Tom Bancroft has worked as an animator for award-winning Disney films including "The Lion King," "Mulan," "Beauty and the Beast," and the Christian-based VeggieTales films. Bancroft has an abiding faith and talent that he has used to spread the message of God to younger audiences. He recently took time to speak with The Christian Post about his life and work.
The Christian Post: How did you come to work for Disney? What was that like?
Bancroft: We were on that track and didn't even know it; we went to a school in Calif., which was founded by Walt Disney. A lot of the teachers that taught there were animators; there was a strong Disney influence and sometimes animators would come through to look for interns, back in 1988. Tony and I were two of the people they picked.
The first film we actually worked on was "Roller Coaster Rabbit," and after that, our first feature film was "The Rescuers Down Under." When we first started out, we were the underlings, but we moved up and became animators … Supervising animators create the final character design. Both Tony and I did get to that point; he worked on Pumba ("The Lion King"), and I supervised Mushu on "Mulan." It was a huge honor and something I'll never forget … it's a family film, nostalgic for me.
To me, Mushu has become the iconic character of my life. He had a range of personality traits, and you see him grow and change. I always enjoy those scenes where Mulan is discovered and dishonored and now Mushu has to cheer her up, and you see his softer side. And you get to see their friendship.
CP: What led you to start working on VeggieTales and more Christian-themed films?
Bancroft: It was an emotional journey, but a lot of it had to do with my faith. All along, I'd been a Christian. Fortunately, being in children's entertainment, there are not a lot of moral questions that I didn't agree with; we were showing characters from different cultures that had different faiths. I completely agreed with that, but there were times I wanted to be more direct in using my creativity for God.
After getting sick with viral meningitis, partly from not saying "no" to any projects, I really felt like it was a wake-up call. When I came out of the hospital, I looked at everything differently. Work was just work and not the joy of my life. Right at the same time, I learned of Big Idea Productions and Veggie Tales; I became obsessed with the idea of working with them. It was all God.
I'm very happy and proud that I have a background at Disney that I can look back on … I'm very content where I am now. All of these things worked together for God; they never would have happened without His help and His hand on my life.
My big job right now is "Superbook." It was an anime style show; a few years ago, my partner and I had redesigned all the characters and designed a reboot. We now have the funding and so we've been working on that. I am the lead designer for them. The show is owned by ABC Family and is seen on "700 Club" and some of it has been aired. We have all of Season 1 done (13 episodes) and are working on Season 2. You can buy the newest DVD as they come out, through donations. They haven't done an official rollout. When it does, it will go internationally.
"Mulan" on Blu-Ray and DVD combo is out now.
To learn more about Tom's projects and see "Outnumbered," visit www.outnumberedcomic.com.
Watch the trailer for "Mulan" HERE: