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Want to be an animator, anxiety ensues

flowerhoneyflowerhoney Registered User regular
edited May 2011 in Help / Advice Forum
So basically, when I was picking colleges I was feeling really, really shitty about myself and my artistic abilities (high school art teachers weren't kind heh) and thus was terrified to apply to art school for fear of being rejected and thus forever crushing my artistic dreams.
In the end, I chose to go to a small liberal arts college in Portland (and in my defense, I love my school and I've really been enjoying my liberal arts education!)

So after getting my act together, I was like "okay, I'm an artist and I'm gonna keep doing art and you know what? I've gonna fucking pursue my dream of animating. Hell yeah!"
But then my mom burst my bubble and asked how on earth I was going to get a job when I dont even have any experience and all my competition will have graduated from like CalArts with tons of qualifications! This was an excellent question and at first I was like "mom, don't worry, it'll be fine" but now I'm FREAKING out. Our school is great, but we're pretty behind when it comes to digital media so there aren't any courses on animation.

I dont really have any experience (tried to get an internship here in portland but I couldn't get anything) and unfortunately there aren't any alums who decided to go down this career path. I haven't even been able to get an informational interview! I'm going to be at comic con this summer and a few companies (namely cartoon network and nick) are going to be there too, so I'd like to try and get a portfolio review with them. Other that though, I dont even know where to start.

Can I go to grad school for animation? Should I teach myself? Should I just forget about it? I'm going to be a junior in the fall and I'm starting to feel like "time is running out".

I'm really passionate about animating and I know that it takes a ton of work (I feel like the payoff is worth it though), but I'm afraid that going to the "wrong" college has destroyed my dreams. I know its a really competitive industry, so any insight would be amazing!

flowerhoney on


  • The_Glad_HatterThe_Glad_Hatter Rogue Jpeg Jockey Registered User regular
    edited May 2011
    I have little advice to offer, but be sure to check out this forum's Artist's Corner just to read up on what some great animators are doing over there. It helps you get a feel for the kind of jobs they have. (or not)

  • KochikensKochikens Lovely-Cuddle-Blanket-Stephen-Fry-Awesomer Registered User regular
    edited May 2011
    When you say animator, do you mean 2D or 3D? You need a demo reel. If you have a good demo reel, it won't matter what school you did or did not go to. What you school isn't the, oh, I went here, it's the time and mentoring to work on a reel. A portfolio (Stills from a cycle, animatics, storyboards) is alright though, but not as good as a good reel. Is there a reason you can't drop out of school+move to a school with an animation program? I'm not sure how it would work with an internship, that might be another route that might work, but I'd assume that someone with a reel/school would get it over you. It's going to be hard to be successful unless you get some learnings time first, is what I'm trying to say. It's not really something you can just jump right into without any previous experience or learning other than likes to draw. You need to drop what you're doing and put yourself into it completely if you're really serious about it and it IS a huge risk and you WILL terrify your parents. It is very much a specialty, almost a trade school sort of thing.

    Look at rebecca sugars reel, one of my favourite most badass artists:


    Just as a note, I don't mean to come across as a heartbreaking dick >: I just know a lot of animators. Def come talk to us in the AC!

    edit: omg how did i forget pollums she is also amaze http://www.pollums.com/animation.html

    editedit: i keep editing this and adding to it blugugglbugh what I also forgot to say is that there are a lot of things different in animation than just drawing, a lot of fundamental mechanics and sort of scientific shit that are going to be a bitch to learn by yourself.
    look at this guy who posted on the AC: http://forums.penny-arcade.com/showthread.php?t=85822 and at where he started. He quit school to go to an animation/3D school. Look at how shit he was when he started, look at how quickly he got awesome through hard as fuck work and through constantly learning and honing his craft, look at how awesome he is now, employed, doing TUTORIALS


    it isn't just a thing you sort of pick up after school and don't worry about. it is time to freak out.

  • flowerhoneyflowerhoney Registered User regular
    edited May 2011
    lol dont worry (also I actually hang out in AC a lot, I've even got a thread, I'm just kinda shy so I'm more of a lurker)

    I know I need a good reel, so far all the animation I do is all by hand. Gonna branch out on a limb and say that probably wont be enough. What constitutes as a good real? Something that shows my artistic skills or versatility or mastery of movement? I'm really more interested in 2D, but I understand if knowing 3D is important too (it just doesn't appeal to me as much). I'm doing a short animation film for my senior thesis (I'm already starting to work on it since I know its going to take a million years) but again I dont know if that's a good reel should be like (ie, just a short film)

    I guess my big problem is that I dont know any animators and there aren't any alum who can help so I don't really know how to start. Obviously I couldn't just into the industry and expect work haha!

