On Wednesday evening, I attended an ASIFA-East event marking the DVD release of four more of Michael Sporn's films: The Emperor's New Clothes, Nightingale, The Red Shoes and The Little Match Girl, all based on stories by Hans Christian Anderson.
Mike and several people who worked on the films were there, recalling details of their production methods and war stories about dealing with clients. Mike admitted that there were several films that he found hard to watch because they reminded him of the struggles involved making them.
I worked on two of these films from Toronto, so I had no idea what went on behind the scenes. There were major voice track changes on some of them, causing the films to be revised while in progress. In addition to that, Mike has already gone on record (see his comment here) about giving his animators an enormous amount of freedom. I can personally testify to that.
It's amazing to me, though, given the client changes and the freedom given to animators, that the films are all recognizably films by Michael Sporn. I'm not sure how he manages to pull this off, though I think that his taste is at least partly responsible. Somehow, when he's making creative choices or selecting a crew, his decisions invariably work (though Mike would be first one to lament the compromises he's been forced to make).
Mike breaks many of the rules we take for granted. He has no house style and doesn't dominate the artists who work for him. He works with impossibly low budgets and short schedules. His crews are smaller than average. He doesn't send work overseas. He and his studio are proof that many of the rules for making animated films are just habits, and many of them are bad ones.
Mike is close to financing a feature based on stories by Edgar Allan Poe. I hope that the deal goes through as I look forward to seeing the finished film. In the meantime, check out the DVDs.