Date: 3/29/2004 8:00:00 AM
PROFILE: ARCHITECTURE STUDENT SKETCHES CARTOON CAREER, NOW HE BUILDS LAUGHTER WITH HOLLYWOOD STARS
While he may have learned to draw a straight line after spending five years in the University of Cincinnati’s top-ranked architecture program, Mike Gasaway’s career since leaving school has been anything but a ruler-straight path.
If you don’t have young children and so, haven’t yet caught the Friday-night show, you’re missing a program that employs some of Hollywood’s best comedic talent, including Mel Brooks, Tim Allen, and Tim Curry of “Rocky Horror Picture Show” fame, as well as Christian Slater and Alyssa Milano. All have provided voices to “Jimmy Neutron” characters.
How Mike went from architecture to TV directing – professions which he says have a lot in common as both are about designing a completed work from disparate elements – is owing to his cooperative-education quarters and a magazine in UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning library. “After five years in UC’s architecture program and gaining work experience on co-ops, I realized the profession wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. Frankly, what I really wanted to do was, well, kids’ stuff. Then, one day, I saw a copy of Animation magazine in the DAAP library, and I thought, ‘This is what I want to do!’” Everything built from there.
Mike, who left school in 1993, had some experience doing animations and “fly-throughs” of building designs for his last co-op employer: Marks, Thomas & Associates, Inc., of Baltimore. He left Cincinnati, moved to Minnesota and “basically taught myself everything I could about animation. By 1994, I was doing software development and testing software, and on my own, I did a short, animated film called ‘Television Monster.’ They were monsters who had TVs as heads. One had a war playing in his head, and others had butterflies in theirs. In the end, the ‘war’ monster had his channel changed.”
When he was ready to move on, Mike sent a video portfolio to DNA Productions in Dallas, then gearing up to begin work on the December 2001 movie, “The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius,” which was later nominated for an Academy Award as the year’s best animated film along with “Shrek” and “Monsters, Inc.”
“I sent my portfolio via overnight mail. The very next day, they called and offered me a job,” recalls Mike. “I was a little flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe it. I remember thinking, ‘I just sent them the tape yesterday!’”
Mike hit the ground running with DNA, doing animation for the movie. Within two weeks of starting with the company, he was named animation supervisor. Now, he’s one of two directors of the TV program that spun off from the movie.
“Jimmy Neutron” has just wrapped its second season and is in full production for its third season right now. In addition, Mike is working on a proposal for a feature film and a new TV show -- both are animations for kids and adults. He says his DAAP career has proved an asset in his new career. “At DAAP, I pulled all-nighters where I still had to pay meticulous attention to detail at 3 a.m. and then perform in front of an audience during the ‘critiques’ the next day. It’s been the same when working on the film and in the TV show’s earliest days. The one thing that’s different now is that kids are a way tougher, high-pressure audience than my teachers ever were,” he laughs.
Interested in catching “The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius?” It airs Friday evenings on Nickelodeon, at 8:30 p.m. in the Eastern Time Zone.
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