By Allison Plitt
At the Queens Public Library in Forest Hills, there is a young man in the children’s section every weekday who helps students with their homework.
He is very patient and soft-spoken and, sometimes when a student finishes her assignments, the young man will draw a picture of their choosing — be it an animal, a cartoon character, an historical figure, or even a character from a book the child is reading.
When the parents started seeing their children walking around with beautiful drawings of animals, they knew the library’s “homework helper” had another talent.
Questioning this quiet and gentle person who was helping their children with their homework every day, the parents found out this man’s name was Michael Zecca and that he was graduating from the School of Visual Arts this June with a degree in animation.
Zecca was born in Bushwick, Brooklyn, but his family moved to Glendale when he was 10 years old.
It was while he was attending Archbishop Malloy High School that he first became interested in art.
“Honestly, I wasn’t interested in animation until my senior year of high school,” recalls Zecca. “At first, I wanted to do comic art and stuff like that, but after a while I realized it wouldn’t be very good in finding jobs.”
At the School of Visual Arts Zecca didn’t become interested in animation until he was almost finished with his studies.
“I decided really in my junior year that I wanted to be an animator because I saw the result of my work,” Zecca explains. “If I hadn’t really seen a real result and see any of my work come to life, I would probably have never decided to be an animator.”
While his fellow students opt to work on computers to create their animation, Zecca prefers to work first on paper and then scan his imagery onto a computer where he can ink and color his drawings.
“For some reason, where most people say it’s faster to work straight on the computer, for myself, I actually work much faster on paper,” he said.
Because animation involves learning to reproduce one image over and over again, the work itself can be tedious, but Zecca justifies the repetition by the finished product.
“The end result is really what you work for,” he said.
According to Zecca, a lot of animators give up their work halfway through their education because of the tiresomeness of the work and the lack of prospect for jobs. Zecca, however, is more optimistic about finding a job after graduation.
“If you’re good at what you do, you can find work,” he said.
When asked what his favorite subject matter is, Zecca responds, “Anything that can make people laugh, is really bizarre and quirky or really makes your mind work to figure out what it is. I like a lot of fantasy stuff typically.”
Zecca also takes inspiration from the animated TV shows he watched as a young boy.
“Old cartoons have that somewhat twisted sense of humor, but they’re really well-made,” Zecca said. “A lot of what inspires me would probably have to be the cartoons that I watched as a kid like ‘The Beetlejuice’ cartoon, ‘The Addams Family’ cartoon, ‘Rocko’s Modern Life’ and ‘The Ren & Stimpy Show.’”
As for modern influences, Zecca admires the work of Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki.
“In a lot of anime (Japanese animation), the animation is very poor. If you look at it, there’s a lot of still imagery,” Zecca said. “There’s not a whole lot of thought put into the animation, but there is once in a while one studio which will produce really amazing work or there will be a series that they work particularly hard on and the animation behind it is just so beautiful that you can’t help but be inspired.”
After devoting so much work to one piece, Zecca says his favorite part of his job is seeing the end result of his work.
“You really just love seeing whatever you were working on,” he said. “It just seems like a bunch of still images when you’re working on it. It gets really tiring and tedious and it can really wear on your patience. Sometimes it gets to the point where you don’t want to work on what you’re doing anymore, but if you see that end result, that sort of makes you want to work harder because you see how beautiful it is, you see your flat images coming to life. It’s really nice.”
For more information about Michael Zecca and his animations, you can contact him by e-mail at email@example.com.