Sunday, March 27, 2011

How I Got My Start In Animation (and how you can, too!)

Every so often, I get connected with someone who has question about how to become an animator or how to get into animation in the games industry. When this happens, I typically find myself writing a ridiculously long email or having a very long conversation with that person. Today was no different, and while replying, I began to reflect on how I got started with animation.

This particular student wanted not just general advice on how to start learning animation, but specifically help deciding if 2D or 3D was right for him. He's been interested in animation for as long as he can remember, and has taken art classes all through his schooling. Currently, he has hit a snag- he can copy drawings quite well but is unable to draw the ideas he has in his head. He's tried anatomy books, drawing skeletons, and while he feels he is improving, he still feels stuck.

I can relate to this- growing up, I knew I wanted to "make cartoons" but I had a serious deficiency with drawing. I started out drawing and tracing what I could, taking art classes in school, making the standard flipbooks, but I didn't know how to learn to animate- the internet didn't exist, at least for me and for animation, in the 80s and early 90s.

I improved slowly over time, but even by college I was fairly convinced that I would never be an animator. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Then Toy Story came out during my sophomore year, showing me that animating characters on a computer was possible, and I felt that I found my calling in life. I went from animating space ships and effects to attempting character animation on my Macintosh, in Strata Studio Pro, with an FK rig. My first attempts were pretty horrible. I realized then that drawing was not the hurdle I needed to overcome with becoming an animator. Instead, I needed to broaden my understanding of what animation was and how to succeed at it. If I was going to be serious about animation as a career, I needed help, and lots of it. However, like the student I mentioned above, I didn't know where to turn.

My next series of blog posts will cover how I learned and grew into an animator. I am hoping this will be fun for me as I recall how my childhood dream became my career, and I hope that both aspiring animators & seasoned vets will get a kick out of it too. Stay tuned!


  1. Haha man I totally never followed through with this. Whoops...

  2. Pity, I was hoping to read all of that. My son (14) is interested in animation but he sucks at drawing.