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Sep 17, 2012

in Industry

Animation Diploma

During my last class review at iAnimate my students showed their frustration with their progression and how slow it is. It struck me as odd how much pressure is put on animation students of today. There are a few online schools (I myself teach at the above mentioned one) and the many CG/Animation colleges and universities out there. There are a lot of promises out there, and an expectation that when you complete or graduate from these you’ll be a qualified feature animator.

Long ago, when I went to school for traditional animation, it was expected you could/would spend 3 to 5 years either in the clean-up department, then work up to the breakdown inbetweener ranks, before become a fully fledged feature animator. So you would have had time to get comfortable with the animation workflow and pipeline, over time you would have developed your drawing and understanding of timing and spacing. In short, you would have eased into the animator position with a feeling of confidence and experience.

Today you’re expected to graduate, get a job as an animator, and produce the same quality and quantity as any industry professional. Hell, if you take a look at the student reel of some of the best feature animators out there pre-CG, it would look amateure compared with what students are outputting today.

It’s hard and frustrating to watch students who are doing amazing work to get down on themselves because they haven’t hit it big right away. I would say that those, that it takes them longer to achieve their goal, appreciate and cherish it more than those who have no comparison. Animation is one of the hardest thing out there to do well, it’s an art form and like any art form it’s open to interpretation. There are two quotes that I have come across in the past two years, that together sum up what animation is for me and the hardships that we all try to overcome.

The first one is by Bill Tytla at Walt Disney Studios:

There is no particular mystery in animation… It’s really very simple, and like anything that is simple, it is about the hardest thing in the world to do

The second was spoken my way by a co-worker:

Hard work will beat talent
when talent refuses to work.

These sum up what we face everyday. My point of view is:
Don’t get down, keep pushing and practicing. Don’t let yourself get down or complacent, push and keep pushing until you get where you want to go! For some it’s easy, for others it takes a little work. Doesn’t matter how you get there as long as you get there!

P.S. I am adding this right after the events at DD Florida. I was really saddened by what happened out there, not only because it’s a good thing to have more than a handful of feature studios, but I have friends down there that need to uproot their families and move in search of a new job. The thing that continues to frustrate me, and relates very much to the above post is this – we work hard to try and achieve our dreams of working in this field, it’s not easy and requires a lot of time and hard work. You would hope that once you make it all you would have to do is focus on the work and not have to worry about all the stuff that occurs on the exec level. I have no idea what went down at DD Florida and this rant isn’t directed at that. I have lived through a studio closing down. At the time they thought they were going to be the next big thing, with 4 different hubs spread over the globe, then, one day – thank you and goodbye. It never gets easy to watch people that are in the movie biz take the art form we love and care for, and try and make a quick buck on it every which way without any thought of a long term goal. Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a solution, at least I haven’t found it yet (will let you know when I do). Lets just hope for better days.

Alessandro Sep 17, 2012 at 9:24 am

Thanks for the encouraging words. Unfortunately I think that times now are different, there are tons of animators coming from schools and there is a lot of competition. Not to mention the fact that for non US Citizens (or Aliens) who have the goal to work at Dreamworks or Pixar or in the best studios (so far I believe that they are all in USA or New Zealand) it is even harder.
I think it is normal to feel the pressure and being frustrated, not to mention that people like me who are not so young have less time than younger students. 😮

Animation Addict Sep 17, 2012 at 12:51 pm

I do think there are a lot of people out there, but there are more animated movie being released in one year than ever before. There’s work out there. It might not be in the same places it used to but I can tell you it’s not being done just by the handfull of studios in the USA.

Alessandro Sep 19, 2012 at 3:07 am

Sure, but USA is better, the cultural differences matter a lot, above all when you are not the only one in your family who has to move. It is hard to get used to different lifestyles if you are not as motivated as the family member who wants to do the job. ;o)
I have the impression that animators are really so many nowadays. I don’t want to say numbers, but if any major online animation schools (official or not official) has as much as what I have seen it is an intimidating number :o)

By the way, it is obvious that I am one of those students constantly under pressure 🙂

Christina Sep 17, 2012 at 9:32 am

Great post, and very much where my thoughts have been the last couple of weeks.

Many thanks.

Cristiano Sep 17, 2012 at 9:47 am

Thanks for the post.

Kyle Bernard Sep 17, 2012 at 10:22 am

Thank you for this post! I know exactly what you mean about the pressures and stresses! I am very hard on myself and won’t be able to rest until I land some sort of job and in a way validate myself as an animator. Even then, I know I won’t be as good as I want myself to be. Its an endless cycle in a search for that ever elusive perfection.

