Note that this article was originally designed for “traditional” 2D animators – but these timeless principles apply whether you are a traditional, digital 2D, or even a 3D animator or motion designer.
HOW TO BE AN ANIMATOR
1. Learn to draw! As you begin your career, you’ll discover that experienced animators enjoy sharing their hard-won discoveries about the art of animation, but few of them want to waste time teaching you how to draw. They will expect you to know something about drawing already. Learning to draw well is difficult, and few people really want to work hard at it — doing so will put you miles ahead of the competition.
2. Beware of ‘Animation Schools’ that do not put a heavy emphasis on draftsmanship. If you have spent several precious years and thousands of dollars at an ‘Animation School’ and can now spout soliloquies about anticipation and follow-through, bar sheets and click tracks, pose-to-pose versus straight-ahead animation, persistence of vision and photokinestasis — but YOU CAN’T DRAW — you are probably unemployable and you have been ripped off.
3. Study real life. Get your nose out of all those books and magazines for animation nerds and look around! There are marvelous lessons in staging, timing, rhythm, action and drama going on all around you all the time. Not only are these lessons free, they are priceless!
4. Study and analyze movies. When I started in animation in the 70’s, the only way you could study great films like SNOW WHITE or CASABLANCA was watching them on TV or in the theater. Now you can own your very own copies or even stream them digitally — you can examine the greatest animation and live action sequences ever put on film — analyze them frame by frame and shot by shot, backwards and forwards and see exactly how they were done, any time you want, in the comfort of your own home! Take advantage of this!
5. Shoot and analyze your own video. These days an iPhone can give you a tremendous education in motion analysis and acting for animation – and not through a third-party app! Just put the thing on a tripod (or prop it up on a table or whatever is handy), press RECORD, get in front of it, and perform the action you want to animate. Act it out many times, many different ways … experiment! When you’ve captured some acting or action you like, study it at slow speed, then a frame at a time — you’ll be amazed at what you can learn by doing this!
‘How To Be An Animator’ is a vast and mysterious subject to which I can hardly do justice in this small space. I doubt I could do justice to it in a really big space either — but I hope these few suggestions may help point you in the right direction.
An animator must be many things…
— able to act as though you don’t think the director’s an idiot.
— able to draw a corporate icon from every conceivable angle, while preserving all the subtle and elusive enchantment it exudes on the product container.
STUDENT OF LIFE:
— able to transform all the disappointments, disillusions and heartbreaks of life into the disappointments, disillusions and heartbreaks of animation.
If you would like to be considered for job opportunities at Calabash Animation, please visit the “Career” section at the bottom of the Contact page and complete the form. We regret that we are unable to reply to every inquiry.