The Storied Life of Broose Johnson

Pacing in front of a wall covered with assignments created for a CalArts drawing class, our teacher paused at the sketch that I had done and said, “Before we talk about the rest of these, I’ve got to ask you, Broose... what’s going on here?” 

Startled, I said, “Um, it’s just a brass hat stand... with a scarf and top hat hanging on it.”

“No, it’s more than that.  It raises an intriguing question.”  He said, “Whoever owns this top hat and silk scarf is obviously rich, right?  So, what’s he doing in a rundown shack like this?”  He pointed to the cracks I had drawn on the wall and ceiling behind the stand.  “Is he visiting the poor? Is he there to foreclose on somebody’s mortgage?  Was he once poor himself, and he’s visiting his family?  WHAT’S THE STORY?”

I was stunned.  What do you mean, what’s the story?   It’s just a picture of a brass hat stand with some stuff thrown around it to try and make it interesting.  At least... that’s what I thought I had been drawing.
But, what my instructor had said caught my imagination.  I had set out to just create an image, but had stumbled into a story!    

Since that drawing class, back in 1984, the art of storytelling has continued to fascinate me.  Whether it’s animation, illustration, writing, directing, music, voice work or even, believe it or not, storyboarding - storytelling has been at the heart of all my work.

Graduating from California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in May of 1987, I started at Walt Disney Feature Animation in June.  Over the course of almost 17 years with Disney Studios I was blessed to be able to help create some of the Studio's finest characters including Sebastian the Crab, The Beast, The Genie, Young Simba and the dimwitted moose, Tuke, in Brother Bear.

For the films Mulan and Brother Bear I worked as a Supervising Animator which involved developing and designing the characters (Ling and Chien-Po in Mulan and Tuke in Brother Bear), setting the tone for acting and performance, supervising a crew of artists in all aspects of the animation process and, of course, animating like crazy.  My work on Tuke also required the animation and integration of CGI antlers, generated in Maya, into my hand-drawn animation.

During the latter half of my time with Disney I worked extensively in Story and Development on Brother Bear and the short film John Henry on which I was Head of Story, which involved storyboarding, script writing, character development and design, and training of Disney's Florida story team.

Following the closing of Disney Feature Animation’s Florida studio, the Lord led me to Cecropia, Inc. to work on a very innovative video game entitled, THE ACT.  It involves the (hand animated!) adventures of a lowly window washer, named Edgar, who finds himself having to impersonate a doctor to save his brother Wally from...   well, I’d better let you play it to find out the rest. 

As Head of Story, Director of Animation, Chief Coffee Maker and resident Editor, Cecropia offered me a great opportunity to stretch my artistic and leadership skills.

Nowadays, when I’m not drawing, you’ll most likely find me playing my guitar; leading Sunday morning worship at our church, River of Life;  enjoying a cup of coffee with my beautiful wife, Penny; or perhaps just hanging out with our 5 kids; Wyatt, Ben, Luke, Bethany and Erika.

...and I’ll probably be telling them a story.

©Broose Johnson/MooseDaddy Productions, LLC