Production Designer, The Willoughbys, NETflIx
If you want to get a sense of Kyle McQueen’s keen artistic eye, you’ll have to check out the new Netflix/Bron Studio movie The Willoughbys
this spring. You will get a good sense of his unique aesthetic style in almost every frame. “The look of The Willoughbys came out of wanting to create a visceral and immersive experience for the audience,” he says. “We looked at toys, puppetry, stop motion and mid-century children’s book illustration to help us build something that felt handmade rather than digital. After all, The Willoughbys is an old-fashioned story about kids raised on books!”
Born and raised in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada, McQueen grew up loving shows such as Batman: The Animated Series, Ren & Stimpy, Rocky and Bullwinkle and movies such as Akira, The Iron Giant and Disney’s Robin Hood. “And about 6,000 others … If it was animated, I was watching it,” recalls McQueen. “I just always knew that if I could draw for a living, then I could be happy. I do remember watching The Lion King
and thinking, ‘Yup, that’s what I’m going to do!’”
He went on to study classical animation at Sheridan College. “I was part of a graduating class of heavy hitters, including Jon Klassen and Vera Brosgol. It took me three tries to get in. So, kids (and adults): Never
give up on your dream,” says the 38-year old. His first job out of college was working as a layout artist on an animated series called Being Ian
in Vancouver, which led to other industry jobs, including production designer on the 2016 movie Sausage Party.
McQueen names Chuck Jones, Michael Maltese, Ward Kimball, Maurice Noble, Craig Kellman, Lou Romano and Genndy Tartakovsky among his growing list of animation idols. He also tells us that he loves creating a harmony between story and style, even though working on movies requires a lot of patience. “These movies take a long, long time to make!” he adds.
The in-demand production designer has some very practical tips for those who want to pursue a career in animation. “Leave the sketchbook at home, get outside and experience life. Like, really experience it. Go see bands. Eat weird food. Read books that aren’t about animation. Be spontaneous. Make mistakes. Allow yourself the time to truly absorb it. Experience, good or bad, will make your ideas more honest and inspire new ones. The narrower your view of the world, the narrower your contribution to it. Also, leave your ego at the door and don’t be a jerk!”