Wednesday, March 12, 2014

John Mahoney

I met John Mahoney way back in 1994. We were both interns at Disney Feature Animation, going through a six month training session. John always had a rebellious streak and the work he produced was inspired and only a loose interpretation of the projects. For instance, one assignment involved doing the inbetween drawings for an old Goofy animated scene. All the keys were supplied as xeroxes and we just had to add drawings to smooth out the action. It was mind numbing simple work. John created drawings under the animation camera making it seem like the drawings were spontaneously creating themselves.

We both ended up working at Disney but John made his way into the creative development department because of his uncompromising ways. I didn't realize that he had been forced to work in the effects department, a position that he despised. He essentially began his own private sit down strike, allowing scenes to pile up on his desk. Rather than getting fired, he was given an office in creative development. A perk of the job was that he could order any art supplies he needed. If he wanted to do some watercolors, he could order a complete deluxe set. If he decided to use gouache the next day, the he would order a complete deluxe gouache set.

He did development work for the film "Kingdom in the Sun" which would later be called "The Emperors New Grove." The film was being pitched to Michael Eisner, Aka Darth Vader. Don Hahn, the films producer gave an amazing in depth story pitch.  Michael wasn't impressed. He said the film felt like a National Geographic documentary and he said the film couldn't be made. John had been throwing together a short two minute animation that sort of explained the Mayan Creation myths using spontaneous drawings and loose brushwork. Michael saw that short and the film was saved. It is a shame the final film became so watered down.

John is now deeply committed to using Z-Brush to create fanciful and dark imagery. His quirky sensibility affects every project he tackles. Although he is an amazing draftsman, he is drawn to sculpting which he feels is a more pure and convincing way to portray form. He collects immense loose leaf folders full of artist work that he is inspired by. When he works, he surrounds himself with these inspiring images. When discussing how to pick a color palette, he said he likes to look at how ancient civilizations have used color. These cultures developed their color sensitivities over many centuries so the colors have become established. I am amazed and inspired by his drawings done on location.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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