STUDIO AKA - MANDDY WYCKENS
Manddy Wyckens is an Animator and Illustrator currently working at Studio AKA. Studio AKA is an Animation studio producing television commercials, TV programs (such as Hey Duggee) and short films. It is a multi-BAFTA winning and Oscar/Emmy nominated company founded in 1989.
Wyckens graduated from Gobelins in Paris and also attended California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). CalArts is notable for being the college a lot of Walt Disney Animations finest animators attended. She has been freelancing since 2014 and has worked on various projects including feature length films and TV shows. As well as Studio AKA, her client list includes Disney TV, Cartoon Network and Dreamworks TV, this clearly gives an indication of the great talent Wyckens possesses.
Manddy brings bold compositions and contrast to create vibrant atmospheric background. Her characters are beautiful, she uses elegant thin lines and yet something so simple still captures attitude and emotion. One of her notable achievements with Studio AKA is a film called First Family. She directed the film with Marc Craste but the films design is fully down to her. It follows the First Family as their caveman clan grows from two to three. It is a lovely little film with some charming moments, the way in which the characters are drawn and animated is partially the reason why this film is so compelling.
Manddy’s character design is somewhat simplistic and yet so graceful. Her female characters look sophisticated and stylish. She obviously has a gift for designing female characters, I aspire to create characters just like hers bringing my own unique style to it.
Naturnes - First Family
David O’Reilly is an Irish animator born in 1985. He is currently based in Los Angeles but previously worked for Studio AKA in London. It was there that he picked up the style of the Studio AKA and furthered his artistic ability. He uses fine art, painting and drawing and combines them with his CGI work. He is known for creating distinctive 3D animated films.
Some of his most notable work includes directing, producing and animating an episode of Adventure Time entitled “A Glitch is a Glitch”. He also created the first video for U2’s single “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight”. He produces a ‘surreal’ short film called “RGB XYZ” and animated sequences in the 2007 film Son Of Rambow and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
His work has been characterised by the use of intentionally stripped down 3D graphics. He uses glitch effects and was one of the first people who used them. A lot of his work could be described as ‘strange’ although it is extremely entertaining. O’Reilly is obviously very talented and is currently freelancing for a number of companies. You can see some of his work in the Gallery below.
Winsor McCay was an American cartoonist and one of the first animators. He was born between 1866-1871, although his exact birth date is unknown, and died in 1934. McCay is best known for the comic strip Little Nemo and one of the earliest animated films Gertie the Dinosaur.
In Winsor McCay’s early career, people would frequently get newspapers delivered to their homes daily. Inside these newspapers were comic strips that were large, elaborate and often took up full pages, one of these comics was Nemo In Slumberland. Nemo appeared in comics between 1905 and 1914 and was a big favourite of readers, he was a little boy that fell out of bed into adventures in the land of King Morpheus. Gertie the Dinosaur is considered the first animated character to exhibit her own personality - I would consider the film an extremely impressive product of its time.
McCay exhibits elements of Art Nouveau in his work, he outlined his characters in heavy blacks but did also use colour a lot of time. I’m a huge fan of his work, I like the simplicity of Gertie the Dinosaur but also the way he draws buildings and cartoons.
Mark Henn is an animator, best known for being one of Walt Disney Animations most famous character designers and animators. He was hired by Disney in 1980 and is still animating for them to this day, making him one of their longest employed animators. He is one of my all time favourite animators which is why I have chosen to write about him. He is especially notable for creating female leads such as Jasmine (Aladdin, 1992), Mulan (Mulan, 1998), Princess Tiana (The Princess and the Frog, 2009) and Belle (Beauty and the Beast, 1991).
Born in Dayton, Ohio in 1958, Henn had two very strong passions in his younger life. The first was American History and the second was Disney Animation. Since a very young age Henn aspired to be a Disney animator, quite like me. When Mark Henn was hired by Disney in the 80’s, he was mentored by one of Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men - Eric Larson. Disney Animation was famously going through a rough time in the 1980s, the documentary ‘Waking Sleeping Beauty’ explains how the animated films of the time such as Fox and the Hound and notoriously The Black Cauldron, weren’t performing as well as some of Disney’s classic films. Animators such as Glen Keane, John Musker, Ron Clements, Andreas Deja and Mark Henn were all brought into the Walt Disney company and worked on some of the ‘flops’ of the 80s. However as the decade ended amazing things began happening at the Walt Disney studios - The Little Mermaid was released in 1989 and thus began “The Disney Renaissance”. The Disney Renaissance is my all time favourite era of Disney Animation and this is partly due to the work of Mark Henn.