    I'm already a junior and I'm actually enjoying myself in school. I think a liberal arts education has been really good for me, its opened me up to a lot of different perspectives and disciplines I wouldn't normally have at an art school.

  • KochikensKochikens Lovely-Cuddle-Blanket-Stephen-Fry-Awesomer Registered User regular
    edited May 2011
    You can do 2D. But you're going to need to be amazing. SORRY I KEPT EDITING MY POST. I said more. A good reel depends on what you wanna do. 2D? A short film. And a website with animatics/storyboards. 3D? Well, do you wanna do games, tv, movies? Games, well, go check in the AC, one of the animation leads from some new halo game just threw up his reel. It's pretty damn nice.

    It isn't 'just a short film', you need to think about whats in it. Look at rebeccas up there. Look at the weight lifts and the transitions and the movement. Those are all things you need to know. There is just SO MUCH you need to know it's sort of crazy to think of how to self teach yourself, it's like. I'm sure it's possible, like, teaching yourself how to take apart a car and put it back together, it just seems impossible.

    You should Pm Feebsicle, she posts here and is my bro. She is an animator. If you want to talk to someone and ask questions and jazz.

    edit: aka, there is a reason there are schools for this stuff and that there are a lot of people going to them. They are worth it.

  • flowerhoneyflowerhoney Registered User regular
    edited May 2011
    hahaha I was not expecting those caps

    that sounds great! I'll send her a PM, thanks!

    Right okay so, I dont really want to teach myself, I really just want know how to be prepared and whether or not my dream is out of reach. Doesn't sound like I should give up, which is good!

    There just aren't any irl people I can go to for advice, so I've turned to this fine forum

    EDIT: oh hey, yeah, jazzman! I thought he taught himself a lot of stuff and didn't go to school though, maybe I made that up...

    Okay, wow, maybe I should drop out of this school for a different one =/

  • KochikensKochikens Lovely-Cuddle-Blanket-Stephen-Fry-Awesomer Registered User regular
    edited May 2011
    Your dream is totally in reach!! You're just going to need to go to a fine arts/specialty school with a legit animation program either after this school or by means of dropping out. Which sucks, but, yeah. :[

    Btw checked out your thread, can't believe I forgot you!! >>Jerk<< Feebs should be able to answer questions. Maybe PM Angel of Bacon too, he's an animator.

    edit: I couldn't not edit one of my posts

    the jazzman actually DIDN'T go to school (although his thread says otherwise edit: looks like he didn't bother with finishing the 3 year degree because it wasn't focused enough on animation, he was too good already :3 ) and self taught himself, so, there is hope if you really put your nose to the grindstone

    there are really good completely focused on 2d programs though: i.e. http://gradshow.com/animation-programs/commercial-animation/about-commercial-animation/

  • flowerhoneyflowerhoney Registered User regular
    edited May 2011

    I sent her a PM and angel of bacon a PM! Thanks so much!

    This sounds so whiny but I will do all it takes not to drop out of school, I'm really attached to this place and I really want to graduate from here. If that means hella grindstone, then grindstone it is!
    It sounds kinda bad, but money isn't a huge issue for me, so I was kinda interested in specialty grad school.

  • WillethWilleth Registered User regular
    edited May 2011
    Standard artist advice: work constantly. Work all the time, even if you think you're making crap. If you're satisfied that you have nowhere to progress then you're wrong. Work work work work work.

    @vgreminders - Don't miss out on timed events in gaming!
    @gamefacts - Totally and utterly true gaming facts on the regular!
  • Cowboy BebopCowboy Bebop Registered User regular
    edited May 2011
    Part of my honors degree has a lot of 2D animation in it and I can honestly say that 95% of the people on the degree are terrible even with all the resources at hand. At the end of the day it's what you put into your portfolio that makes the biggest difference in any artistic field, not the letters that come after your name.

  • NotYouNotYou Registered User regular
    edited May 2011
    First point, no one will care about your degree if you're looking for an animation gig. Only your portfolio.

    Therefore, why are you in a liberal arts school? You're spending a lot of money (I assume), on something you won't use.

    There are tons of animation programs out there if you're not the sort of person who can learn on their own.

  • KochikensKochikens Lovely-Cuddle-Blanket-Stephen-Fry-Awesomer Registered User regular
    edited May 2011
    It sounds kinda bad, but money isn't a huge issue for me, so I was kinda interested in specialty grad school.

    if money isn't an issue for you, why don't you just go to a legit animation school after you graduate from this one? There aren't any specialty grad schools that I have ever heard of. It would be more valuable to you to use the time you'd be spending sitting at home teaching yourself going to school for it.

