.