Co-Creator/Exec Producer, The Mighty Ones, DreamWorks Animation Sunil Hall’s impressive list of TV credits includes high-profile shows such as Gravity Falls, Pickle and Peanut and The Penguins of Madagascar. But 2020 could be his biggest and busiest year ever, since The Mighty Ones, the show he co-created and exec produces, will debut on Hulu and Peacock.
The show’s origins go back about seven years ago when Hall’s friend Lynne Naylor showed him a series of loose cartoon ideas.“She had a sketch of some tiny creatures — a rock, leaf and stick — which I was totally drawn to. They were these side characters in a bigger story. I suggested we focus on those little guys and what their lives are like. Something about these tiny creatures having to navigate a giant unpredictable world really appealed to me. They are inspired by a lot of the interesting eccentric people we have met in the animation industry!”
Hall’s interest in animation had a gradual build.“I’ve always been drawing, and I started taking serious art classes when I was 10. At about 12 or 13 I got into drawing comics. Around that time my mom got a video camera, so I started making films and animated projects. In high school we had a small animation program. My teacher told me about CalArts and I went to an open house. Seeing all the student work was huge for me. I think that was the moment I was like, ‘Yeah, this is what I’m doing with my life.’”
After graduating from CalArts, Hall accepted an internship at a small startup studio called StickyFlicks. “I mostly did cleanups, a little design work and I got Starbucks coffee for people. Then I spilled a ton of coffee down my own back. After that, I didn’t have to get coffee anymore. My first long-term job was as prop designer on Nickelodeon’s My Life as a Teenage Robot. It was an amazing crew. I’m still friends with many of the people I met on that show, and several of them work on The Mighty Ones.”
Hall says one of the things he loves about his job is that he gets to make stupid jokes and draw with a bunch of funny, talented people. “The show has really grown and changed into something much better than what we started with. Watching all these amazing designers and story people take ownership and push the show to new levels is really awesome,” he offers. “The tough part is that no one teaches you how to run a show, they just kind of drop you in.”
One of the people who left a lasting impact on Hall was animation director and designer Chris Reccardi, who passed away in 2019. “Chris’s work was really influential on me when I was in school. I got to know him when I was at Nickelodeon, and we used to go on snowboarding trips together. He introduced me to his wife Lynne (another animation idol I was lucky enough to work with) on one of these trips and that meeting kicked off our creative collaboration on The Mighty Ones. Chris boarded and wrote part of our pilot episode. I am really lucky to have known him.”
Hall also leaves us with some sage advice. He says, “Learn to pace yourself so you don’t burn out. Enjoy down time when you can. Get home before your kids go to sleep.”