Michael Winn


Michael Winn is an accomplished independent animator, storyboard and visual development artist specializing in hand drawn animation. He is a graduate of The College for Creative Studies, located in Detroit, Michigan, where he received a BFA in Digital Media Animation and was awarded the Imre J. Molnar Artistic Achievement Award, Michael has been a presence in the entertainment and design community with a variety of projects under his belt ranging from commercial animation and pitch development to various roles in feature film work. These have included projects attached to companies such as Nissan, Warner Brothers, Sony, and more through various agencies and production houses. Michael is currently a faculty member in the animation program of The College for Creative Studies and is also developing an original action fantasy property titled ARMSmasters in both comic book and animated form

Q: Tell us about yourself and your journey as an animator (How did you get started? What inspired you to get into the animation space? Etc.)

I grew up with a love for animation, games and comics, having been introduced to these things at a very young age.  Despite this, I was encouraged into a traditional professional career after my first foray into higher education and it wasn’t until some years later and layoffs at the business I was employed at, that I was pushed back towards pursuing my artistic dreams. I quickly found a passion for animation production and work in the entertainment industry.  I also love teaching the process of animation to others as an educator.  

Q: What animation style/s do you animate in? How has your style evolved over time?

Traditional hand drawn animation is my area of focus and within that I’ve been inspired and influenced by both Eastern and Western production methods and concepts. My visual style is very much influenced by my love of work by companies such as Capcom, SquareEnix, ArcSys but also works such as X-Men, Avengers and Incredible Hulk. I also love the various Disney adjacent styles and adapting to that from time to time. Today, ‘western anime’ styles are far more common but when I first began animating this was not the case. As a result, I was very interested in seeing how these different design and animation sensibilities could work together and I continue to try and evolve my techniques and learn from the incredible work being produced today.

Q: Are there any animators, films or art movements that inspire your style?

Too many to list! Glen Keane, James Baxter, Eric Goldberg and Bruce Smith are among my favorites to study among Western animators and Noboteru Yuki, Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Yoh Yoshinari and Yutaka Nakamru are among anime industry animators I truly admire. South Korean animators Inseung Choi and Kim Kidoo are of great influence as well. Also, works by studios such as Studio MIR, Madhouse, Powerhouse Animation and The Line Animation and SPA Studios just to name a few.

Q: What genre do you find most fulfilling or enjoyable to animate?

I lean more towards action and adventure themed animation within fantasy, martial arts, superpowers, sci-fi and adjacent genres. I do enjoy slice of life and comedy pieces as well.

Q: What tools and software do you use?

I currently primarily use TVPaint, After Effects, Premier and Photoshop along with a drawing monitor.

Q: What does your creative process look like? What comes first?

This process may vary depending on what I’m doing but I will usually start with visualizing the idea, then moving to rough sketches either on paper or digitally. I will also research, looking for further inspiration, references and more to assist in the process. From here, I will go through the animation process, usually involving storyboards, creating and timing out rough sketches, then further rough animation passes towards clean up and color. Ultimately I will move into After Effects for post production. I also like using Premier for additional timing tweaks and to put it all together.

Q: Which part of the animation process is your favorite? (character design, storyboarding, animatics, etc.)

This varies greatly depending on the project. There are times I really enjoy doing the initial pre production elements the most (storyboarding, character design, animatics.) and other times I really enjoy sinking into doing tight clean up and seeing how it’s all coming together. I’d say I likely enjoy rough animation and early timing passes the most.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring animators based on personal experience and industry insights?

So much can be said here but one of the first things to come to mind is to trust and learn to love the process. So often we long for the end product but forget the steps necessary to get there. The journey itself with all of its various iterations and passes, moments of things not working the way you want and periods of frustration is a necessary step to reach that ‘Eureka’ moment but you will be fulfilled when all is said and done.

Q: How do you navigate periods of creative block?

There are times when I have to just step back and walk away.  Taking a break to refresh, regroup and recharge does wonders.

Q: What did you enjoy the most about the latest story you animated for Storiaverse? What was the most challenging?

I really enjoyed the sense of trust and creative freedom that was given to me on this project. The creative and collaborative environment that Storiaverse fostered was fantastic. The production process encouraged me to reach outside of my comfort zones to learn and try new things, refine my craft further and challenge myself by using a variety of techniques.

Q: What motivated your decision to collaborate with Storiaverse?

Storiaverse’s approach to animation, storytelling and content creation is unique and immediately showed enormous potential. I was extremely excited at the opportunity to become part of it.

Q: How do you think animation can play a role in promoting diversity and representation?

As an art form, animation has a powerful ability to cross borders, tell allegorical tales and contribute to modern mythmaking in a very unique way. I believe it can be used to cross borders, tackle challenging subject matter and impart lessons that would be harder to teach and accept through more traditional film making methods.

Q: What do you love most about the animation space and what draws you to adult animation specifically?

There are many things I love about animation but I’d say one of the things I love the most is the endless potential it has. You can craft a thrilling fight scene using stick figures, or make a ball come to life and have an audience believing in its personality. To me, ‘Adult’ animation is simply the industry in the West finally beginning to come to a better understanding that animation is not simply an outlet to create children's stories but that all ages can be engaged on their own terms and that there is an endless landscape of storytelling to explore.

Q: Where do you think the animation industry is heading?

I believe we are on the cusp of seeing large scale changes related to animation production. I believe we will see a return of mainstream 2d feature animation in the West and more advancements and experimentation in 3d animation. The globalization of animation production will continue to increase as well with animators across the world getting opportunities to participate in amazing projects that originate from their home countries. It’ll continue to be an exciting time.