Faculty

Home > Faculty > Dan F McLaughlin

Dan F McLaughlin

Dan McLaughlin graduated from TFT in 1958 and founded its Animation Workshop a year later. He taught in and was the head of the School's animation program for the next 50 years, the architect of its highly successful "one person, one film" approach to the medium, until his retirement in 2008.

McLaughlin was born in Hollywood, California, in August 1932 and went to work in Hollywood feature films four months later. The medical costs of his birth were paid for from his first paycheck. After working in more than 35 films as an extra, stand-in, and bit player, he decided that education was more important and so quit the live action world at the age of 13. Some of the many memories from that period are of his mother, a Hollywood hairdresser, designing Betty Grable's hair color, his off- screen fights with the fat kid from the Our Gang comedies, and almost being shot by John Wayne for using his makeup.

After serving in the Korean conflict and working as a shill in Nevada, Dan returned to motion pictures by entering the UCLA Animation Workshop in 1956. The Workshop had been created in 1947 by Bill Shull, a former Disney animator, who established the Workshop's basic philosophy of, "one person, one film" and a strong commitment to content and quality. Dan graduated in 1958 and started working in the UCLA Animation Workshop the same year. Since 1970 he has been a Professor at UCLA and Chair of the MFA Program in Animation, responsible for the 33 graduate students in the program. The UCLA Animation Workshop has consistently been one of the top three animation programs in the world for the past 47 years. Its past students, far too many to list here, have made major contributions to all areas of animation. In teaching he seeks to lead the students through the three stages of education: information, knowledge, and wisdom. First the teacher must impart the information that allows the student to master the discipline, next to guide that information into knowledge, and then, the hardest step, to help the student turn that knowledge into wisdom.

He has had retrospective screenings and lectured in many conferences, film festivals, colleges, and countries: Tokyo, Israel, Zagreb, Yale, MIT, and LMU; from North of the Arctic circle in Norway, to Jos, Nigeria where he designed and directed a national animation studio for the Nigerian government which produced over 30 animated films. Other examples of his commitment to the community of animation include, serving many years on the board of directors of ASIFA Hollywood, sponsoring ANIMATRIX, the only graduate journal in animation, serving as a consultant in setting up new schools and courses in animation and digital animation, and organizing and presenting many local and international programs in animation. A recent honor was to be on the steering committee for the first International Animation Teaching Symposium held at Urbino, Italy, in 1992.

As an independent filmmaker Dan has made over 20 animated films, ranging from the traditional to the experimental, which have won both national and international awards. God is Dog Spelled Backwards" (1963) started the style and technique of Photokinesis, and "Claude" (1963) was the winner of the Chicago International Film Festival. Animation for Sesame Street, the Amnesty International "Human Rights Now" 1988 world tour, legal expert witness work, and titles for features are among his professional activities.

Among his many published articles are "Animation and Modernism," "Independent Animation in the Land of the Magic Kingdom: Between a Rock and Hollywood," "Animation, Aesthetics and the Computer," "Robert Mitchell, A Profile," "Animation Before Film" and "A Short History of Interactive Animation." Besides his films and articles, he has been a pioneer in the fields of computer animation and interactive media. In 1983 he was one of the first IBM grantees in multi median, and in 1991 he developed AIA, a laser disk multimedia critical analysis system for animation. In 1994 he burnt "IT's A" (Interactive Teaching System - Animation) his first CD ROM, which became one of the teaching tools in the Workshop. He introduced computer animation into the Animation Workshop in 1968 and interactive animation in 1988. Today the workshop is one of the finest computer animation programs in higher education, with many of its graduates leaders in the field.

In 1995 he was the recipient of the Winsor McCay Award for life time achievement in Animation from ASIFA Hollywood. Past winners of this award include Walt Disney, Chuck Jones, Max Fleischer, Walter Lantz, Tex Avery, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston.