Last week I had the privilege to participate in a roundtable discussion with Vanessa Morrison, President of Fox Animation Studios, along with a number of other bloggers including Mommy Noire and Mocha Moms, to name a few.
We got the opportunity to ask Morrison about her involvement with the ICE AGE series and animation career. As president, Morrison oversees the development, production, and marketing of family-friendly movies. Films produced under her tenure include: “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!,” “Rio” and “Peanuts.”
Following is a summary of the key highlights and takeaways:
How has your earliest memory of animation helped you with the ICE AGE franchise?
I have always loved animation and family movies, and I think my first animation was Sleeping Beauty. My career evolved from live Action towards Family movies like “Dr. Doolittle” and “Cheaper by the Dozen”. My passion then carried over into my career because I never lost my childhood passion.
I have a 9-year-old son who loved all the ICE AGE movies. He has a similar passion as you mentioned having as a child. What would you tell a 9-year-old pursuing a career in animation?
I was that kid as well, always loved movies and storytelling. Movies are an extension of storytelling. I didn’t know anyone in the industry, so what my parents encouraged (both teachers) was focusing on a solid education. Know how to write and read; and translate that into your own notion. The notion of learning how to write well. I would also encourage a passion for stories and literature in general.
Kids nowadays can make their own animation on their computers, something I couldn’t do. I was an English major, Rhetoric major to be exact. I learned how to read stories and tell stories so when I went to film school, I had a good foundation. Take your interests seriously. Don’t dismiss those you have when you’re young either.
I wasn’t there from the beginning, but I’ve worked with those who were. I don’t think they knew it would become the global brand it has become. But what they intentionally did was create a timeless set of characters. They presented to the audience the notion of an ICE AGE herd, a family that grows and is diverse. A collection of people who aren’t the same but love one another and accept one another.
Is it safe to say that if it wasn’t for Scrat, the evolution of the ICE AGE would have looked very different?
Yes – The simple idea that by pursuing his nut, he has certainly made profound changes to the universe. When writing, we start out with his misadventures, they’re the catalyst for our story.
Share one idea that seemed crazy in the production phase but in the end worked out?
The notion of finding a whole new world with people living with this meteor seemed crazy at first. But how it’s constructed and how they’re trying to save their home and find a sanctuary worked out. We like to evolve ideas that seem crazy.
What is the best and worst part of your job?
Coming to work every day is a dream come true.I get to work with storytellers, and the best part beyond that is that we’re making movies for families. Families from young to old can come and see our movies. We cover a wide spectrum of the family. I also love the ability to include interesting voices who’ve never been heard before, people and actors who have never done animation before. That’s exciting. Everyone has a bad day here and there, but I can’t say there’s a whole lot of bad days.
Being one of the few black women in the world of animation, what are some of the strides you take so that more blacks can be behind those scenes?
There is a need for more diversity and the most important thing is to encourage the new generation and people who have the interest. It starts early so take kids’ interests seriously. This is not an elite place. It’s a global industry and has to touch and represent all of us, which requires the participation and encouragement of all of us. Pursue your interests in animation and media to the fullest extent that you can. Don’t be discouraged, keep going relentlessly.
- Pay attention to your passion – it’s often linked to your purpose. And as Nicole Walter’s, an income strategist taught me, there’s always provision in your purpose.
- Never dismiss your interests – you never know how they’ll be an advantage to further advance your career.
- The definition of family isn’t always found in common features – it’s found in love.
- Even your misadventures, your seemingly bad luck, can put you on a path of great discovery and fortune.
- Start where you are. No matter how crazy or impossible looking, something good can always evolve.
- Even in your dream job, there’ll be some bad days. Focus in the good.
- Pursue your interests relentlessly. Don’t be discouraged. Your fate is not in someone else’s hands.
“ICE AGE 5 – Collision Course” opens today! Check out the links below for more on the movie and take the family out for movie-night this weekend.
Have you watched any of the ICE AGE movies? Which one’s your favourite?