Meeting Fraser Maclean

I was incredibly lucky to win a prize draw at the port folio reviews at Dee Con Gaming and Anime convention this year. The prize was an hour meeting with animation veteran Fraser Maclean to chat about my port folio and his experience in the industry. He has worked on films such as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Space Jam and Tarzan and is author of “Setting the Scene” book about layout in animation.

The pointers he gave me where:

  • My character animation was really observational but I need to bring that into my backgrounds as they are lacking and bringing the quality of the film down.
  • Observe landscapes and interiors the way I observe people and animals and my backgrounds will get better.
  • My backgrounds and characters all have the same colour hues, the character gets lost in the background, try blocking out the colour in monotone first.
  • Go to Sketch Crawls to sketch landscapes with other artists.
  • Watch Looney Tunes cartoons and look at their backgrounds.
  • Go through a few scenes in films and cartoons I like and thumbnail it out in a sketchbook to see how the scene  is laid out.
  • Avoid having the character in the centre of the shot all the time, its boring, try more dynamic shots.
  • Avoid having “dead space” in my shots, where everything is happening in one area and there is an area where nothing is happening.
  • Try to put more atmosphere into the shots using colour and angles, instead of the same static background and camera angles.
  • be more creative with the camera, it should act like another character in the film and not just be a tool to get from point A to point B.
  • Fruut the pigeon griffin was a great idea but I didn’t draw enough attention to it, question the main characters identity, use cut-aways or supporting flashback material that would tell the audience why.
  • Make sure my work has a more polished off finish, not as much construction lines etc.


He also mentioned a lot of books that I should have a look at:

‘The Noble Approach’ by Tod Polson.

‘On Film Making’ by Alexander Mackendrick

‘Water to paper, Paint to Sky: The Art of Tyrus Wong’ by Michael Labrie

‘Magic Colour Flair: The Art of Marie Blair’ by John Canemaker

‘Prepare to Board! Create Story and Characters for Animated Features and Shorts’ by Nancy Beiman

‘Paper Dreams: The Art and Artists of Disney Story Boards’ by John Canemaker


He also forwarded me a few websites for illustrators and things he thinks will help me to look at:

The next couple of weeks I am going to take Fraser’s advice and practice layout thumbnailing of scenes from cartoons and go out and sketch some landscapes now that the sun is coming out here!

I am really honoured I had the chance meet such an inspirational artist. I will use all of his advice in the future when making my films and this will make me a better artist.