Margaret Dean is the director of production for Mattel’s Playground Productions and was recently named co-president of Women in Animation, a non-profit dedicated to connecting, supporting, and empowering women in the field of animation. Dean has served in numerous executive roles in the animation industry, as well as worked directly on a number of critically acclaimed shows, such as The Ren and Stimpy Show, Nickelodeon’s Back at the Barnyard, and Warner Bros.’ What’s New Scooby-Doo?
I studied experimental film and video, which is essentially animation. When I moved to Alabama, I taught animation to kids in a community media center. When I went to UCLA, I met Frank Marshall (just after Roger Rabbit came out), and I asked him about producing animation. He was excited about my question and offered me an internship on Family Dog. I took to animation production like a fish to water. It was second nature to me. And I haven’t stopped since.
You worked on The Ren & Stimpy Show, which was one of the first animated adult-oriented television shows. What did you learn from working on such an influential series?
I learned most of what I know today about animation production. Unlike most television production, a large part of Ren & Stimpy was done here in the US, so I got to see first hand what the work was, how long things take and how to build efficiencies into a pipeline. I also was thrown into the deep end in dealing with artists. We had an extremely talented crew and some were pretty temperamental. I learned a lot about how to support artists to do their best work and deliver on time.
While working at Columbia TriStar Television, you supervised the move from traditional animation into digital animation. For a young professional interested in animation, would you recommend they focus on learning new computer skills or building an art portfolio?
For a young professional who is an artist, I would say study art. First and foremost – learn to draw the best you can. That skill is always necessary no matter how technical the world gets. There are many jobs in animation: production management, writing, composing, technical development… You need to decide where your interests lie and develop those skills. Everyone, no matter what they go into, ought to learn about art and animation history. Having a context to understand what you’re working with is priceless. It will actually give you an edge.
The Internet has offered new ways to distribute and consume animation. Do you have any suggestions or tips on how young animators can get their work seen by major studios through YouTube or other mobile video sites?
As has always been true, if you want to be seen, create something that people want to look at. The Internet makes it easier to put things out there but it doesn’t make it easier to get people to look at it. Major studios are combing YouTube and other sites looking for new ideas and new talent. Just because someone comes across your project on