The Passionate Artist: Michel Gagne
How did you get into Animation?

I was interested in animation at an early age and started doing my own animated experiments at the age of 14 or so, using a Super-8 camera. After I finished high school, I contacted Cal Arts but had to forget about it when I was informed of the tuition cost. My parents were no millionaires so going to such an expensive program was out of the question.

Reluctantly, I enrolled in a fine arts program at the Ste-Foy College in Quebec. I didn’t really like it there so I dropped out after a few months. Right around that time, I found out about the classical animation program at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario. I applied and was accepted. After my second year there, I got my first industry job at a studio in Ottawa called Atkinson Film Arts. I was an animator on a TV special called “For Better or for Worse: the Bestest Present”.

Following that project, I returned to Sheridan College for a 3rd year and made a short film called “A Touch of Deceit”. As soon as the film was completed, I flew to California and showed up at Don Bluth Studios’ doorstep. When I asked to meet Don in person, I was told “NO” and asked to leave the premise. I begged the secretary to take the videocassette of my film and show it to Don. After several minutes of begging, she took the video and told me that she’d see what she could do but to not expect anything. Disappointed but not beaten, I flew back to Toronto where I immediately got a job at a small commercial studio called Light Box. Two weeks later, I received a phone call from Bluth Studio’s animation director, John Pomeroy. He asked me if I could start the following Monday.

Brad Bird loves your work since Iron Giant, how did you meet him?

It was around 1996. I was working at Warner Bros in Glendale, California at the time, supervising special effects for The Quest for Camelot. I received a phone call from Brad, who was working at Turner Animation, after a friend of mine showed him a copy of my short film, “Prelude to Eden”. We had a nice conversation and I could tell he was really passionate about animation. Later that day, I went to lunch at California Pizza Kitchen with a bunch of animation friends and to my surprise, Brad was part of the group. That was my first meeting with him. Later on, when Turner Animation folded, Brad came to Warner Bros to do The Iron Giant and asked me to join his team.

You have shaped your entire life around art, What do you think makes you more passionate than other artists?

That would be really presumptuous to say that I’m more passionate than other artists now, wouldn't it? Let just say that I really love what I do and it’s an absolute pleasure to get to work everyday.

You are a living legend - How does the Animation Industry has shaped you as an artist?

Living legend… oh my. That’s laying it on a bit thick don’t you think? ;)

The animation industry has been a great training ground and a way to meet lots of amazing artists. Being part of that community has helped me become a better draughtsman and designer. Being an animation supervisor has thought me the importance of deadline, problem–solving, and being part of a team.

Is there anything you consider you haven't achieved yet?

Come on now, I’m only in my early 40s. I certainly hope the best is yet to come. My favorite author, B R Bruss, published his first novel at the age of 51 and went on to write over 60 novels! As far as I’m concerned, I’ve only explored a tiny part of my potential. My main goal is to keep exploring new venues and technology to express my art and keep an open mind to the potential of creation.

Michel Gagné is an artist who has worked on over 20 feature films as well as several television projects for companies such as Don Bluth Studios, Warner Bros., Disney, Pixar, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, etc. He is the author/illustrator of many books and comics. His work has been published by DC Comics, Image Comics, Random House as well as Michel's own imprint, GAGNE International Press. Visit his website at

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