John Stevenson has helped to bring some of cinema’s best-loved characters to life including The Muppets, Count Duckula and Kung Fu Panda. He recently visited Media Design School to share his experiences in the industry with students.
“In creative fields you are driven by something most people don't have... You have chosen a special industry... Everyone in the world wants to consume it, but not everyone gets to make it.”
John Stevenson has more than 30 years experience in animation and got his start working on Jim Henson’s Muppet Show.
He worked as a story artist on the feature films The Great Muppet Caper, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and Little Shop of Horrors and as a character designer and story artist Count Duckula. He also worked as puppeteer and Motion Capture Performer on various projects.
Stevenson worked in the art department at DreamWorks Animation on Shrek, Shrek 2, Madagascar and Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, before helming a number of episodes of their animated primetime show Father of the Pride. He worked for four years bringing Kung Fu Panda to the screen as director.
He is currently working on The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break, We3, Alien Rock Band and Rotten Island.
A few insights….
Advice for starting out and his experience on The Muppet Show: “Be a decent person. Lead by inspiring people. There was nowhere I'd rather be than working on the Muppet Show. Mistakes weren't punished as long as you learned from them. You are going to make mistakes especially doing something as messy as art.”
On getting a green light for your project: “In any group of people there is politics. Don't be the guy that nobody wants to work with. If the manager doesn't like you you're not going to get the good shots.”
Parting advice: “Be passionate, be positive and play nice in the sandbox."