When one looks at Mike Peraza´s impressive career, it is common to wonder how he had the time to work on so many film projects. From his early days creating layouts, to working as the Art Director for Disney´s The Little Mermaid, Mr. Peraza´s amazing talents have shaped the animation world, and helped to usher in the fabled Disney Renaissance.
Born and raised in New Orleans, one of the most culturally diverse cities in America, Mike Peraza knew he wanted to be an artist from a very early age. His animation work for a local TV station solidified this dream and soon he set out west to attend the prestigious California Institute for the Arts, a university that Walt Disney himself helped to establish. However, tuition fees soon proved to be too costly and he planned to drop out, but then famed Disney legend and Donald Duck Director, Jack Hannah, Dean of the Disney Program, offered Mike a full ride scholarship and made it possible for him to stay and study the craft he loved so much.
It was while Mr. Peraza was attending Cal Arts that he first met Chuck Jones. Chuck came out to the school to give an inspiring lecture and tell the students that everyone has 10,000 bad drawings in them, so you better get busy filling up your sketchbooks. Mike did just that and after graduation, while returning to his locker to clean out his supplies, Mr. Peraza found a note inviting him to come and work for The Walt Disney Studios, his dream job.
One of his first assignments at Disney was to help in designing the multiplane shots for The Fox and the Hound. This project was only the first in an impressive list of animated features that Mr. Peraza had a hand in shaping. Mike went on to do concept, design and layout work on Mickey’s Christmas Carol, The Great Mouse Detective, The Black Cauldron, TRON, Something Wicked this way Comes, Return to OZ, , , Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast. Ken Anderson was starting up a new Disney Television unit and Mr. Peraza was asked to come over to design and develop Ducktales, Chip and Dale — Rescue Rangers, Talespin, Goof Troop and Darkwing Duck. It was during the pre-production of Ducktales that Carl Barks dubbed Mike the fourth Duckman.
Disney lent Mike out to Steven Spielberg and Bob Zemekis for Who Framed Roger Rabbit in the morning and Mr. Peraza would return to Disney in the afternoon to continue to develop new projects for them. In addition to working on Disney projects, Mike worked on projects for Warner Brothers, Bluth, and Sony including Dragon´s Lair, Space Ace, Thumbelina, Stuart Little, Ice Age and art directed Fox´s Anastasia. During Mike’s stay at Warner Brothers he had the honor of working with Chuck Jones on a Bugs Bunny compilation and directing the Umptee series.
One of Mr. Peraza´s favorite memories came when, at the wrap party for The Great Mouse Detective, John Musker and Ron Clements brought over The Little Mermaid script and asked if he would be interested in Art Directing it. As a big fan of Mr. Musker and Mr. Clements, Peraza didn´t have to think long before taking the position. When The Little Mermaid premiered, it was given credit for breathing life back into the animated feature film genre and also marked the beginning of the era known as the Disney Renaissance.
Along with his wife, Patty, and daughter, Kim, Mike Peraza donates a considerable amount of time and money helping to raise awareness for Epilepsy, and hopes that one day his contributions will facilitate a cure for this debilitating illness.