WHY YOU SHOULDN’T WANT A JOB IN ANIMATION

A repost from Will Finn’s blog.

As of this month I have been working in the animation industry for 36 years. Currently I work from home, for various employers as a freelance independent contractor, mostly as a digital storyboard artist. It has its ups and downs but (HUMBLEBRAG ALERT) most of the time I’m busy enough for two people; when I’m not, I’ve learned to be patient and enjoy the breaks. Because busy or not, here’s how I think of it: I don’t have a job – I have a career.

This may sound like semantics, (maybe it is) but to me a job is something you depend on from an employer.  It’s theirs to give and theirs to take away… A career is something i have to be responsible for based on my reputation, my ability, and my preferences. I don’t expect much beyond what I invoiced for last week, and i keep tabs on whatever’s coming up – staying in touch with long-term contacts and making new ones almost constantly. I try to keep at least one “Plan B” in mind at all times.  And that’s fine. A career is like a life : mine to tend, mine to succeed or fail at, mine to take credit and blame for, mine to earn. I would not have it any other way.

When I was a kid my all-consuming ambition was to get a job as an animator at the Walt Disney Studios and live out at least five decades there, hunched over a drawing board sketching away on the next Buena Vista release like my heroes. Other kids worshiped sports figures like Wilt Chamberlain or Joe Namath, I was obsessed with the statistics of “The 9 Old Men”, the group of legendary Disney animators who had  defined the craft as performed at Disney. I poured over their screen credits and thrived on the few grainy black and white photos of them that I could find in books in my high school library…

By a combination of determination and dumb luck, by the age of 20, I had made it into the ranks of fledgling artists being hand picked to fill the emptying offices of the retiring (and in some cases, expiring) Disney animators who had made the studio what it was. After many failed portfolio submissions and calls, letters and conversations with Eric Larson the legendary animator in charge of training, I was tentatively accepted to the training program. During the 8 weeks of Eric’s mentorship I was vying for a slot in the production ranks against peers who were legendary in their own right even back then: most of them talented CALARTS superstars, including Hendel Butoy, later a director for the studio, and some weirdo named Tim Burton.

Somehow I made it thru the 8 weeks by the skin of my teeth and on to production of THE FOX AND THE HOUND. But success was short-lived. It would take a book (GAME OF THRONES maybe?) to outline the various backstage politics during that turbulent year – suffice it to say I got caught in the crossfire. Plus my work was substandard even for a newbie and i knew it. I ultimately ran afoul of studio management and was fired after a short, chaotic term. I had barely lasted 9 months.

To read the full post, click here.

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