  • NotYouNotYou Registered User regular
    edited May 2011
    Kochikens wrote: »
    It sounds kinda bad, but money isn't a huge issue for me, so I was kinda interested in specialty grad school.

    if money isn't an issue for you, why don't you just go to a legit animation school after you graduate from this one? There aren't any specialty grad schools that I have ever heard of. It would be more valuable to you to use the time you'd be spending sitting at home teaching yourself going to school for it.

    There are grad school programs for animation. UCLA and USC have them I believe. Grads schools aren't exactly "better" than undergrad though, and your masters won't impress anyone.

  • GodfatherGodfather Registered User regular
    edited May 2011
    You wanna know the easiest way to break into animation successfully? Without secluding yourself into financial turmoil where you'll be trapped until your late 40's?

    For starters, don't study in the United States. There's some good schools, but the costs far outweigh the benefits in my eyes.

    The U.S. is by far the most expensive and toughest industry to break into. The average professional animator will make around $30,000 a year if work is consistent and they're very determined, but you will literally be strapped for the majority of your life, and this is mainly because of the ridiculous tuition fees you'll be paying over the years.

    I went to Canada and studied animation for a solid 3 years. Tuition is literally a quarter of what you'd pay in the states, and you'll get some fantastic animation instruction. Toronto is one of the animation hubs of North America, next to Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York. Currently i've decided to stop pursuing animation at the moment due to family/immigration issues, but because tuition was so low I have the luxury of doing that. If I studied at CalArts, Seneca or SCAD I would be royally fucked, and I am so very thankful I didn't go that route.

    Take a chance and study animation in Canada or somewhere abroad. Canadian animators have a notorious reputation overseas for being hardworking and reliable; just name-dropping that alone will usually get your foot in the door in some studios.

    New Zealand and Australia literally bend over backwards to hire Canadian animators, and from what my buddy working in China tells me, they look for them as well to oversee production as Creative Directors. Let me tell you, he makes bank; the equivalent of $70,000 or greater, which is unheard of for most professional animators.

    Work at either of those countries for a year, get a rap sheet as long as your arm, and you'll be able to get any job in the United States and Canada with no trouble at all.

  • DarkewolfeDarkewolfe Registered User regular
    edited May 2011
    So, everyone around you who has any valid input into your art has told you you're unlikely to succeed. Should tell you something. You could be the persecuted artist who is finally vindicated someday, but seems more likely that you should start trying to figure out how to turn your artistic passion into something that actually pays the bills.

    Seriously, there's not many animation jobs, and people who have a lot more passion for it than you have been pursuing those jobs their whole lives.

    "Well, look at this. Appears we got here just in the nick of time. What's that make us?"
    "Big Damn Heroes, Sir."
    "Ain't we just."
  • flowerhoneyflowerhoney Registered User regular
    edited May 2011
    Darkewolfe wrote: »
    So, everyone around you who has any valid input into your art has told you you're unlikely to succeed. Should tell you something. .

    Well, no one ever told me I was unlikely to succeed, my high schools teachers just didn't make me feel very good about myself. My college profs have actually been really supportive, and I feel like I have a solid artistic background

    I think I have just as much passion and drive as anyone else, so I'm not discouraged about being an animator and I know what I'm getting myself into (ie, long hours, hard work, low pay)
    I just want to be prepared

    Thanks for the replies everyone! This is all pretty scary but its good to have some input

  • thejazzmanthejazzman Registered User
    edited May 2011
    Hey there, I'm the dude who's Dance video was linked further up the page:

    OK, SO, are you serious about animation? If so, here's the thing.

    You need absolutely no formal education to get to the very highest levels of animation. Nobody who is hiring film/game/TV animators gives a FUCK about anything other than your reel.

    You could literally walk into Blizzard or Pixar today with 30 seconds of footage and get a job, I am not exaggerating.

    I went from literally zero, to a job at Lionhead making games, in 8 months. I am not insanely clever, I did not have anything to learn from other than the internet and experimentation. You CAN replicate this process, but you have to seriously care about what you're doing. I would STRONGLY recommend that you get into 3d animation first, even if you eventually want to go into 2D, for the following reason:

    2D animation takes so long to physically draw, that you will learn probably 10 times slower than 3d, and the actual animation principles are IDENTICAL. All you will accomplish by learning in 2D is slowing yourself down drastically, learn animation, THEN if you are set on it, become an incredible draftsman and be a 2D animator.

    You need to get an animation tool, you need an animation rig, and you need to seriously start putting time into this skill. Personally I would recommend 3DS Max and the CAT rig included in versions 2011 and 2012. Once you have a program and rig, just start animation non-fucking-stop. I am serious, if you blow animation off at the weekends because you know, it's the weekend, then you're going to get nowhere, slowly. At first, you will want to do everything from reference, gradually you can wean yourself off this, but it will be super useful at the start.

