Posted November 27, 2013
Creator of Theo
Since childhood, Mike has loved telling stories with his cartoon drawings. Cartoons helped define his identity as a boy. Then as his artistic skills matured during his high school years, he enjoyed entertaining classmates through his political satires, comic strips and spot cartoons. His early successes helped to clarify a dream and a career goal––Mike wanted to be a cartoonist! In 1972, while serving as a US Marine in Naples, Italy, Mike came to know Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. Almost immediately he felt the call of God on his life to pursue full-time ministry. Not sure what that would look like, he attended Bible college, with the intention of becoming a Navy Chaplain. Before graduating with a BA in English Literature and Bible theology, Mike began to sense that God was not leading him to a traditional pulpit ministry. He had no idea what God was doing, neither did his wife Cathy (whom he had met in college), but the young couple felt Godʼs prompting to move to the Burbank area, where Cathyʼs family lived.
Obeying Godʼs leading, the young couple moved to Southern California. Mike, with portfolio in hand, immediately began knocking on the doors of Christian ministries located in the area, thinking that God might somehow merge his cartooning ability with ministry. Nothing opened. Then he was introduced to Lloyd Vaughn, a Warner Brothers animator and friend of Cathyʼs family. After looking over his portfolio, Lloyd told him he should be in the animation industry, and made an introduction for him at Hanna Barbera Studios. Mike was thrilled.
Soon after entering the industry, Mike realized what a powerful vehicle cartoons were to not only entertain, but also to communicate ideas. People of all ages, everywhere, love cartoons. Cartoons are a universal language, transcending ethnicity, age, gender and political boundaries. Mike thought how wonderful it would be to create an animated character who could teach the fundamentals of the Christian faith, to children around the world, using liberal amounts of humor. And a dream was born. In 1978 he created Theo.
For the next several years, he worked for studios such as Hanna Barbera, Filmation, Warner Brothers and Marvel Productions. He worked as an animator, storyboard artist, character designer and writer, honing his skills on every level, while learning the nuts and bolts of cartoon production. It was while he was at Marvel Productions that he began producing and directing television series and specials: Blondie and Dagwood for CBS; the animated “Fraggle Rock” series for NBC; the “My Little Pony” feature film. During those years, the dream of Theo burned in his heart. Mike stumped his concept around the country, looking for investors. Everyone loved Theo, but the financing was not available. It wasnʼt Godʼs timing. The dream would have to wait.
In 1988 Michael left Marvel to start his own animation company, Mike Joens Productions. At MJP he produced and directed scores of animated commercials for toy companies such as Milton Bradley, Hasbro, Kenner, McDonaldʼs and Playskool. In addition to commercial work, he produced and directed the animation segments for the award-winning video series “McGee and Me,” as well as the animated “Adventures in Odyssey” for Focus on the Family. Finally, after a waiting period of over 30 years, God opened the doors for the production of “Theo Presents.” Theo Presents is a series dedicated to teaching children Godʼs Word, upon a pulpit of cartoon animation. At last, the dream of a cartoonist, called to teach the Word has come true. It is Mikeʼs hope that God will use Theo to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to children and adults in every country of the world!