Disney’s Refugee Camp – Tom Hignite’s Miracle Studios

July 23, 2006 · Filed Under Animation Coming Attractions, Animation Studios 

Where do all the animator’s go when they leave Disney? One place they’ve gone is Tom Hignite’s Miracle Studios in, of all places, Wisconsin. Dimples has nothing against Wisconsin. Actually, we prefer it to California but this is off topic. Last week, Disney announced another layoff of 650 employees. Some of the people leaving are animators but most of the great animators have already left Disney. Whether or not you appreciate the Disney style, you can’t deny that the animation knowledge base at Disney was greater than all of the other animation studios combined. From The Times:

Troy Gustafson, a Disney employee for 12 years, said he had mixed feelings, of sadness and anger, and did not want to see hand-drawn animation die out: “It’s a talent. It’s a skill. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

Obviously, Dimples couldn’t agree more. Hand-drawn 2D animation has a style and spontaneity that cannot be duplicated by the plastic puppet faces from CG 3D animation. The good news is that Tom Hignite has gathered a small group of animators in his new studio and they’re working on a hand-drawn animation theatrical feature about a character called Miracle Mouse. From Tom Hignite after a tour of the Disney studios as reported in The Times:

“I wondered where the animators were. There weren’t any artists behind the desks. They were in the midst of deciding to close the studio down.”

He continued, remarking on the difference between hand-drawn and CG animation:

“It’s not better or worse — but the advantage of hand-drawn imagery is that it looks more human, more artistic. The human touch is so evident.”

Dimples agrees and Dimples would say it is better. It looks “real”.

On Dec. 2 of this year, Miracle Studios promise a 30 sec taste of their 2D animation. We can’t wait.

Dimples would be remiss if we didn’t include a section in this story about Tom Hignite. Who is Tom Hignite? The publicity photo at the top of this story would lead you to believe that he’s an animator. He’s not. He is the owner of “Miracle Homes”. He’s a housing contractor and, apparently, an over-the-top Christian. Dimples assumes that’s why he names everything “miracle”. From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Hignite acknowledges he had relatively little experience in animation when he began planning a studio. It took about a year of research before he could start looking for artists, he said.

His home-building business, which he also began with little experience, started in 1993 with two home sales. Last year, it sold 220 houses with a total value of about $42 million.

Hignite said he got into the business by selling a home he built on a lot that had been given as barter to his father. Hignite then quit his job as advertising manager for a boat dealer and started building houses full time.

Hignite said he drew the Miracle Mouse character, which has appeared in promotions for his home-building business for several years.

Some observers say the hard hat-donning Miracle Mouse looks a lot like Mickey Mouse, but Hignite said the character is unique, and he doesn’t think it infringes on any Disney copyright.

Miracle Mouse looks like Mickey Mouse and the opening page on Miracle Studios’ web page looks like the opening to Disney. This is not a good thing. Mr. Hignite may have carried too much baggage from the world of suburban sprawl into the world of theatrical animation.

[tags]2D animation, Disney, Tom Hignite, Miracle Studios[/tags]



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