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Academy of Art Alumnus Works On New Disney Series

Mark Seidenberg, one of the school's first animation students, is co-executive producer of Disney Junior's Mickey and the Roadster Racers

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(L-R) Rob LaDuca (Executive Producer, Mickey and the Roadster Racers), Mickey Mouse, Mark Seidenberg (Co-Executive Producer, Mickey and the Roadster Racers). Photo credit: Disney Junior.

“After seeing the first little film that I made in class, I knew that's what I wanted to do,” said Mark Seidenberg, one of Academy of Art University’s first animation students.

Seidenberg is now the co-executive producer and supervising story editor of Mickey and the Roadster Racers, the new Disney Junior preschool series, which is set to debut on Jan. 15, 2017. The show will unveil the wild car-racing adventure between Mickey Mouse and his gang.

The special screening of the series was held at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco to celebrate Walt Disney's birthday earlier this month. After Mickey Mouse made an appearance in his new racing suit, local kids from Ulloa Elementary School had an opportunity to watch Mickey and the Roadster Racers.

Following the screening, Academy Art U News sat down with Seidenberg and executive producer Rob LaDuca. They are the talents behind the Emmy-nominated hit series Jake and the Never Land Pirates and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Seidenberg and LaDuca shared their tips on building a successful career in the animation industry.

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Marking Walt Disney's birthday, students from Ulloa Elementary School were special guests at an advance screening of Disney Junior's animated series Mickey and the Roadster Racers - and Mickey Mouse himself debuted his new racing suit -- at The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, Calif., on Dec. 5, 2016. Photo credit: Disney Junior/David Moir.

Can you talk a little about what Mickey and the Roadster Racers is all about?

Mark Seidenberg: Mickey Mouse and his friends are having adventures in a town we called Hot Dog Hills. They have a new hangout, Mickey’s Garage, where they build transforming roadsters that they use to race around the world.

Rob LaDuca: When they are not on the road, Minnie and Daisy have a side business, The Happy Helpers. They are ready to solve problems for anyone needing a helping hand.

Why the roadster racers?

RL: Originally we both worked on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and one of the most popular shows that kids seem to love was the Road Rally, where each character had a little car. So that was the seed of the idea; then, we both just took one step further.

MS: We thought it would be fun to have the cars transformed into hot rods. As you saw in the episode, the kids loved it each time the car turned into something.

What was the biggest challenge in creating the series?

MS: The challenge is always how to come up with great stories. You have to understand the characters because it’s not about the car; it’s really about the person behind the wheel.

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LaDuca and Seidenberg speaking to the students at the screening. Photo by Marisa Tania.

Mark, you're an alum of the Academy?

MS: Academy of Art was the gate that taught me the foundation to become an artist. Back to when I started, it was in 1973, when the Academy only had one building on Sutter Street.

Why did you decide to join the Academy?

MS: When I was a kid, I drew a little comic book.  I wanted to be a cartoonist and the Academy offered a cartooning class. The instructor was Art Spiegelman, the famous cartoonist of graphic novel Maus. I also took classes in color theory, design perspective, anatomy, illustration, figure drawing, and those courses gave me the tools.

The next year, the school offered its first animation course. After seeing the first little film that I made in class, I knew that's what I wanted to do.

What did you learn while at the Academy that makes an impact on your career?

MS: When I started to get involved in the animation industry, I decided to concentrate on writing. What helps me is that I can think visually. A lot of people don’t necessarily come on writing animation from an art background, but I had that, so I am very visual. I see the cartoon in my head even when I am writing a script.

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(L-R) Mark Seidenberg (Co-Executive Producer, Mickey and the Roadster Racers) and Rob LaDuca (Producer, Mickey and the Roadster Racers). Photo by Marisa Tania.

Do you have any tips for the School of Animation and Visual Effects students?

RL: It is important to learn the basic of drawing. Even when you are drawing Mickey Mouse, you have to know the anatomy. That knowledge will always be with you to create dimensional characters.

MS: I am a big believer of watching a cartoon without the sound on. If the animated storytelling is good, you don't need to hear the dialog to understand the story.

What is an essential key to success in this industry?

RL: You need to have a good portfolio. The more people can see how dedicated you are to your art, the more they’ll take a chance with you.

MS: The big thing is perseverance. There is so much you can learn in college, but the real learning happens when you get your first job. That’s when you learn from watching what everybody does around you.

Both of us had a lot of people saying no as we were coming up in the business but you just keep on doing it, and you’ll eventually find a role in the animation industry.