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Michael Peraza Jr

Michael Peraza Jr is a widely known animator born in 1955,


November 15th. Peraza has taken on a range of roles such
as art director, layout artist, conceptual artist, and
production designer.
Peraza’s early influences derived from his childhood. As a
child, Peraza’s father took him to the Saenger Theatre (see
fig 2). There he watched one of his first animated feature
films Disney’s ‘101 Dalmatians’ (1961), which he instantly
fell in love with. Peraza was already a big fan of Walt Disney,
due to his TV show ‘Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Figure 1- Michael Peraza Jr
Colour’ (1961- 1969) broadcasting every Sunday.
Throughout his childhood Peraza was exposed to lots of Disney material, which resulted in him taking up drawing
as a hobby.
In high school, Peraza completed different pieces of art
work for the year book, and the school newspaper inevitably
gaining him a reputation around the school. One of his art
teachers picked up on Peraza’s talent and told him about a
school that Walt Disney founded called CalArts. Upon
hearing about this, Peraza didn’t take much interest, at the
Figure 2 -Saenger Theatre time it wasn’t known as an animation program but instead
was called
experimental animation. Peraza was more interested in conservative
art. “My kind of hero’s were N. C. Wyeth, they were Norman Rockwell,
more traditional and conservative artists” (M. Peraza (2011)). (see
figure 3)
However, his teachers were very persuasive and set him up for a tour
of the Disney studio, where he then met the veterans of Disney Figure 3- Norman Rockwell painting
animation. It was then that Peraza decided that he wanted to be come
apart of that world, with all these unique creative people. The company then offered him a job yet scared by this
responsibility Peraza declined.
Peraza went away and began drawing daily, taking trips to zoo’s studying animals, really gathering up all this
knowledge about movement, characters and environment, as he himself wanted to improve on this skill of drawing
to really master it to feel worthy enough to work full time in an art industry.
One day, Peraza received a call form Jack Hanna. Hanna was the dean of a brand-new program they were thinking
of starting at CalArts called character animation. Hanna then
invited Peraza to join the program, but once again Peraza
declined, this time due to lack of money. Peraza began taking
up different jobs in restaurants, and even took on work at
McDonalds working as a commercial artist, until eventually a
year later he had worked up enough to attend the program,
ultimately bagging a job at Walt Disney Studios.
One of Peraza’s first films that he worked on was Disney’s
Black Cauldron (1985) as a concept artist, working alongside Figure 4- Working at the Walt Disney Studios
Tim Burton. When working on it, it was pitched to Peraza to
be “the new generations Snow White” (M. Peraza (2011)). Together Peraza and
Burton, both created very interesting conceptual pieces, Peraza said that Burtons
concepts looked very similar to Beetlejuice (1988). However, as the process
continued Peraza noticed how dark, and depressing the film was becoming and
suggested songs to be added to make characters more likeable and the film more
enjoyable overall. Unfortunately, his ideas did not get taken on. Arguably this is what
may have influenced the light-heartedness and musical nature of Disney’s The Little
Mermaid (1989) that Peraza played a big role in, working as the concept artist.
Peraza also worked on various different Disney movies such as: The Great Mouse
Detective (1986), Who Framed Rodger Rabbit (1988), Beauty and the Beast (1991),
Aladdin (1992), Fantasia 2000 (1999), and Return To Neverland (2002), to name a
Figure 5- Little Mermaid few.
concept art by Peraza
For majority of those films he worked as visual development artist, or on concept art,
in fact one of his own shorts The Bubble Boogie (1989) won first place in the Disney Studio film contest, and went
on to be later used as concept art for Beauty and the Beast (1991), specifically for the number ‘Be Our Guest’.
Along with this Peraza also played a key role in the
production of a variety of beloved Disney tv shows like: Figure 6 - Ducktales by Peraza
Ducktales (1987 -1990) (see fig 6), Chip 'n Dale: Rescue
Rangers (1989 -
1990), Tale Spin
(1990- 1991), and
Goof Troop (1992-
1992) (see fig 7).
All though he is well
known for his work for Walt Disney Studios from 1978- present, he has only
been a production designer for 21st Century Fox. (now owned by the Disney
Figure 7 Goof Troop by Peraza
company (2017))
During his time at 20th Century Fox (at the time), he worked closely with the
likes of Don Bluth, and his creation of the 1997 film Anastasia.
Peraza’s role as production designer means that he had control of the
visuals of the film, taking charge of identifying the style of the film, which
includes looking into the characters, the clothes they wear, the scene
around them etc.
Looking at the backgrounds now after researching Peraza’s influences and
background, there is a clear link between that traditional painting style that
he emulates throughout his work.
This traditional style sets the visual language of film which took place during
the time after the Figure 8 Anastasia (1997) [Poster]
Russian
revolution in 1917. Its key to note when looking at the
various different moments within the film, it is clear that a
lot of architectural research has taken place showing the
contrast between that of the Paris scenes and the St
Petersburg (Russia) scenes. Even including a key
dramatic action scene (see fig 9) that take place on a
Figure 9- Action scene from Anastasia 1997
bridge that was said to resemble the alliance of
Russia and France after the revolution called Pont
Alexandre III. (see fig 10)
This is background style then ties in with the colours,
used in different scenes such as the excessive use of
green in scenes with the villain of the film Rasputin, Figure 10- Pont Alexandre III
developing a visual language for that character. (see
fig 11) while character such as main protagonist Anastasia have a lighter yellow associated with her character.
(see fig 12)

Figure 11- Rasputin Anastasia 1997 Figure 12- Anastasia from Anastasia 1997

All of these decisions were made with the help of Peraza, and without his years of experience in understanding
what visually makes a film appeal to people and what type of visual elements work well together, I don’t believe
that Bluth film Anastasia (1997) would be known as one of Bluth’s greatest animated films.

References
http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/Michael_Peraza_Jr.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6s8pHjo_EOo
http://michaelperaza.blogspot.com/
http://mikeperaza.com/pages/digital.html
https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0672791/bio