The Film Junkyard: Animating sketches
By Kavishna Wijesinghe
Micah Gunnell – an animation director, storyboard artist, and comic book artist who has worked with Dreamworks Animation; Netflix on several animated series, including Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man, Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014), Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers Assemble (2013), and Invincible (2021) – spoke to Junkyard Theory about his splendid career.
Passionate about drawing since he was a kid, he revealed that his intention to become an artist led him through this journey. However, the inspiration he got from the old 90s era X-Men cartoon was the game changer, because that was when he started reading comic books.
Transition into a storyboard artist
Having a good seven years of experience as a comic book artist, Micah said that he wanted to hop onto another interesting and financially stable industry like concept art, animation, or games and gain new exposure. His acquaintance Justin Copeland helped him to get into the animation industry as a storyboard revisionist. When questioned on what a storyboard revisionist does, Micah enlightened us that they would make the revisions after the storyboard artists make initial amendments before deadlines.
The focus on draftsmanship in comics contributed a lot to Micah’s storyboarding process. He states that he earned a lot through practice and believes that there’s a lot more effort that goes into creating a piece of art rather than just drawing.
Answering the question on whether the voice performance artists do their recordings before or after the animation is done, Micah stated it is ideal to have voice recordings or any sort of material before the storyboarding process. The reason being that they could customise the characters’ on-screen acting based off of the actual actor’s performance. But sometimes that is given later in the storyboarding process, which can be a bit challenging.
Micah divulged that in animation, the artistry is more structural and the accuracy of the character in a frame is what matters. Also, he stated that a storyboard artist should get used to the style of the show and always be adaptable with different episodic directors.
Micah also worked on the Amazon Prime adult animation series called Invincible, which was created by Robert Kirkman from The Walking Dead. When questioned on creating an animation series which had its base in comic books and where the audience was already accustomed to a certain type of artwork, he revealed that the designs for the animation were done by Cory Walker, who was also the original artist of the comic book series. Micah, being the storyboard artist, wanted to keep it close to Cory’s style since he was also a big fan of the comic and the production also encouraged to keep that originality.
From storyboard artist to animation director
When asked about his transition to animation director, Micah reminisced that it happened while working as the storyboard artist for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Jeff Allen who was the supervising director on Avengers Assemble got him into directing, which, he quotes, “was super exciting” for him. From there on, it was about learning the necessary skills and climbing the ladder up to the point where he got to direct episodes of Fast & Furious Spy Racers for Netflix.
The idea that “animation is for kids” still has a lot of people having a different perspective on cartoons. Micah states changing that perspective is still in its early stages and with Invincible, it was pushed a little further since it was not aimed at kids and had violence to a great extent. However, Micah believes that the violence should be balanced and should not let it desensitise the whole picture and that animation definitely needs more diversification.
Micah revealed that he would like to do his own project someday and that he was trying to do a graphic novel first but finding time was a challenge. However, becoming more successful in his career now, he is getting more opportunities for which he is very grateful. As of now, Micah is involved in a project with Netflix that involves some live-action that influences animation and reveals that Aspen would be making an announcement on the nature of the project in due time.
The full interview with Micah is available on the Junkyard Theory YouTube channel.
Junkyard Theory will be hosting two prominent figures from the film industry this week. Richard Cetrone, Ben Affleck’s stunt double for Batman, will be arriving on the show on Thursday morning at 8 a.m. while legendary title designer Dan Perri – who created the iconic opening title crawl for Star Wars – will be going live on Friday at 9 p.m. Catch both interviews via the Junkyard Theory Facebook page or YouTube channel.
Junkyard Theory is Sri Lanka’s first and only film education platform that brings on veteran filmmakers from Hollywood as guest speakers. Their webinars, hosted by Akash Sunethkumara, have been recognised on industry sites such as “No Film School”, and the team now runs film courses for upcoming filmmakers in the country.