In the end, I just feel very stressed out as I try to prove myself as an animator (already working full time doesn’t make it much easier:/)

Animation Addict Sep 17, 2012 at 12:47 pm

I wish I could say the feeling goes away, but I have been doing this for a while now and it’s always there in the back of your mind. That voice/feeling that makes you get up and go do another test shot even though you are tired from the day to day work. The thing that won’t let you rest.
Animation is a real addiction, when I’m not working I find myself just sitting back watching a few good old animated film which then makes me feel like I should be working 🙂

Kyle Bernard Sep 17, 2012 at 1:13 pm

I’m in no way against the drive to get better! I just wish I had something more tangible to show for it already! I’ve only been seriously animating for about 2 years though, so I may be expecting too much of myself as per usual.

Omar Elhindi Sep 17, 2012 at 11:05 am

Brilliant post Tal, I can certainly vouch for how much pressure we students have on us to succeed! Even if most of it is self inflicted 🙂

Aaron Ludwig Sep 17, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Thanks for this. Much needed right now. 🙂

Jose Muñoz Sep 17, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Great post. I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately. The whole difference for hand drawn animators getting in the industry before vs a CG animator trying to get in today. Especially hard for one trying to learn on your own. I attended only half the program at AM and now, not able to afford continuing studies at this time, I’m attempting to tame this addiction on my own. Is it safe to say apprenticeships aren’t that common in the animation industry either?

Peter Saumur Sep 18, 2012 at 5:08 am

There are “apprenticeships” (like Disney for example) but what is *more* common are internships; essentially unpaid work, for fresh graduate students.

Amer Nov 10, 2012 at 3:41 am

Well you can certainly use Flipbook at AM too! I’ve been asked this a few times, and I aylwas tell people that you’ll have a fantastic experience with either school. There are countless positives to both, and very few negatives at all. I envy you starting at AM wish I could go back and do it all over again!

Scott Wiser Sep 18, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Wow, this is just what I needed to hear. I was an apprentice on Alvin 3 a year ago, and have been working 40+ hours a week to get back in the studio environment. I don’t know if I’ve read such and honest, encouraging post in this entire time. Most people give the advice “hang in there”, but hanging in there is already my plan – this perspective is something I dearly hope to remember. Thank you!

Han Sep 18, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Well I think I may be the culprit who sparked this one…

Honestly though I am not that bitter over not getting film work. I came very very close a few times but as luck would have it, I didn’t get to break in. The first few rejection letters always hurt the most, but then my skin got thicker and I stopped caring when studios don’t reply back or tell me no.

I know people who got in because they are better animators than me, or because they know a guy, or just be at the right place at the right time (not living on the west coast sucks) But life is not fair I totally get that.

I have learned to see things in perspective. Yea I don’t get to work on film (yet!) but I still am doing good character animation, some of which are near feature quality. Even though the hours can be insane the money is good. My accountant friend once told me he feels extremely frustrated as his job involves typing numbers all day long, it doesn’t give him any satisfaction. I can honestly say that doesn’t happen to me, or at least not yet, for which I am thankful.

Animation Addict Sep 19, 2012 at 4:39 am

I am humbled by the responses to this post, I really didn’t expect it. I guess the subject really hit home with a lot of people. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the subject, it really inspire me to keep up the blog and put out as much info as I can!

Wrath Nov 3, 2012 at 5:29 pm

I am an animation student right now and it is true that I think that I am not getting better quickly enough, but I am at school in order to learn and it is normal not to be really good at something from the start. Though some of my teachers told us from the beginning that we will learn more in a week of work in the market then in our 3 years in college. And I’m pretty sure I will never be satisfied with my drawings or animations, but that’s because I still need to learn and I’m still young so it’s only normal. But I have seen others at school pushing themselves too far to make sure that their projects are better. I think it’s kind of important to learn where your limits lies and when it’s time to stop and move on. That you have a time limit to complete your projects and that you WILL do your best while working on said projects but also accept that when you’re time’s up, it’s up. Knowing it is one thing, but having someone else talk about it does feel different. I’m glad I stumbled upon this blog!

Alessandro Sep 19, 2012 at 3:20 am

By the way, it is obvious that I am one of those students constantly under pressure 😀

Jose Nov 10, 2012 at 4:15 am

Reading your post I am very interested in your view of iAnimate. I seem to not find much about the prrgoam. I am signed up to do the first term of animation mentor. However the price difference and using flipbook really peaks my interest with iAnimate. Thanks for your time.

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