Animation to the Max
May 24, 2:07 PM - LA Animation Examiner - Marlene Sharp
Max Howard came a long way from his past in live theatre: more than 5,000 miles, in fact! However, he is never very far from his first love.
“I like animators to think of themselves as actors,” quips Howard. “Beautiful art can be a given in animation! I don’t like to see artwork in a pitch. I am passionate about screenplays. Character and story development are key; start there, and there will be the chance for success.”
Upon meeting Howard, it is clear that the President of Exodus Film Group in Los Angeles is the same jovial Brit who proudly claims his roots as a child performer in London.
“I went to school with the likes of Phil Collins and the kids from the Oliver movie,” he cheerfully asserts.
His early acting career eventually led Howard to key behind-the-scenes positions in stage spectacles. As a theatrical General Manager, for instance, he worked on the acclaimed revival of The Sound of Music and more. Interestingly, Howard came to animation through a theatrical connection to Disney's Peter Schneider and without prior knowledge of animation.
In the late 1980s, Peter Schneider, President of Walt Disney Feature Animation, snagged Howard to establish and head the U.K. facility for the ground breaking film Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Although Howard lacked formal animation training, he was the king of London production logistics. This area of expertise, coupled with his enthusiasm, made Howard an excellent fit for the new role. Later, Howard moved to Orlando, Florida to repeat the process for the Disney animation studio there. While in Orlando, Howard worked on The Little Mermaid, Beauty & the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King, among several other noteworthy films.
Howard’s managerial experience for Disney circa 1986-1995 – the same golden age chronicled in the recent documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty - served him well. As a result, he moved to Los Angeles and supervised feature film successes for Warner Brothers (Space Jam, The Iron Giant) and Dreamworks (Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron).
After his tenure at Dreamworks, Howard started his own LA-based company: Melwood Pictures. Not long afterward, he met John Eraklis of Exodus Film Group in Santa Monica, and a collaboration was born. The pair produced the CGI feature film Igor together. At present, several additional feature films are in various stages of production and development.
Author/teacher/actor Ed Hooks (Acting for Animators) astutely observes Howard’s career achievements. "Max Howard is an essential link in the modern evolutionary development of feature animation. His creative fingerprints are on some of the most significant productions from the major studios. He provides a remarkable perspective and, to put a ribbon on the package, is an astute visionary. When he talks, it is an excellent idea to listen carefully."
Via Exodus Film Group, Max looks forward to a future filled with a wide range of projects. His long-time love of teaching and public speaking prompted him to form his highly successful Max Howard Consulting Group last year. This allows him to share his experience in making independent animated films. He conducts workshops, seminars, etc. held at festivals (Cannes/Annecy/Animex, etc.), corporations, schools and universities worldwide. He also offers seminars on public speaking, “All Things British,” and “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Cricket.” Given his eclectic interests, it seems safe to say that Max Howard is a real character, and probably one who is not too dissimilar from those he portrayed onstage.