I’m sharing my exclusive interview with Mark Henn. He shared an inspiring story on how he got to Disney. If you want to know what not giving up looks like, look no further then Mark Henn.
What Not Giving Up Looks Like: An Exclusive Interview with Mark Henn
Last year during the Ralph Breaks the Internet event; we had a unique opportunity to interview Mark Henn, a legendary Disney Animator for over 38 years. During our time with him, he taught us how to draw Ariel from The Little Mermaid. I’m going to cut right to the chase and say this; drawing is not my talent. Period. Mark is the 2D Lead Animator for Ralph Breaks the Internet movie.
However, it was cool to see him break down the process on how to draw a Disney Princess. But what fascinated me even more about Mark is his story on how he got to Disney and how he came to love drawing.
What I learned about Mark Henn
- Mark first started drawing when he was a little boy. His mom would give him a paper at church to draw on so he would be quiet.
- He comes from a family of educators, both of his parents were teachers.
- While growing up, Mark dreamed to work for Disney one day. You know how we all have dreams about doing something when we were little, but to see it through is what makes Mark stand out.
- After graduating from high school, Mark went to Bowling Green University and took some art classes. After a while, he put together a portfolio and sent it to Disney studios. Disney said no, but sent him feedback and suggestions.
- But he didn’t give up. He thought about transferring to Ohio State University, which is known to have pioneers of the CG animation. However, he had surgery and could not attend.
- He then transferred to St. Clair where his dad taught as Professor and jumped back into taking classes. He sent another portfolio of his work to Disney studios. Again they said no.
- He went back to work on his art and sent his portfolio in the third time, but Disney still said no. By this point, you would have thought, “Mark, give it up already!” But he didn’t.
- Fun fact: During that time, Don Duckwall was the guy in charge, and sent Mark his rejection letter. Disney told him that they didn’t think he had what it took to be an animator.
Not giving up, Mark was accepted into an art school in California (CalArts) and spent his last two years of college there.
Finally, after a few years, he was accepted into the Disney Studios training program in 1980, and the rest is history.
Our group working hard to draw just as good as Mark.
When asking Mark about what he would tell the younger generations that want to follow in his footsteps, he had this to say, “Keep encouraging them to do the art they are interested in. There are tons of books out there that are helpful. Computers is another tool they will also need to develop. This goes for gaming as well.”
Our group was inspired by Mark’s story. So many times in life, we take the first rejection as a sign that we should give up. We make mistakes, we fail, but we should get back up and try again. Mark could have walked away after the first no. He could have walked away after the second or third no. Could you imagine what Ariel or the dozen other characters he worked on would look like if Mark gave up?
Mark sent us all a hand drawing of Ariel! I can’t wait to frame it and show you guys!
Life will bring us all many challenges. Even now, Mark is still challenged by the new technology of today, and how that fits into the 30+ years of animation work he has grown to love. Mark believes Walt Disney would have embraced today’s technology and figured out a way to make animation work with the artists. It was hard at first; Mark mentioned adjusting to CG and new styles of animation, but he is adapting to the times. He also thinks that using CG works for animators that can’t draw, but still has the same passion.
One of the best compliments Mark has heard is, “Oh you animated my childhood.”
Mark currently is taking what he learned from the OG animators and passing it on to the new generations of animators. He is a resource and a mentor. He was also the 2D Lead on Frozen, as well as Big Hero 6.
You can catch Mark Henn’s work in the remaster of “The Little Mermaid” on Digital, 4K Ultra HD™, and Movies anywhere on Feb. 12, and 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray™ on Feb. 26.
In honor of its 30th anniversary, two-time Academy Award®-winner (Best Original Score and Best Original Song “Under the Sea,” 1989) “The Little Mermaid,” dives into the highly celebrated Walt Disney Signature Collection with all-new bonus features and a sing-along mode. The magical, musical tale of mermaid princess Ariel — along with loveable sidekicks Sebastian and Flounder, and the love-to-hate sea witch Ursula — is shore to make a splash with all generations when it comes home for the first time Digitally in HD, 4K Ultra HD™ and Movies Anywhere on Feb. 12, and on 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray™ on Feb. 26.
Stay tuned for more Mermaid fun I’ll be sharing in the next two weeks for the release of Walt Disney Signature Collection of The Little Mermaid!