• Who is James Baxter and What Does He Have To Do With "Change Your Mind"?

    So, the season finale 'Change Your Mind' has come and gone, and what a stellar episode it was. Directed by three of the Crewniverse, written by a total of twelve(!) of them, and so much love put into this four-part season finale. Pretty crazy, huh? But what about that one scene? You know the one, when Steven was hugging himself. And the name James Baxter kept springing up right after the episode aired; who are they? Well, join me as we take a look at the man behind, in my opinion, one of the best scenes in the entire series (so far).

    The scene in question (above) was boarded by James Baxter. A veteran in animation, Baxter has quite an impressive resume. In fact, without you realizing it, he has had a hand in animating numerous works that have been part of many folks' childhood. Born in May of 1967 in Bristol, England, Baxter attended Bishop's Stortford College as well as Middlesex University. His first job as an animator was working for Walt Disney Animation Studios on the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Baxter himself stated that me mostly animated weasels within the film but was able to animate a few scenes with Roger and Jessica. He has added that "Dick Williams (animation director of Roger Rabbit) had always been a hero of mine when I was still at school, and it was largely because of him that I took a chance and quit school (after one year) to go work on Roger."

    Left to right: Roger Rabbit (Charles Fleischer), Jessica Rabbit (Kathleen Turner), and Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) while driving Benny The Cab (also Fleischer)
    After Roger Rabbit (and the short Tummy Trouble), James Baxter worked as the character animator for Ariel on the Disney film The Little Mermaid. With this film, Disney entered what is known as the Disney Renaissance of animation. Baxter continued to work for Disney, working on DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp, The Rescuers Down Under (character animator for Joanna, Rescue Aid Society Mice, Insects, and Wilbur), Beauty And The Beast (supervising animator for Belle), The Lion King (supervising animator for Rafiki), and finally The Hunchback of Notre Dame (character designer and supervising animator for Quasimodo).

    Top, left to right: Ariel (Jodi Benson), Wilbur (John Candy)
    Bottom, left to right: Belle (Paige O'Hara), Rafiki (Robert Guillaume), Quasimodo (Tom Hulce)

    After finishing up The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, Baxter left Disney to join Dreamworks Animation to work on a number of their films. His first film with Dreamworks was The Prince of Egypt, in which he was an animator for Moses. Baxter continued to work on other Dreamworks films, including The Road To El Dorado (senior supervising animator for Tulio), Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (senior supervising animator for Spirit), Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (supervising animator for Sinbad), Shrek 2 (supervising animator), and Madagascar (additional supervising animator).

    Top, left to right: Moses (Val Kilmer), Tulio (Kevin Kline)
    Bottom, left to right: Spirit (Matt Damon), Sinbad (Brad Pitt)

    Under his own animation company, James Baxter Animation, Baxter worked in conjunction with several companies on several films. These films included Curious George (animation supervisor), Enchanted (animation supervisor), and Kung Fu Panda (animation director for the dream sequence). His work on Kung Fu Panda helped the film earn an Annie Award in 2008. Baxter closed his studio in 2008 and he returned to Dreamworks Animation. 

    Baxter continued working for Dreamworks Animation for several more films, including Monsters vs. Aliens (animator), How to Train Your Dragon (animator), Rise of the Guardians (concept artist), The Croods (head of character animation and animator for the 2D sequence), How to Train Your Dragon 2 (supervising animator for Valka), Penguins of Madagascar, (additional animation) and Trolls (additional animation). He also returned to assist Disney to work as an animator on the film Mary Poppins Returns and worked with Paramount Animation on The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (additional animation).

    As for the small screen, Baxter has done his fair share of work for television as well. His first notable television work was an episode of Quack Pack in 1996. He would return to television with the holiday special Kung Fu Panda Holiday in 2010. In 2012, he worked on two episodes of the critically acclaimed cartoon Gravity Falls; 'Tourist Trapped' and 'Land Before Swine'. Baxter also took part in making the opening titles for the show.

    Baxter would also take part of the Cartoon Network show Adventure Time. First, he assisted with the episode 'Princess Potluck' as a character designer. Later, he would be a guest animator for episodes concerning the character James Baxter, who Baxter also voiced. These episodes are 'James Baxter The Horse' and 'Horse and Ball', a clip of which is below:

    The title card of the episode 'James Baxter The Horse' has the titular horse seated at a work table, similar to that of the real James Baxter.

    Two other television cartoons that Baxter has assist with additional animation include the series finale of Regular Show ('A Regular Epic Final Battle') as well as an episode of the final season of Samurai Jack ('XCV'). 

    And, of course, we now know James Baxter's amazing work for one of the most beautiful scenes in all of Steven Universe. Below, you can see the pencil test itself from his personal YouTube channel:

     Thanks for reading and taking a look at one of the guest animators that made 'Change Your Mind' a phenomenal season finale.