The way in which Henn always seems to make his leading ladies so beautiful is a skill not many people acquire. He helped animate Ariel from The Little Mermaid along with friend and fellow Disney animator Glen Keane. But he took on a Supervising Animator role when he created characters like Belle and Jasmine. The female characters of The Disney Renaissance all have a similar look, however Henn has stated that Jasmine is actually based off of his Sister. As well as the stunning leading ladies he has animated, Henn has also been the supervising animator for Young Simba (The Lion King, 1994). Henn stated that his favourite character he has animated is Mulan - he says this is because it was completely different from anything he has ever done before. He considers it his best work but also loves the character of Mulan because she is without a doubt one of the strongest characters he has ever animated, he incorporated Chinese art styles into this animation. His work is somewhat similar to the early work of Disney’s Nine Old Men. The female characters look almost quite simple but the facial expressions and capturing that beauty issomething any young animator struggles with.
Andreas Deja is a Polish born German-America animator. He is once again most notable for being a Disney Renaissance animator. He is predominately an animator Of Disney villains such as Gaston (Beauty and the Beast, 1991), Jafar (Aladdin, 1992) and Scar (The Lion King,1994). However he has also been a supervising animator for Lilo (Lilo and Stitch, 2002) and Hercules (Hercules, 1997). His work is incredibly unique, it differs from the work of Mark Henn as Henn is known for creating beauty whilst Deja has a gift when it comes to Evil.
Like Henn, Deja was a lifelong Disney fan, he aspired to be a Disney animator from a young age. He too was hired by Disney in 1980 and was mentored by Eric Larson. Dena’s early days at Disney are very similar to Henn’s, the first film he worked on was The Black Cauldron (1985) in which he shared a cubicle with Tim Burton. He later moved on to becoming a supervising animator in the films of The Disney Renaissance. His last work with Disney was on Winnie The Pooh (2011) but he is still affiliated with Disney to this day. Deja has been honoured with a Disney Legends award as well the Winsor McCay Award for outstanding contribution to the art of animation.
I am a big lover of Disney Villains, I love the work the early Disney animators and the way they managed to make them so terrifying. However Deja’s villains are my favourites as each one he has animated is actually in a way extremely likeable. Jafar, Gaston and Scar are actually quite attractive, they aren’t terrifying throughout the film but they definitely become quite scary in the later scenes. He has stated that he found Gaston quite challenging as he had to make him attractive but still look like a villain. With Jafar, he made him quite calm and restrained in characterisation. Jafar and Gaston wear a lot of red and black, red symbolises danger and the black symbolises and evil. This is also evident in Scar who is a darker lion than his brother Mufasa, he is technically a brown but there is a reddish undertone to his fur, he also has a black Maine. However Deja isn’t all bad, he was the supervising animator for hero Hercules who has a similar look to Gaston. He also created Lilo who is such a loveable little character, she is insanely different to any character Deja has ever animated.
oLLIE jOHNSTON and Frank Thomas
Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas were two early Disney animators. They were two of the last surviving members of Walt Disney’s ‘Nine Old Men’. I was originally just going to write about one of them but you can’t mention Frank without mentioning Ollie and vice verse! Disney’s Nine Old Men were Walt Disney’s Core animators, they were good friends of Walt’s and created some of the most famous early cartoons. All nine members continued to work for Disney for most of their lives and although Frank and Ollie stopped animating in the 80’s, they continued to mentor some of the famous Disney Renaissance animators. Frank and Ollie were the best of friends, the pair were inseparable, but their artistic style differed.
Ollie was known for creating some of the ‘cute’ characters as well as some leading ladies. Johnston was a supervising animator for Alice (Alice In Wonderland,1951) and Wendy (Peter Pan,1953). Not only were these characters voiced by the same young actress (Kathryn Beaumont) but they almost look the same! Both possess a youthful beauty. One of Johnston’s last supervising animation roles was on Young Todd and Young Copper (The Fox and the Hound, 1981). Young Todd is In the Gallery below, the little red fox, he is without a doubt the cutest character on this page. Frank Thomas loves animating villains, he was the supervising animator for Lady Tremaine (Cinderella,1950), Captain Hook (Peter Pan, 1953) and Khan (The Jungle Book, 1967). You can probably guess that Mark Henn was greatly influenced by Ollie whilst Andreas Deja was influenced by Thomas. Classic Disney animation has that simplicity in terms of colour and character and yet it remains timeless to this day.
Both Frank and Ollie have passed away now, Johnston was the last of Disney’s Nine Old Men to pass, dying of natural causes in 2008. Frank Thomas died four years earlier. The pair have both received Disney Legend awards and remain great influencers to this day.