Full circle: Manitoba-born animator working on 'The Lego Movie Sequel' got his start with Lego
It's the second feature film Souris, Man. native Cameron Hicks is working on
When Cameron Hicks produced a short stop-animation movie with Lego for a high school assignment in Souris, Man., little did he know he'd animate a feature-length Lego movie for Warner Brothers and give it a connection to Manitoba.
"That's the funny thing," Hicks said. "It's like it's really full circle."
Hicks, 28, found out earlier this year that he'd be one of the animators working on The Lego Movie Sequel, expected in theatres in 2019. It's the second major movie production he has been a part of and the highlight of a career that got its start in small-town Manitoba when Hicks was in junior high.
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"I started making stop-motion movies in the basement and i just wanted to make movies in general but it was just easier," Hicks said in a phone interview from Vancouver, B.C., where he now lives.
"I had the resources to make animated movies... You could do more elaborate things when you're a teenager with a limited budget."
That eventually led to a media class at his high school in Souris, a small town of about 1,900 people located 225 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg, and to winning awards at a Winnipeg film festival for a short-film he produced.
Hicks took additional 3-D animation and arts courses at schools in Vancouver and California and dabbled in television before feature films, and Sony, came calling.
Smurfs 'a huge learning experience'
"I got hired at Sony to work on Smurfs: The Lost Village," Hicks said. "It was really cool. I mean it's a huge learning experience."
Hicks, one of the first nine animators hired to work on the film, was eventually joined by up to 90 others at the height of production, which took more than a year. It culminated with his name in the credits.
"It was really exciting," he said. "It's something that I've always been shooting for for years and years to get that, you know ... that's the reward at the end of it."
The reward for both him and his parents.
"It almost meant more to them it did to me I think," Hicks said with a chuckle.
"It's kind of nice to get that public acknowledgement that people can actually see all the names of the people who pulled a lot of overtime to make these things happen."
In his Souris high school, one of the assignments in media class was to make a short stop-animation movie using Lego. So he says it's only fitting that he was hired by Animal Logic to animate The Lego Movie Sequel for Warner Brothers.
He's come a long way since those days.
"It's kind of full circle that years later I'm doing it professionally for Warner Brothers," Hicks said, adding that he has to watch what he says so he doesn't give away any of the movie's plot or script. He expects to spend about a year working on the film.
As for what's next, he's hoping to stay in feature films.
"I'm really happy here right now," he said. "It's extremely rewarding ... it's a bit of a grind sometimes but now that I'm working in feature films, I'm going to try and sustain this."
He said his story is an example that shows no matter how small the town you grow up in, anything is possible. He hopes his story encourages others to shoot for the stars.
"With the technology you have available, anybody can learn to animate from anywhere," Hicks said. "It's at your fingertips if you kind of know where to look."