In our latest studio profile, we sat down with Brown Bag Films Toronto (formerly 9 Story) Director, Dave MacDougall, who shared with us the story of how his career in animation has taken him around the globe and back, and some valuable advice for all the aspiring directors out there!
1. First up, what is your life motto or favourite quote?
“Love what you do”
2. What do you do at 9 Story?
I’m currently a series director on Nature Cat.
3. What do you love most about your job?
Every day is different, there are always new hurdles to jump, new problems to solve. Working side by side with the crew to make the most entertaining shows, striving to be the best we can, and ignoring our limitations.
And for me, I love to draw and try to do so every day.
4. What is your origins story? Aka, how did you get to where you are today in your career?
I’m close to 30 years in the business, graduated from Sheridan in 1988, started working on small commercial jobs around Toronto. My first official studio position required me to move to a different continent; in 1991, I was fortunate to move to Dublin, Ireland and work at Don Bluth Entertainment. I felt this is where my career took off; I began working with Don Bluth, as a trainee feature animator, working with some of the world’s top talent in our field. While at Don Bluth Entertainment, I worked on such features as Troll in Central Park, Thumbelina, (and briefly) Pebble and the Penguin. The sad day came when the Bluth studio was forced to shut the doors, forcing me to forge on and leave what was my favourite studio.
My next step was to move even further from my home, in 1993 off to sunny beautiful Australia (where I met my beautiful wife), and the Walt Disney company. I was employed as a character animator at Disney for 2 and a half years, working on such shows as Bonkers, Duck Days, the Aladdin series, and The Goofy Movie, when I received a phone call from my old friends at the Don Bluth studio. They were to set up a new studio under the 20th Century Fox umbrella, and located in the desert of Phoenix Arizona.
Along with my wife, we moved to the United States and I once again got to work on animated feature films like Anastasia, Bartok special, and Titan AE. After five years, and far too soon in my opinion, the studio was forced to shut its doors, and we decided to return to my home country, here in Canada.
Now in the year 2000, married and with our first daughter we move back to Ontario, and I started working on the TV series the Woody Woodpecker show, as a character designer in Ottawa. Still missing Toronto, and wishing to return, I applied for a position with Corus Entertainment as a character designer, accepted their offer and moved my family, including my second daughter to Southern Ontario. I worked with Corus for 5 years and climbed the ranks to supervising/lead character designer on several productions. After leaving Corus and I continued to work with various studios, in Canada, the United States, and Europe, on a variety of series, and as a conceptual designer for pitch bibles and feature films.
6. What brought you to the studio?
While I was wrapping up a design job for Nick Jr., I spoke to my friend Liz Rondelet (former producer on Nature Cat), and she mentioned the production Nature Cat at 9 Story Media, was in need of a character designer. I applied and accepted the offer, and began doing Funpack design while continuing to work from home. Then the email came that would change a lot! I was offered the position of director on Nature Cat, Season 2! I accepted the offer and the rest is history!
Working at 9 Story has allowed me to further my career and to grow even more as an artist in this medium. I’m forever grateful for the opportunity the studio has offered me and I feel so fortunate to be working with such a great crew and with our amazing client Spiffy. It makes it a pleasure to come to work every day and also makes my job much easier and more enjoyable.
7. Who is one of your biggest influences or inspirations?
Professionally my biggest influences were the Don Bluth artists, and the Disney Studio artists. However, the one who stood out overall, the king of animation, Milt Kahl, the greatest draftsman to ever work in this business.
8. What have you found is the most challenging thing about working in the animation industry?
9. What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue a career in animation?
Be a sponge and take in as much as possible, ask questions and keep learning. Also draw, draw, draw, never stop drawing!
Dave creates what he calls “design packs” as a way to give direction visually to his whole team, on how characters should look and feel.
10. Outside of work what is your story?
It’s my family, my wife Mickie, and my daughters Teaghan and Kirsten. They have all my free time.