Disney’s Tips Every Animation Student Should Know

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Disney Animation is one of the most recognized animation studios in the world. Since its founding in 1923, it has produced multiple animated films and has been responsible for many technological advances that have become industry standards. Therefore, it is not surprising that many artists dream of working at this legendary studio. That’s why here are some tips and advice from Disney Animation to boost your career and highlight your artwork

These Disney tips are provided by Garrett Lewis, Katie Low, and Ben Girmann, who, since they were little, dreamed of becoming animators and getting a job at this studio. Now that the three have achieved their goal, they have decided to share lessons and tips on how they did it: so that any animation student can feel inspired and start taking the necessary steps to take their career to the next level.

BE PATIENT AND PERSEVERANCE

The first of Disney’s tips is to have patience and perseverance. Becoming a recognized artist and getting into studios of Disney Animation’s stature is something that takes time. The process can be likened to a marathon, where you must stay active and keep going the whole time. Naturally, the exact time can vary from person to person, but in the case of Katie and many others, it takes at least 5-10 years. If you are truly interested in being an entertainer, you must have long-term plans and goals.

START YOUR CAREER IN THE PRODUCTION DEPARTMENT

It can be discouraging not to land your dream job upon graduating, but this is normal. On the other hand, you can ease your path and increase your chances by doing an internship. This way, you will be gaining real experience even before you graduate, so you will be better prepared when you finish your studies. 

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Although you won’t be directly drawing and participating in creating animation, you will be collaborating with all creative team members. This way, you’ll be able to learn all the necessary processes at all stages of the job, making it easier for you to transition into one of the creative positions later on. For example, when I started my career as a writer, I often took on different, not always interesting commissions. I used to write my paper free or prepare some college essays for my friends to start having some experience and to get my hands on it.

“Like many I dreamed of being a Disney animator when I graduated from college. But I didn’t make it and had to take another route to get there. In fact, I didn’t make it into Disney until 10 years later. But all the experiences you have along the way help you grow as an artist and as a person.” – Garrett Lewis, character animator at Disney.

POLISH YOUR SKILLS

Katie also suggests taking diploma courses and classes to complement your studies so that you can polish your skills even more. This will make you stand out when applying for an animation studio job opening. Of course, it can be very challenging to go to school, learn and do your homework, and then study and practice in the afternoons. However, the effort you put in can pay off in the future.

HAVE SOURCES FOR INSPIRATION

We have the second of Disney Animation’s tips related to practicing and polishing your skills: it is important to have artists that serve as an inspiration and an example to follow. For example, you can analyze their path to boost their career and get to where they are now. You can even study their portfolio and artwork to understand the strengths of their creative process. It’s not that you copy exactly what worked for them or seek to emulate their artistic style, but that you have useful references to understand the industry standard professionally.

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For example, Ben Girmann was inspired by the work of Trent Correy and Bobby Pontillas. For instance, he remembers seeing their Instagram posts where he would post his sketches and animation tests, which motivated him to practice to reach that level of skill and recognition. Katie would go a step further, as each year she would seek out artists selected to participate in apprenticeship programs at Disney and Pixar, then search their portfolios and analyze their work in detail. Dan Mackenzie was one of the artists who served as a reference and inspiration for Katie.

ASK FOR A FEEDBACK

Regarding feedback, you can ask friends or family to look at your portfolio and give you their honest opinion. Ideally, however, Ben says, you should solicit feedback from other artists in the medium so that it’s more useful to you. And as in Katie’s case, you can also be encouraged to ask for advice from an industry veteran. Naturally, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get an answer in the first place, although in the experience of many if you ask nicely and are patient, you’re likely to get an answer at some point.

CHOOSE YOUR SPECIALIZATION AREA

Animation comprises many disciplines and processes: from storyboarding, concept art, and character design to 3D modeling, rigging, vfx, and the animation itself. Even within this work, we can find many styles: traditional animation, cut-out, 3D and more. That’s why we have the last of Disney Animations’ tips: you can try to take the generalist artist route and know how to do a little bit of everything, which is useful when you start your professional career to have more opportunities. Later on, as you gain experience, you can see which areas interest you the most. After all, for mid and senior-level vacancies, many studios prefer to hire artists who specialize in specific areas.

Once you understand how work is divided into animated productions, it will be easier to recognize which activity and department best suits your skills and interests as an artist.

We hope this article was helpful for you on your way to becoming an animation artist!

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