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At the age of 13, Kirkland began making super 8 films and working for his father, noted photographer and filmmaker Douglas Kirkland, creating “making of” films for major production companies. This exposure to Hollywood sparked Kirkland's desire to seek a career in the entertainment industry. Kirkland developed an interest in drawing at an early age. At the age of 17, he began studying in the Experimental Animation Program at the California Institute of the Arts for four years, earning a BFA degree. There, he was mentored by people such as Jules Engel (serving as his teaching assistant), A. Kendall O'Connor, Ollie Johnston and Moe Gollub. In 1976, he won the Student Academy Award for animation along with fellow student, Richard Jefferies, for their graphically animated film made to the song "Fame" by David Bowie. After finishing up his degree, he applied to Disney, but he was not accepted and instead began working for Hanna-Barbera. He began working on The Simpsons from season two onwards and has directed 82 episodes, more than any other director. In season 18, he became the show's supervising director.
An active member of the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences, Kirkland served as the Animation Peer Group Governor from 2012–2013.
As an independent filmmaker, Kirkland has written, directed, and produced award-winning short films which have been shown at film festivals around the world and screened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. During a 5-year period, Kirkland participated in 25 festivals screening his films: "A Letter from Home," "The Moving Picture Co. 1914," "The Audition," and "Bud's Odyssey." Kirkland is an accomplished still photographer whose images have been published in the US and People magazines. He created photo essays on the behind-the-scenes making of The Simpsons, and A Visit with Ollie about legendary Disney animator Ollie Johnston.
|Man vs. Art ManVsArt.com||Episode #54: Interview with 3 Time Emmy Award Winning Director of The Simpsons Mark Kirkland||2011-07-19|
|Actors Reporter (wiki) ActorsReporter.com||Exclusive Interview at home with Mark Kirkland, a director of The Simpsons||2011-07-07|
|Toon In! ToonInAnimation.net||Show #25: Mark Kirkland||2008-05-26|