emikemitchell emikemitchell

E. Michael Mitchell R.I.P.

Artist and beloved CalArts instructor, E. Michael Mitchell, passed away early this morning. He was incredibly influential to many now working in the industry. Mitchell had worked extensively in animation with many credits, including conceptualizing FernGully: The Last Rain Forrest. One of his students, Spencer Ockwell, posted a tribute to Mitchell on his blog, including many photos of his amazing concept art. Here is his (woefully incomplete) IMDb page.

  • Mike Mitchell was an amazing man, and an amazing instructor. He was very encouraging to students, very thoughtful and energetic in his approach to art. I’m so sad to see him go, though he gave so much during his time.

  • Mike Mitchell was an amazing artist. The news of his passing caught me by surprise and sadness. Being in his class for several years while at Cal Arts was definitely and eye opening experience and I will never forget the lessons he has taught me and the advice he has given me. His talents and memory lives through the people he has touched. And I can say with 100% certainty that he has touched many people throughout his years at Cal Arts. I love you Mike Mitchell and may you Rest in Peace.

  • Other Dan

    Sad news. He was among my favorite art teachers. A very nice man and an inspiring artist. My condolences to his extended family.

  • Connie Pinko

    As Mike would say, “That’s (not) the stuff!”

    This is sad news. Mike was my mentor at CalArts and wrote me a touching letter at the end of my first year there. I will never forget him. Rest in peace, Mike.

  • Thank you for posting this Jerry. I appreciate it.

  • greg manwaring

    Sorry to hear this. RIP.

  • I’m so sad that he is gone, but so deeply happy that I had the chance to enjoy his generosity, warmth and talent. He was an extremely valuable and loved contributor to the California State Summer School for the Arts along with Corny Cole. The two old men were absolute, hands-down favorites of all students that came through the animation program. Thank you so very, very much Mike, for everything you brought to the world.

  • Ron

    Rest in Peace Mike. He was one of the greatest teachers I ever had. He will be missed.

    About 44 seconds in to the following video is a tribute that we made to Mike (and Corny Cole) a few years ago…


  • bob kurtz

    mike was one of the good guys. farewell my friend.

  • Brooke Keesling

    Mike Mitchell was unreal.
    An amazing mentor and dear friend to so many of us, we were so lucky to have him in our lives. He oozed artistic talent from every pore of his body, he was intelligent, thoughtful, sharp as a tack, full of energy and witty as hell.
    As a mentor he was keenly aware of when to push but he also knew when to ease off.
    He was one of my favorite people to talk to about art, film, politics and life in general.
    Love to you Mike Mitchell, you are already dearly missed.

  • Benny Zelkowicz

    Very sad news. As everyone here has said, he was an amazing artist and a wonderful teacher.
    One time, when I was very frustrated with my drawing, I showed him what I was working on. I’ll never forget his response– he talked about his perception of me, having watched me teach, and from our discussions, and tried to show me what aspects of me were missing in the drawings. It was deeply inspiring and I try to keep that advice in mind.

  • ZigZag

    Mr. Mitchell was the ideal.

    As a student at CalArts in the late 90s, I had a difficult time finding my way and my voice in the Character Animation program. I had prior experience in graphic design, and while I loved the storytelling of the wonderful animated films that inspired me to go to CalArts, for a very long while, I couldn’t seem to figure out how to express what I wanted to convey.

    Then I met Mr. Mitchell. He probably wouldn’t have even remembered me, as I was too impressed by him to ask him for his time. But every moment I spent in his classes were beyond enriching. I had only seen his work a twice, but in those moments, it became clear that I was in the presence of a master (a term I don’t use lightly).

    Mr. Mitchell’s work was often confusing and challenging. I loved that challenge. To me, that was what design – and real, pure drawing – was about.

    I regret that I didn’t have the guts to pick his brain on a more private basis, as I know I would have relished all that he had to teach. I consumed his every lesson. Every day, every minute, in his drawing class was a gift – something I try to pass along to other artists and designers I meet. It’s a gift that Mr. Mitchell gave freely, and yet a tad mysteriously. I have no memory of him being outspoken, or brash, like his wonderful counterpart Mr. Cole. Rather, he was smooth, calm, reassuring and more powerful than any mentor I had encountered. The day I got my first “That’s the stuff!” from him – a phrase that seemed to take me months to earn – I was elated.

    I still have the drawings he did over my work. I treasure them.

    “That’s the stuff.”


  • Shannon Tindle

    We’ll miss you Mike. I use the things you taught me everyday.

