I don’t know who reads this site anymore since I post here so infrequently and if you do I don’t know if you know about my other sites but in addition to working in the animation industry, I also run a website called Animation Insider which interviews animation people from all over the world. The primary influence I had to start to site was letters like these that I would get from time to time from students wanting to get into our business, I haven’t gotten one in a while but one came yesterday from a young man named Nicolas Harrison and I had fun writing the answers. Why do I post it? I dunno, something new to put here is all. I also never answered the questions myself on Animation Insider simply because I did not want the site to be about me and figured I would be better suited staying behind the scenes there. Anyway check out the Q&A below. I hope Nicolas gets an “A”
I am a High School senior and I am doing a project on animation. Part of my project involves interviewing an animation artist. Would you mind answering a few questions?
1) What education did you go through to be an animator?
I went to a school called The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and graphic Art in Dover, NJ and later went to College of the Canyons to learn 3d animation.
2) What is your favorite software program you like to use in creating animations?
Adobe Flash but I also really like Toonboon Storyboard Pro
3) What projects have you done that you are the most proud of?
My most recent to start called Randy Cunningham 9th Grade Ninja which is airing on Disney XD and I directed and also Phineas and Ferb which I was a writer and artist for.
4) What is the most challenging part about being an animator?
Finding the next job. In the Animation industry, you do not get a job and then just work at that place until you retire. you work on a show, which usually produces att he most 65 half hours which is maybe 3 or 4 years of work. When that’s over you’re done and have to start all over looking for a job. Most shows do not do that many either and quite often you’re looking for a new job every year. that’s not to say it’s impossible to do, but sometimes it can be. You just need to make sure you SAVE your money for the times when you’re between jobs.
5) What sort of skills do you need to be an animator?
You need to be able to draw very well, to understand anatomy, and kinetics which is the study of movement. To know the basic principals of movement such as squash and stretch which means that when one thing hits another, the first object will squash as it impacts the second object and then stretch from the energy it has built up and shoots away from the second object. Also things like overshooting which means that if you throw a ball your arm will overshoot it’s final resting position from the energy before it settles.Don’t believe me? Watch a sports game in slow motion and it all becomes instantly apparent! :-)
6) Are there any personal qualities one should have to become a good animator?
The biggest one is to pay attention to life around you instead of just walking through it. Watch how a fat person plods forward as opposed to a skinny person who scampers. Notice how an old woman’s walk or motions differ from a young man’s Pay attention to how trees leaves overlap as they sway. Or how a car lurches back ever so slightly before it zooms forward. LIfe itself is the best teacher. The second biggest one is patience because it takes 24 drawings per second to animate. that’s a lot of time and effort and so you need to be patient that it will take a while to do this. Trust me though, when you see it move and come to life all those hours have been worth it!
7) What is the working environment like?
Very laid back. You can not structure an artist to be creative on a 9 to 5 schedule. We do not work regular hours. We work to hit deadlines instead so you might find yourself working an all nighter and then not working the next day. Most of the people in the business are just big kids who still love toys, video games and comics. It’s a very different way of life compared to an accountant or a lawyer. Oh we we NEVER wear suits except to the Emmy Awards or Academy Awards!
8) How competitive is the job in your experience?
Very. There are more people than there are jobs so you have to be on top of your game. In many ways it’s like being an athlete except you sit all day and practice. We call that pencil mileage and the more you rack up the better you will be guaranteed.
9) How much pay should an animator expect to make?
It varies greatly. Over 100,000 a year is common but sometimes double that depending on your skill. Writers and directors also get residuals from what they’ve worked on so there’s a little bit of mailbox money as well occasionally.
10) What do you love most about creating animation?
Bringing things to life. I love watching what I did have emotion. To see it breathe and blink and walk knowing that if I did it right you forget you’re looking at a succession of drawings and instead are watching a life move around. It’s a wonderful feeling and at least in my case addictive.