CFDb Interviews Tony Bancroft ~ Animator
= > Who inspired you most in your animation career?
I was inspired by the work of the legends of Disney animation that went before me. Several of them were nick-named by Walt Disney as being his “Nine Old Men”. They were the 9 best animators at his studio and nick-named that because they were his veterans of the craft even though they were very young at the time. But several of them, Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas in particular, are my artistic heroes. They were the trail blazers of this art form and they proved that cartoon characters can make an audience laugh, cry or be frightened using just mere pencil strokes on paper. The magic they created still astonishes me to this day.
= > How were you chosen to attend the California Institute for the Arts?
My brother Tom and I applied to the prestigious school CalArts after we heard that it was a Disney sponsored school and the best in the world for Character Animation. Many famous animators such as Tim Burton and John Lasseter went through that program. We were nervous about applying and unsure about the odds of us being accepted. But we were so sure that this was the college for us that we did not apply anywhere else. Tom and I worked for weeks to put together a portfolio of drawings and paintings that would impress the school’s admittance board. We were blessed to both be accepted into the same freshman class! Our love for animation was born out of that school and the friends and teachers we meet there.
= > Please tell us about your animation studio Toonacious Family Entertainment?
I started my own animation studio Toonacious Family Entertainment with two friends of mine from my church. It was a real “leap of faith” moment for me and my family when I decided to quit my very secure job at Disney and pursue this new studio to create faith-based projects for the Christian and secular market. I felt “called” by God to leave Disney and use my talents and abilities more directly for His service. It was the best and hardest thing that I have done in my life. My family and I grew closer to God through the journey of Toonacious because every day we were reminded that we were in His hands. Toonacious was around for 7 years before we had to shut the doors but we created many projects that I am proud of, including the faith-based animated series Lenny and Sid.
= > Did you create Lenny & Sid by yourself? What inspired this great series?
No, I created it with my writing partner Ben Chambers. The story of these two very opposite friends was inspired by our relationship. Of course, with the main difference being that one is a rabbit and the other a mouse. We got out two videos, “Love Thy Neighbor” and “Tis the Reason” and developed a third that was never completedbe before God chose to shut the project down due to lack of funding. But those two videos reached many thousands of children around the world with the message of Christ’s love for them through humor and heart. It was a real dream come true for me to help create a series from original inception all the way through the marketing and licensing of products based on the characters. That is something I couldn’t do at a studio like Disney. I really touched every aspect of its creation and it was as fun as it was rewarding.
= > Did you include any messages/scenes in the Mulan movie that were inspired specifically by your faith?
Since “Mulan” was a project that I worked on at a large corporate company (Disney) it is nearly impossible to put too many specific elements from my own life or religious beliefs into something that needs to have a universal reach and focus. The story, after all, is Mulan’s and not my own. But even having said that, there are many Biblically-based values that are important to me infused in the story. The principals of “honor your mother and father” and “be true to who you are and what you believe” are major themes in Mulan’s story. Those were things that made me want to tell this story. Also, the fact that Mulan was an independent and confident female made this story something I wanted to share not only with the world but with my three daughters. I wanted them to have a new type of Disney heroine to look up to that didn’t need a “Prince Charming” to come save them.
= > Are there any Director secrets in the movie that we should look out for on the Blu-ray?
Yes! The “Mulan” 2 Movie collection Blu-ray that comes out on March 12th will devote a whole disc to behind the scenes stories and making of features. I am excited that it will also have some secret elements that Disney fans will love to learn about the film. Some are just too secret to reveal here. Check out the Blu-ray for all to be revealed! There is also a Coloring Sheet for kids.
= > What are you currently working on now?
I have been an independent animator and director for the last 10 years having worked for large and small studios. Currently, I am finishing a book entitled “Directing for Animation” coming out in a few months from Focal Press, teaching an animation class for Azuza Pacific University and working full time as an Animation Director for an animation studio on commercials and shorts for companies such as Disney and McDonalds.
= > How can other find out about you and your work?
I have a website that has my work on it at www.tonybancroft.com and my brother Tom and I have a Facebook fan page under the name “The Bancroft Brothers” where we post our art work and photos from projects we are currently working on. People can contact me through either.
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