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Animation artist accepts Hollywood’s long hours, tough critiques to pursue his dream
Story by Julie Wesolowski, Photo by Felipe Dupony
UB degree BFA '01'; Favorite downtime activity Cooking Italian food, especially rare, long forgotten recipes; Favorite artists Salvador Dali, Alex Toth, Frank Miller, Simon Bisley, Dave McKean, Jamie Hewlet (Tank Girl and Gorrillaz fame) and Egon Schiele; Cartoons that influenced him the most The Triplets of Belleville and Pixar's The Incredibles
With an unforgettable first name passed down from his father and great-grandfather and artistic talent inherited from his mother’s family, Michaelangelo Rocco was practically predestined for a career as an artist. But it took more than a famous first name to get him to where he is today.
Rocco didn’t land his Hollywood gig overnight. When he first moved to LA he paid his dues in office jobs, eventually working as a multimedia designer. Still not feeling satisfied, he continued to submit his portfolio to animation companies. He got his big break when he received a surprise call from Fox offering him a job on the new show American Dad. Rocco admits that leaving his lucrative, steady job to work for a show that could have been canceled after a few weeks was risky. “But as with most opportunities in life, you only get one chance,” he says. “So I took the plunge and I never looked back.”
Hired as a storyboard revisionist, Rocco was quickly promoted to a storyboard artist and he has also illustrated two print editions of Fox’s popular Family Guy comic books series. Currently a storyboard artist on the ABC show The Goode Family, he works directly with the show’s writers, directors and creators, and portions of the script are assigned specifically to him.
A lot of work goes into making the show look seamless—each 22-minute episode of an animated television series takes 10 months to produce, and he works 12-hour days, six or seven days a week, while the show is in production. Rocco says that’s the part that people don’t understand: “If you really want to pursue your dream it’s a sacrifice, it’s tough,” he says.
A fine arts major and UB Honors Scholar while at UB, Rocco credits his professors for continually presenting creative challenges and encouraging him to become an animation artist. The severe critiques he received in his classes prepared him for some of the demanding Hollywood producers and directors he now deals with on a daily basis. Rocco says getting brutally honest feedback from industry professionals comes with the territory. “You have to have thick skin to be able to take criticism, learn from it and improve,” Rocco says.
Rocco points out that the curriculum at UB provided him with a solid education. “UB gave me a more diversified background and more of a foundation, so when I’m on hiatus from a show I have other skills and interests I can pursue.”
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