color and character test

Dragon Character Designs

Below are some exploratory character designs from the “Dragon” project. Most of this designs are about four years old and where made right after I finished up my time working on Space Chimps. The script was finished by then but because of Space Chimps reception all of Vanguards projects were put on hold or outright shelved. It was a frustrating time for me so I started drawing Dragon art whenever I could, hoping that some fresh designs would help push the project forward.

This didn’t really work but it did open the door to a bigger movie and what was once just a little tale began to grow into a romanticized epic adventure.


Thesis Art

I had a pretty clear visual idea of what i was going to make and jumped straight into the animation. There were a few pieces that I did make, some colour tests and a few character scribbles.

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Cub Scouts Pack 213

We spell scouts S-C-O-U-U-T-S which makes us a completely different autonomous organization.

This was my masters thesis from USC Animation. It is an improvised comedy about the woes of scouting in the middle of urban Los Angeles. Scouuts came into being when I realized that my original thesis proposal was far to ambitious and needed to be scrapped. It was late in the semester and I needed something fast and so I turned to my best friend Devin Westberg, who just happened to be an improv comedian, for help. Devin gathered a talented group of friends from the Improv Olympic over in Hollywood and brought them down to the USC sound department for a two hour session in the recording booths. it was free form and fast and within an hour or so we had Cub Scouuts Pack 213 in the can. It was a bit to long so I cut the audio down a little which give it a bit more structure and punch and then spent the next two months animating.

For this project I did all the animation in Toon Boom Animation, which at the time was pretty new and was lightning fast compared to the tradition pencil and paper method. It allowed me to completely bypass a dozen steps and be one of only a hand full of students to finnish their thesis on time. The b&w vector art was then exported as an image sequence which I coloured in Photoshop and composited in final Cut Pro. This was a brave new digital world and compared to the three years it took me to make my earlier film this one only took five months start to finnish.

Improv by: Devin Westberg, Tom Warren, Jimmy Zerda, David Ury, Ben Tolpin
Directed, Animated and Produced by Sterling Sheehy

This project is dedicated to the memory of my friend Jimmy Zerda, who passed away not long after we made this film. He was the scouut with glasses, avery talented comedian and a friend. He will be missed.

mike hanfling drawing party

Sketchbook circa 2002

This sketchbook was made while I was a student at USC Animation. It is dated 2002. There are a lot of figure drawings and surfing doodles in it which is very fitting since that is all I really did back then. It is a notable book as it was in this sketchbook that I first started to develop my own style.

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Wakefield Art

I really should have a lot more work to show for this project. It has lived in my head for years. I really love it. I’ll leave the story for a future post but expect me to write a good deal about it in the future. Its my baby and I love it. Out side of friends and family this is the first time I have put any of it up for others to see.

The dragon gives a lesson in kindness

Dragon Trailer

Dragon is the story of a poor street sweeper in an ancient Himalayan city who sets out to clean up his city and in doing so uncovers more dirt than he was expecting. Our humble young hero is pulled into a world divided by greed. As an army of wild mountain bandits threatens to invade the isolated city its people see little hope for survival but to pray desperately to their dragon god for protection. From the grit of the gutter to the lavishness of the city’s palace our street sweeper must use all of his sweeping skills to uncover the truth about the dragon and find a way to save the city he loves before time runs out and all is lost.

The project is based upon the book “Everyone Knows What A Dragon Looks Like” BY J. Williams. Vanguard had the rights to the books and paid me to write it with a writing partner, Sejung Kim. The project has sat on the shelf for years. It’s a beautiful story and I would love to see it get its due some day. In my free time I have donated a ton of time and artwork for the project hoping it would help grease the wheels and get it moving. Every now and then I get a phone call and then the excitement fades and its back on the shelf again.

Above is a pitch trailer I made for the project and below are the panels I used to make it. Interestingly enough I drew all of this while I was in Jerusalem.

the alien band

Congaline boards

There was a time when Space Chimps was being tossed about as a possible musical. This was one of the sequences I was asked to make while exploring that idea. Somewhere I have the animatic for this sequence. I will post it when I find it.


Ham Goes to NASA boards

This is a lost space chimps one scene. The greasy salesman character, I believe his name was spyro gyro or something like that, was cut and with him these boards. The set up to this was that NASA was getting its budget cut and they needed to sell to Feds a new mission, Ham was the unwilling pawn that would get the agency the money it needed. He had just been seized and dragged from the circus in the earlier… Read more »