    You are in luck in one major way, which is that we are all biologically trained to recognise natural motion. Just like we are super sensitive to faces, we instinctively know if something looks wrong when it comes to character animation, and to a large extent, physics. What this means is for a very long time, everything you make will disgust you b/c it will look like total shit. This is a good thing. If you are one of the people who is super happy after you first few exercises just to have made something, you will remain bad. I cannot emphasise enough, the preassure you need to put yourself under if you intend to be genuinely good. The next excruciating part of the process, is that you have to show everything (YES EVERYTHING) you do online. Find a forum you like, such as polycount, 11 second club, cg cociety etc, and post ALL of your work there. Every time somebody leaves feedback, modify your animation to take that into account. After a few days or a week, start a new animation that is more difficult.

    For example:

    A man walking >> a man walking into a wall >> 2 man having a karate fight >> a man being picking up by a giant >> a man riding a giant falling off and catching himself on a ledge, etc, etc, etc.

    Every animation you make should challenge you in some way, if you make something that isn't new and difficult, you are wasting your time, you should constantly feel like you are on the backfoot, clutching to retain balance. Your friends and family should comment on how weird it is that you are suddenly obsessed with work.

    OK, here's some random things and then I will give my email address, you can mail me at any time to ask specific questions, you will end up having a lot as time goes on, and I am more than happy to help you.

    Dont just animate empty rigs or the generic characters that are available on the internet. They have no character and will lead to you making boring animation. Just like when writing fiction, the characters often seem to act of their own volition, if you animate an interesting character, you will feel his impulses as you animate and it will lead to fun and unexpected places. It's very easy to do this with game characters as they can usually be ripped to a program fairly simply.

    Every piece you make should be a potential reel piece, BUT you reel will only end up being 30-60 seconds. Your reel is only as good as the worst piece in it, and remember, NOBODY HIRING AN ANIMATOR GIVES A SHIT ABOUT ANYTHING OTHER THAN YOUR REEL, I AM NOT JOKING.

    Decide which industry you want to work in and target everything towards that industry. If that's games, then you need traversal, combat. If that's film/cartoons, you're going to need a whole lot of acting/drama. Obviously there is bleeding of the lines but you need to know what to focus on (and it should be obvious once you start and find what interests you).

    Lots of people who do not understand the animation industry will tell you that it is weird that you are trying to become an animator out of the blue, these people are morons, stop talking to them, go home, and resume animating.

    Here's my email address: James9475 AT gmail DOT com

  • flowerhoneyflowerhoney Registered User regular
    edited May 2011
    thanks so much jazzman, thats a lot to focus on

    I'll send you an email!

  • KochikensKochikens Lovely-Cuddle-Blanket-Stephen-Fry-Awesomer Registered User regular
    edited May 2011
    Yes yes yes Jazzman I love you you have said everything I wanted to say but am too awful at animation to! Just get animatin' and I hope to see you post tons of new stuff in the AC.

  • flowerhoneyflowerhoney Registered User regular
    edited May 2011
    Thanks everyone, I feel a lot more confident about everything now, and jazzman gave me lots more great advice via email. Also thanks to everyone who responded to me PMs!
    (haha dont worry kochikens, you said lots of good stuff!)

    basically, going to start animating and working this summer (which starts in a week for me, so excited) while I've got tons of free time. I'm going to stay at this school since I really do see a lot of value in the kind of education I'm getting here.

    There's a lot of work to be done but I'm not gonna give up!

    One last question, I mentioned earlier that comic con was having a portfolio review area and cartoon network and nick are going to there. Now, I know they're animation studios and it seems a little strange to be bringing a portfolio and not a reel, but what kinds of art should I be putting in my portfolio? Things like storyboards?

  • KochikensKochikens Lovely-Cuddle-Blanket-Stephen-Fry-Awesomer Registered User regular
    edited May 2011
    still images of keyframes in sequence, storyboards, frames from an animatic. Or just buy an ipad hehehheh.

  • WillethWilleth Registered User regular
    edited May 2011
    Have something to show but don't be afraid to burn a ton of DVDs to give out. Make it as easy as possible for people to see your work.

    @vgreminders - Don't miss out on timed events in gaming!
    @gamefacts - Totally and utterly true gaming facts on the regular!
  • flowerhoneyflowerhoney Registered User regular
    edited May 2011
    Hmm okay, I guess this summer is going to consist of putting the most kickass portfolio I can!

    Can't believe I didnt think of just burning DVDs, that would be perfect to give out!

    Thanks so much!

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