Man I look really young in that picture! I looked like I was ready to conquer crap! What the hell happened?? Where did it all go wrong?? This was actually taken about 6 years ago when I was still 20 something. That 's Sadao Miyamoto, or Miyasan, as we at Disney called him when he worked with us. He's now happily retired and playing golf out in Granada Hills. Although I only worked with him for a couple of years and we barely could understand each other (he spoke japanese to me and I don't know a lick of japanese), I'd have to say that he pretty much changed the way I look at life and art forever.
When I was a kid, drawing and painting was an amazing escape. I could remember spending hours and hours drawing cartoon characters in my room and never ever getting tired or bored. That changed once I got to art school and was surrounded by people who were ultra-competitive and a curriculum that was ultra-demanding. The schedule we had left little time for a breath of air. It really became work and I somehow lost the passion for being creative and having fun with it. Out of frustration, I tried looking for a job halfway through school and fortunately I landed a freelance gig at Disney Consumer Products.
My first desk at Disney was across from another designer named Yumi (who amazingly - after a bunch of re-org's and building moves - still sits next to me). She was one of the few on our team who spoke fluent Japanese. Every now and then, a gentleman - with a huge grin and a funny laugh - would visit her and they would tell stories in their native language and laugh up a storm. This was Miyasan. I knew he was a character artist on our team who had worked on cool projects like Tarzan and Lion King. She also said he was an animator in Japan. Talk about an understatement! (More on that later) Yumi was kind enough to show him some of my work and he reacted positively to some stylized stuff I had done on Monsters Inc. and Lilo and Stitch. All of the work I had done was digital and he hadn't quite wrapped his head around the computer yet. Every so often he would stop by to watch me trace out a character in Illustrator, taking notes on a pad while doing his best (with Yumi as a translator) to ask questions about the process. "I will learn" and "thank you" were a couple of things Miyasan would always say before he left for the day.
Although the gig at Disney really rejuvenated me in many ways, I was still at school the other half of the day so I can't say that I was totally cured. Seeing someone like Miyasan, who was energetic, happy, and still willing to learn something new, started to give me a new perspective. He was in his 60's and yet he seemed like he was having a blast! How the heck was he still enjoying this 'work' after doing it for so long?? It was beyond me, but then again I was kind of a sleep-deprived, cranky a-hole back then who took everything way too seriously. Somehow I knew that if I wanted to have a career like his, I had to stop looking at everything as work and find in it what I enjoyed so much as a kid.
The defining moment came one day when Miyasan was kind enough to bring in his portfolio of the work he accumulated during his career. I had only known the work he did for us at Disney but I remembered Yumi telling me he was an animator in Japan for some time. I was hoping to see some of this 'animation'. What I saw left me speechless and people ALWAYS tell me the shut up. Growing up, my main influences were Disney animation, comic books, and Japanese anime, namely this show that was called G-Force here in the states. I grew up on all the shows and books that featured this team of heores who flew around in a bitching spaceship dressed in bird costumes. It was the best thing ever! So you can imagine my fanboy freakout when Miyasan opened his portfolio and the 1st few pages featured his drawings of the initial design of all of the main characters. He was the animation director on that!!! I was floored. And that was just the beginning. He was an animator on Astroboy and a director/designer on about 20 other shows I used to watch as a kid. Page after page brought me immediately back to my childhood and those days that I had all the passion in the world for being creative. The guy who created all this stuff that influenced me to want to be creative as a kid sat in an office just down the hall, and I had no clue! It all came full circle. I would later find that he taught animation in Japan and had a bunch of amazing students who are leading the anime industry today. He came to the states to work at Disney and then to eventually retire and play golf.
With Miyasan, I got to see the blueprint of a successful career - make that a legendary one. And he did it all with a smile on his face, just glad to be doing everything he was doing. He has touched so many people with what he has done (me included) and it really makes me feel fortunate to do what I do for a living. I may not reach as far as he did (can anyone?), but I now know that something I do now can have an impact on some kid out there who happens to love drawing and painting. I can safely say that after seeing his portfolio, every day at work has been a breath of fresh air. On his last day at Disney, I passed by his office to say bye one last time. The space was empty except for Miyasan, the drawing table, a piece of paper, and a pencil. Even on the day he retired, he was still drawing away! I thanked him for all he had done for me and he simply smiled and handed me this:
Thanks Miyasan! See ya at the links!
Sunday, June 1, 2008
Posted by Tanner at 11:28 PM