24/08/22 • News & Happenings

The Lightbulb Moment

Featuring Aidan Neeson

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Aidan Neeson, FX Supervisor

Aidan Neeson is our featured artist in this month’s Lightbulb Moment blog, and we’ve been chomping at the bit to hear what he has to say! Not only has Aidan been with Lighthouse since the early days of the studio and served as FX supervisor on several of our productions, including The Cuphead Show!, he was also selected as one of just 50 Toon Boom Ambassadors in 2022. 

So, where did it all start for Aidan? Let’s find out! 

I can’t really isolate any singular ‘lightbulb moment’ as THE defining moment. Instead, I like to think that there were many smaller, but more frequent, lightbulb moments that lit up my artistic path, kind of like a string of garden lights leading off into the unknown. I could never see too far ahead along the path, but, as I progressed, a new light would ignite and reaffirm my decision to pursue a career in animation.

The early days

I have always been creative, even from a young age, and I have my older brother to thank for that. We would spend a lot of our free time drawing different creatures from our imagination or trying to replicate the drawings from our comic books and movies. He would produce these amazing works of art that inspired me to keep drawing, so I could one day get to the same level.

Films were another source of inspiration that fuelled my creative fires. I grew up watching a lot of Saturday morning cartoons and animated movies and found myself getting lost in the fantastical worlds they portrayed. I definitely gravitated towards the villains. Yeah, the heroes are great and all, but it was always the villains that were much more interesting to me. They usually had the coolest powers, like black lightning or green fire…or columns of smoke with skulls drifting through it. I wasn’t necessarily rooting for the villain, but I could definitely appreciate their appeal.

The Secret of Nimh

Don Bluth

One film that ensnared me was Don Bluth’s The Secret of NIMH, a 1982 animated fantasy adventure film in which Mrs. Brisby, a widowed field mouse, must move her family out of the field as plowing time approaches. Unfortunately, her son Timothy is ill. She seeks help from some rats but finds herself caught up in a conflict among them. It’s a beautifully animated film with some seriously atmospheric backgrounds.

The overall sword and sorcery style adventure was what grabbed my attention and the film has some gorgeous animation and very distinctive character design, but one of the things that really stood out to me as a young artist was the environment and the world itself that Don Bluth created. So many of the scenes, particularly in the rosebush, present us with a world where the backgrounds don’t just feel like paintings, they feel like living works of art. Many of the backgrounds are kept alive with subtle pulsing lights or sparkling particles. There’s a scene where the thorns are crackling with electricity, adding a sense of danger to an already sinister patch of thorns. I think these living backgrounds were ultimately responsible for pointing me in the direction I’m going now.

Working in the FX department, you get to do a wide variety of work, and that’s one of the amazing things about it, but I definitely find myself drawn to the slightly darker, mysterious types of VFX animation. I love to animate magical effects, because you’re taking what you know about other elements and FX to create something you don’t really have reference for, so you get to play around a lot more with the rules and how the element behaves.


I would advise anyone who hasn’t seen The Secret of Nimh to check it out (not the sequel, please no). And, if you’re interested in FX at all, then my biggest piece of advice is to try it out! When I was studying animation in college, there were no classes on FX animation or really any mention of it, so If I wanted to learn how to animate something, I’d just look up something on YouTube and watch how it moves and behaves, how fast or slow it’s going, and then try to recreate it with drawings.

There are also a TON of resources online from people like StylusRumble on YouTube or Quentin Cordonnier and Adam Phillips (BiteyCastle FX), who have FX animation tutorials. So, why not give it a go?

Wow! Thanks so much Aidan for sharing your lightbulb moments with us.  

Like this blog? Then stay ‘tooned’ for the next blog in our series, which will be featuring a very special guest… you don’t want to miss it! 


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