Mark Zoeller

June 6th

Teaches storyboarding at Laguna College of Art & Design

Bio Summary:
Born in Michigan, Zoeller moved to Chicago then to college in Ohio and finally found himself in Hollywood, California where he works and lives with his family.

Early Life/Family:
Mark Zoeller was a creative child. Growing up he enjoyed cartoons and would draw his own creations. Zoeller’s mother was nurturing of his talents and every Sunday’s service she would give him a piece of paper to draw on during his father’s sermons. Zoeller’s uncle, on his mother’s side, grew up with a spark for the arts, however when it was time to leave his family farm, Zoeller’s grandfather told his uncle that he needed him to stay and work. Both of Zoeller’s parents were supportive.

Zoeller paid his way through Columbus, Ohio College of the Arts where he graduated with a Bachelor’s in Fine Art. His emphasis was in life drawing, oil painting, and illustration. The college was know for its Hallmark Card artists while Zoeller wanted to step into the animation industry.

Career Outline:
Starting out in the animation industry, Mark Zoeller and his good friend Mark #2 decide to move to Hollywood where Mark #2 had an interview with D.I.C. As luck would have it, Mark #2 was hired in Laguna leaving his interview open. The folks at D.I.C were expecting a Mark to show up and so a young Mark Zoeller, dressed in his finest Chicago style suit goes to the interview. He gets the job that day and works for D.I.C as his first job in the industry for the next 13 weeks. At the end of the 13 weeks a background artists goes up to Zoeller and takes him to where the office phone was. He points to a number and told Zoeller, “Call Warner Brothers and ask for Rich, they’re looking to hire.” And that’s how Zoeller started working for Warner Brothers and stayed with them for the next 5-˝ years. In the 2000s Mark Zoeller started drawing paperless. He represented Wacom for 10 years giving tutorials, interviews, and going to studios where he’d show how the Cintiq worked. According to Zoeller, going paperless can be cheaper for the studio. Everything can be done in house and with more efficiency. This included a plan where everyone could be paid well. He wrote a letter predicting the switch to digital storyboarding, paperless animation and was posted on the Animation Guild Website in 2005, which caught the attention of Wacom Technologies. At first the studios didn’t understand what to do with the new information. They would have Zoeller print out his storyboards just to scan them. During this time, in the early 2000s, Zoeller found himself in a funk where he took a break from the industry. Zoeller commented that at first talent surrounded him and he was able to immerse himself in before they moved on and started to leave. He decided to fall back on his old passion, painting. Zoeller opened up his own gallery and has been painting and showing his work ever since.

Comments On Style:
Mark Zoeller on his style of painting, “The first thing I think of when starting a painting is the feeling it gives to the viewer. The second is color. . The third is shape. Color is to an artist what a key is to a musician. Each shape is a personality. My thought process is non-linear, all encompassing, and all possible. My influences are Matisse, Picasso, Gauguin, and Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, and many others.” Zoeller has a mastery of holding the audience’s attention through his storyboards and understands the fine art of visual storytelling.

As an artist he draws because he wanted to. Cartoons fueled his growing passion as a child and as he would put it, “you just do it.”

Mark Zoeller was a combination of wisdom and comedic flare. His enthusiasm for the witty brings to life his vision for the perfect story. He talks with ease about working on storyboarding, which influences how he teaches. Zoeller is full of information, “keep the eye,” he tells me, a strategy in animation.

“Everything starts as thinking like an adult,” Zoeller comments about the different audiences for animation. “At first don’t edit yourself. Is this funny? Would I share this with a child I know?”

“They wanted my work, wanted me, not my director’s notes,” Mark Zoeller commented on his first sold oil painting. He went on to say about working in animation verses selling gallery work, “No matter how good you are, you cannot take that work and hang it on the wall.” But even then, as an artist, “Think of what you’re made of in Key Frames and move backwards.” As I interviewed him, his passion for both working in the industry and his own personal paintings were clear. Taking the step to work on his paintings allowed Zoeller to find himself as an artist. “Better to know your art than the software,” as he said.

Zoeller’s advice for upcoming storyboard artists is this, “Strive for a complete thought, clear, communicate with your audience apposed to half a thought that confuses them.” His favorite animated movies are Iron Giant, and the Incredibles. Mark Zoeller also dabbled in writing; a contribution during the animaniacs with visual writing and setting up gags as well as rewrote episodes and scenes on other popular TV shows.

1991-1992 Captain Planet and the Planeteers
1995 Pinky and the Brain
1996 Life with Louie
1993-1997 Animaniacs
1998-1999 Mad Jack the Pirate
2000 Johnny Bravo
1999-2000 Family Guy
2001-2002 House of Mouse
2003 LeapFrog: The Talking Words Factory
2003 LeapFrog: The Letter Factory
2004 Ozzy&Drix
2010 Hero Factory
2011 Barbie: A Perfect Christmas

Daytime Emmy – Anamaniacs Daytime Emmy – Toonsylvania

Related Links: Bibliographic References: Mark Zoeller

Contributors To This Listing:
Julien Hill

Animators Hall of Fame