    HE MADE ME THE ARTIST I AM ////// WITH OUT MM //////////// CHRIST????????????
    I’D HATE TO THINK////// THIS IS SAD/////

  • akira

    miss you Mike! i gotta find a copy of kompin’s fish film that mike did the voice-over for..

  • Sean

    I’m am truly saddened by this news, BUT what brings me solace is the fact that we may have lost the artist, the mentor, the man but the “Mitchell Metaphor” will live on in our minds and hearts forever!

    “Your, your like an Orange…..You need to peel the layers to get to the fruit”

    (while leaning over you in life drawing class) ” Your going too fast… You need to get out of the car and walk…. You notice all the little things when you walk… Besides when your car’s out of gas you can’t drive it any more, Keep walking.”

    and so on and so forth!

    you will be missed Mike, thanks for everything.

  • Dee C.K.

    He was a very inspiring, amazingly talented, funny man. He was a big force on all of us to continue forth and understand what design and life drawing really meant to each and every one of us. Every student that he came in contact with him was inspired by his knowledge and energy to work hard and follow what we wanted most. He had the stuff~Mike you will be missed.

  • Linda Dorn

    I am heartbroken.

    It frustrated Mike if others could not see how magical the world is, and so full of possibilities. If you were lucky enough to glimpse the world as he saw it, it took your breath away, lifting you into a new realm of seeing, of living.

  • Steve Brown

    Michael Mitchell totally transformed my life. There really aren’t words to describe what I feel I’ve lost with his departure. But I believe that all of Michael’s wonderful students are living legacies of this great human being. I will miss you Mike.

  • I’m crushed.

    He was the most amazing life drawing teacher, I’ve never seen his equal. He never tried to push you into his style or teach his specific technique… but instead, seemed to be able to sense each student’s individual style and push them towards being stronger.
    College was the first time where I was really challenged in my art. My thinking was challenged, too… and how I evaluated my artwork. Mike helped me figure out that it was ok that my strong, messy art inclinations were the way they were… he showed me how it could be a strength. Part of this journey was what resulted in my senior student film.

    Incredibly kind, patient and inspiring man. I hope he knew how much he helped people. I took his life drawing class, by choice, all four years of college and would attend as many extra sessions as I could. It seems like such a short time, but his influence meant a lot to me. I’ll never forget him.

  • Dick Siegel

    I had Mike as a teacher at Parsons School of Design when I was woefully lost first year illustration student.

    He taught a conceptual illustration class and it was a real eye opener – both psychologically and artistically. We used to visit his amazing lost on Bond Street on the Bowery (CBGB’s would later open up across the street) and marvel at his self-contained universe that only Mike could’ve created – bird s flying freely, giant charcoal drawings, giant plastic bubbles, plants everywhere….

    No eyepatch for Mike back then but did have a fondness for turtleneck sweaters no matter the weather.

    In his many tributes no one has mentioned that he worked on the production design of Yellow Submarine, taking over when designer Heinz Edelman flipped from too much LSD.

    He was an inspiration and a mentor to us all and as a fellow classmate just wrote me “To me, he’s STILL a Living legend!”

  • Mike was my IDOL, when I got my very first job in animation, he thought I was the guy the fixed the copier and indeed he was right to think so, because I always did fixed it every time we tried to see if we could photocopy on something like plastic or a piece of cardboard. Mike was always experimenting, so we really killed that machine and I revived it every time. We had so much fun at that little studio and then Cornelius Cole, Jessie Santos, Marija Miletic Dail and Woody Yocum joined us… and we could never stop laughing. With Mike and Corny I learned about this country (even though Mike was Canadian) I was in the middle and once they discovered I could draw, they moved my office from next to the bathroom (3 feet from the door) to the middle of the studio where I could interact with everybody else. I learned so much about who they were as artists and people and the stories they shared going way back before my time. Under their guidance and support, I learned to animate, to pencil test, ink & paint and drawing, painting bgs, and more drawing.
    I can’t ever forget the day Mike unofficially promoted me to one of his equal, (30 years later, trust me I’m not his equal yet, but I’m trying!) he was such a giving person. One day he saw one of my drawing for a 3D Rolling Stones poster, an assignment he turned to me ’cause he was too busy to do it him self. I remember he said that it was so good, that I should except soon for him to come to me for an opinion on his work. I was floored, and of course very proud to hear that from him, one of the greatest designer I’ve ever known.
    His stile and approach has influenced my work forever.
    Thank you Mike for giving me so much. Love You Forever.