Interview with Jason Manley, President, The Art Department

By ANIMATION XPRES... | 26 April, 2011 - 13:05

Jason Manley is President, The Art Department and founding shareholder and Board Director of Massive Black Inc, the Entertainment Art and I.P. production studio group with studios in the US and China. During his eight year tenure as MB's founding President, he created and directed all company vision, strategy, marketing, promotion, business development and oversaw all studios as the company's top executive. His clients include Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, EA, Activision/Blizzard, Square Enix, Black Isle Studios, id software, and all top twenty video game publishers out of a total of nearly 200 renown firms across the spectrum of the entertainment industry markets.

Animation Xpress Asia Pacific spoke to Jason about The Art Department, Massive Black, and his plans ahead.

Tell us something about yourself and how did you get into this industry?
At the age of 19, I decided to be an animator and do something cool with my life. Like make cartoons and video games, so I moved to Arizona and studied about the animation history and began taking live drawing classes and did my traditional art studies which led me to join the summer program called the Administration Academy that changed my life.

Further, I studied in an art school and was very disappointed with my education, so I left after two years and joined the video game industry. There, I worked for a studio, which at that time was the largest computer role playing game company in the industry.

I began building websites that would help artists to learn together through an online and collaborative manner which didn’t exist before. I wanted to create a way for artists to learn online. About a year later, I took a job which made me the highest paid game artist in the field but I was miserable and I hated the job and so I quit and I built Massive Black, my own production studio.

I was getting so much work from, as a freelancer that I formed Massive Black and brought on more partners and came up with all the plans of what Massive Black would be like. I spent next eight years as President of Massive Black. Over the course of that time I started doing workshops for which became the primary entertainment art and design workshops for the creative side rather than the entrepreneurial side and we also taught IP development. I built a school in San Francisco which became the top Digital Art School called ‘The Art Department’. We also teach fine art illustration and concept art there.

Tell us more about ‘The Art Department’ (TAD)?
‘The Art department’ is our organization, where we teach entertainment development, 2D, 3D, IP development and fine art, online as well as in person. We have four branches of TAD in San Francisco, Texas, Kansas City and Richmond Virginia each and we are expanding globally over the next five years.

TAD offers a 30-month curriculum that provides in-depth traditional and digital art education in the fields of drawing and painting, illustration and entertainment design. Options are available to learn exclusively online, in-person or a hybrid of both, offering custom learning to artists in nearly every country of the world.

Each portion of the programme is taught by the top professionals and we run mentorship programmes as well. We also have figure drawing four days a week. We do events as well.  Through TAD's online community and international workshops, students also have an opportunity to network with hundreds of potential employers while in school.

How many students are currently studying?
This is the first semester that is just wrapping up and we had about 200 students. We will be expanding to somewhere around 500 students this coming year. And this is online and on-ground both together.

Could you tell us something about Massive Black?
Massive black is my production studio which is in San Francisco and two branches are located in Shanghai and it’s everything related to art, video games and entertainment essentially. I build that team and I hired almost all the teams there. I am fortunate enough to retire from that company and hired other people to run it for me.

Massive black has always been a big supporter of education, helping in the community and doing a lot of good work so after I built the company I went out to gather about close to 200 entertainment companies including all of the top 20 video game publishers as well as the small developers.

Massive Black is the only Art and Animation studios to have successfully completed major projects for Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo simultaneously. It was also the first company in China to successfully create next-generation 3D and the first full-production art studio in the entire gaming industry.

What is has more than 8000 entertainment companies registered. 400 of these have sent their employees to learn, be motivated by and study at conferences like my and associated inspirational events.

It is an online social network for artists with a pretty vibrant forum. It was set up as a way for artist to hang out and learn and show case their work and share ideas and then we wanted to put out as much as art education and content as we could which is downloadable, live streaming and on demand videos which allows peoples to go in and basically get a lot of information that they can get in our art school.

So isn’t it a challenge for you to handle all of this?
That’s why I hired people to do my job in Massive Black and

What are your future plans?
The Art Department (TAD) will currently have long term goal of senior art departments in 13 major cities around the world which includes each of the Art Department facilities as digital and traditional art gallery space as well as the classroom space for the resident artists and directors of those programs. I want to see those globally because the students need place so that they can do great life drawings and they can come in and have art shows. Whether they have gone to The Art Department or no, we can do figure drawing every weekend, which allows the community to come in and participate too.

Is there anything else that you want to share?
We have 1.5 million dollars of scholarship available here for students from any country of the world of merit and they have full rights to achieve this scholarship for free if they are ready. All they need to do is to log on to and register them.