Belfast Telegraph

Student wakes up to a dream job with Disney

By Lindsay Fergus

Mickey Mouse, Buzz Lightyear, Simba and Nemo are just some of the well-loved characters Disney has brought to life - and now a Belfast man has been tasked with working on other animated characters for the world famous studio.

Jonathan McKee (23) has landed a dream job with Walt Disney after impressing the famous animators with one of his cartoons.

The University of Ulster first class honours graduate in design for visual communication will be designing and drawing characters for upcoming Disney TV shows after winning a prestigious international competition, backed by the celebrated US company.

Jonathan, from Dundonald, wowed the judges with his 60-second animation, Dreamcatcher.

"During a visit to China last year I heard the story of a make-believe ghost called Baku which children called upon to destroy their nightmares when they became frightened at night," he said.

"That inspired The Dreamcatcher."

Jonathan's animation, entirely hand-drawn and hand-painted, depicts a battle between Baku and one of these nightmares.

The 2011 Design and Art Direction (D&AD) had asked entrants to create a minute-long animation incorporating a lead character which embodied the themes of hope and optimism.

The character had to be of a unique design and appeal to children aged between four and 14 years old.

"D&AD awards are seen as the Oscars of the design industry and I was overwhelmed to win first prize in the student animation category," Jonathan said.

He received his award from Orion Ross, a vice-president with Disney Channels, during a glittering ceremony in London.

"As we were walking off stage he asked me to give him a call during the summer if I was free to do some work and I jumped at the chance," he revealed.

"I contacted him and now have a contract to work on animated character designs for forthcoming Disney TV shows - but I can't give away any details."

Jonathan sends his drawings to a London-based company which sends them back with any changes and refinements.

"Feedback has been really positive and I hope to further strengthen my skills during a five-day boot camp at the D&AD graduate academy, which I'll be attending at the end of the month.

"That could open up a whole new world of opportunities as it's a chance to be spotted by some of the most influential names in the industry."

University of Ulster Professor of Graphic Design John McMillan said: "Jonathan's D&AD success reflects not only his talent but the intelligence, hard work and rigour that underpinned his study."

Belfast Telegraph