Fueling the Creative Flame

Mike Moon

The award-winning animator and vice president of animation at Disney is the father of two children, ages 7 and 5-1/2.

What did your parents do to encourage your creativity?

From the earliest ages, my family always encouraged my exploration of the arts. I started oil painting when I was 6, and drum and piano lessons when I was 7. My family made sure there were opportunities for me. They supported me going to art school; they exposed me to art galleries and musical performances. My attention span wasn't very long, so my parents made sure that as I lost interest in one thing there was something else for me to express my creativity in.

Who were the adults in your life who most encouraged your creativity?

I had a fantastic art teacher in eighth grade. When I went to Cal Arts, which is where I went to art school, my first-year mentor was a guy named Bob Winquist. He was an amazing individual who instilled an everlasting sense of inspiration in me as well as in my former classmates. It was a very lucky time to be at that school and that program. He was an enchanted individual. He was this amazingly positive, open-minded, creative, off-the-wall guy who had been around for years. He ran the character-animation program there for a good 10 years and so many people passed through his leadership and have gone on to do such wonderful things. It's funny; all my former classmates and myself talk about him still to this day as being this magical force in our lives. I can say I would not be in the job I'm currently in if it weren't for Bob Winquist.

Which books and other materials inspired you most as a child?

I was a real Dr. Suess kid. I was also a huge fan of Roald Dahl. Every kid can identify with those children in the Roald Dahl books. Also, anything Disney, like Pirates of the Caribbean. Disney films were always something that communicated to me strongly because of the characters and the artistry of them. I don't think I was alone in that.

If you could share one piece of advice with a child about being creative, what would that be?

It's so easy to get into a rut creatively. So exercise those creative chops by always trying to take things further or explore territories that you haven't mastered yet. I think it's important to not become complacent. With children, it's exploring all avenues of the arts. If you're a child who likes the visual arts, don't just draw with your crayons-try painting, try pastels, try sculpture. The same goes for music-explore other musical styles, whether it's composition or performance. A huge part of my own childhood was having those options, and exploring different aspects of them before settling on the visual arts.

What do you see as your most creative accomplishment?

My position at Disney is probably my greatest creative accomplishment because I'm able to work with so many different artists, creators, and studios.

Why do you think encouraging creativity is so important, and how has it helped you in your life and career?

I love what I do. I cannot think of a career I would be happier in and it's because of the encouragement I received. A good sense of imagination and creativity are wonderful attributes for any kid to have. If we can encourage that, if we can build upon that, they're ultimately better people for it.

How do you keep yourself creative?

By always seeking new inspiration whether it's in art, music, or entertainment. There is so much going on in our world and it's easy to access these things. There aren't enough hours in the day.

What have you done to encourage your kids' creativity?

I've given my children a lot of options. My son has been very interested in music, so we've got a house full of electric guitars, acoustic guitars, keyboards, drums, and guitar amps. With my daughter, she's very interested in the visual arts, so we've got virtually every art supply. Kids are overscheduled from the moment they're born, and it's so easy to throw them into lessons whether they're the right fit or not. With my son and music, I wanted to see where his focus landed and that it was more than just a phase. The same is true with my daughter.

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