by JULIE-ANN SPENCE
Jonathan McKee receiving his award
LISBURN designer Jonathan McKee is living the dream after securing a prestigious job with Disney.
Jonathan, who recently graduated from the University of Ulster with a degree in Design for Visual Communication, was offered his dream job by Disney Channel Vice-President Orion Ross after scooping the top prize in the recent Design and Advertising (D&AD) annual student awards.
Having taken a special interest in animation during his time at university, Jonathan decided to enter the animation section of the D&AD awards and was thrilled with his success, after becoming the first Northern Ireland student to ever win the prestigious 'yellow pencil', the designers Oscar.
"This year, Disney was the sponsor and they asked students to 'create a lead character, with heart and optimism, for a narrative-driven comedy cartoon'," explained Jonathan.
"My entry was a cartoon series based around Baku, a dreamcatcher who spends each night catching and eating members of a vicious group: The Nightmares — bad dreams intent on placing the human world into a perpetual sleep.
"I entered the contest thinking that I'd be delighted if I only came
away with third place," continued Jonathan. "The judging process took
six weeks, in that time it was judged by representatives from leading
animation houses and production companies in London, including people
from Disney itself.
Eventually I received word that my animation had beaten off competition from students in numerous international universities and that I was invited to the awards night in London, along with the other two shortlisted finalists but we were not told of the final result.
"I was the first student from Northern Ireland to ever be nominated for the coveted 'yellow pencil' and at the ceremony I represented Northern Ireland alongside the cut-throat competition from students who had flown in from Russia, South Africa, Spain, Germany and even Australia. At the ceremony I was awarded first place out of the thousands of entries and as soon as I had come down from the stage, I was offered some work with the Disney Channel EMEA by their Vice-President Orion Ross. It was a pretty amazing experience."
And as if that wasn't enough, Jonathan also picked up a student award in London from the ISTD (International Society of Typographic Designers) as well as recognition from D&AD as a Best of New Blood' at the 'New Blood in Design' exhibition and from YCN (Young Creative Network) as one of their inspiring UK animation graduates in 2011.
Jonathan is currently working with Disney on upcoming television productions and is excited to see his hard work come to fruition. "My role is that of a character designer, getting to define what these new TV characters are going to look like, what they'll wear, how they'll move etc." explained Jonathan. "It's a pretty amazing job and I'm looking forward to seeing where it takes me in future, it's a fantastic opportunity."