how to animate

Inspiring Advice from 3 Top Animation Studios

No matter whether you’re about to start your program at The New York Film Academy’s 3D Animation & Visual Effects (VFX) School or are already deep into your journey into the magical wizarding world of professional animation and effects, we are sure that the hard work and long hours you put into your work are motivated by a lot of passion and a lot of creativity.

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Because you work so hard at what you love, we rounded up some inspiring advice to give you a boost. So regardless of where you are on your path as an animator or effects artist — whether you’re gearing up for class, tackling a tricky challenge on a project, or hunting down your next professional animation job — we thought you could use some extra insight and inspiration from animators who work for Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, and Dreamworks.

Here are 8 great tips to inspire your animation and effects work:

1. Research

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Just like actors who do research for their role, animators should do research too. Even if you’re just jumping into a shot, take the time to draw or do video research. Make sure that it becomes a habit.

2. Animation Motion

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Chances are that at some point in your career, you’ll have to animate something that you aren’t familiar with creating. If you need to, break the animation down into simple components to help you.

According to Andrew Gordon and Robb Denovan, directing animators for Pixar’s  “Monsters University,” the team had to color-code Terry-Terri’s tentacles to help during the process.

3. Drawing It Out

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Aaron Blaise, an animator for Walt Disney Animation Studios, tweeted, “Try forcing yourself to draw by just laying single lines down. No searching lines. This will force you to think about every line.”

4. Mastering Technology

According to Scott Wright, an animator for Dreamworks, always look to enhance your skill set. He wrote on Twitter, “Technology changes fast. Don’t rely on mastering one program. You never know how the next software package will enhance your imagination.”

Don’t be afraid to use the different types of tools that you have. Computers and software can do CGI well. Put your efforts into the performance and let the computers help you fine-tune everything.

 

5. Polishing Your Work

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If you prioritize correctly, you will know what aspects of your project may need more polishing. Animation requires a great deal of time and effort to bring an idea to life, and you will need to spend a lot of time to achieve a level of work that is polished and ready to share.

6. Show Your Work

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It’s better to show your creation early on versus keeping it under wraps: you can gather valuable feedback, see your work from a new perspective, and find new opportunities to collaborate or flesh out an underdeveloped part of your idea. Creating solid animation is teamwork and that means being open to critiques.

7. Seek Out Advice

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There will be times when you feel stuck while working on an animation project, and there may be a time when someone else’s work fits better in a scene. If that is the case, go find the person who created the work and talk to them. Some animators will open up and go over scenes to show another animator how they made a scene work. Again, collaboration and critique are vital tools to help you grow and improve your work, so don’t be afraid to ask for advice from your colleagues and peers whose work you admire.

8. Live Your Life

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Animation is similar to acting in that it requires emotional understanding, a passion for storytelling, and an awareness of life experiences to develop believable characters.

Your creativity and discipline at work will draw from how you live your life, so take the time to travel or go see a show, watch people, and write about memorable experiences. Your own life can serve as a valuable resource and support for you as you develop animated scenes, whether you excel at creating funny scenes or subtle and dramatic scenes.

Either way, it’s important to learn to draw from real life, as that can give you immense insight into understanding what makes a scene entertaining for the audience. After all, your audience is full of people living their lives, too.

Do you have any inspiring advice for our animation students? Let us know below!

Illustration Resources for the Beginner

Like sports or music, one of the best ways to get better at illustration is practice, practice, practice. Besides doing things on your own or participating in challenges that provide prompts to get the ideas and ink flowing, like Jake Parker’s Inktober, where can young illustrators go to learn more about the craft?

Social Media

You probably have some favorite illustrators and artists you follow on social media. If you don’t, see if your favorite artist has any social media accounts — they often post things that take you behind-the-scenes or put you at the drawing board with them. This is also a good way to see how professionals market their work and develop an online persona. Erica Henderson (“Squirrel Girl”) posts her sketches and musings on her Tumblr and Twitter pages. Tyler Crook (“Harrow County”) has several social media accounts, but his website, mrcrook, has a wonderful blog about his process and a gallery to inspire you.  Dave McKean (“Hellblazer,” projects with Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, the Rolling Stones, etc.) chronicles his work and travels on Twitter as well as his own website. For more inspiration, check out NYFA instructor Tim Fielder’s amazing work via his website, dieselfunk.

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Dave McKean’s “Black Dog” is based on the life of surrealist painter Paul Nash and was released in 2016.

Chuck Green’s Idea Book and Lynda.com

Long-time professional illustrator and designer Chuck Green offers career advice and points out great examples in illustration, print, and web design on his site. His bi-weekly emails provide a curated overview of what’s happening across several design and marketing industries. Along with reading up on and looking at design trends, it’s crucial to keep working on your own portfolio. Many people build their skills with the tutorials on Lynda.com. This is a good place to start learning a new technique or to refresh your skills in an area you haven’t worked in for a while.

Only Pencil Drawing

If you want to be an illustrator, you should know how to do work with nothing but pencil and paper. Polish your basic drawing skills with the step-by-step tutorials on Lisandro Peña’s Only Pencil Drawing. The Toronto-based artist specializes in wildlife drawings, but his tutorials include in-depth demonstrations of drawing human eyes, hair, etc. Peña helps artists focus on one skill at a time to help them learn how to pay attention to detail.

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No matter what your preferred medium is, you should know how to use one of these.

Layers Magazine

If you use Adobe’s products, Layers Magazine is the place to go for tutorials and quick tips, whether you’re trying to learn how to add gritty texture to a photo, design an ebook in InDesign, or organize layers in illustrator. The tutorials range from the very basics of each program to advanced work that combines different effects. The site also offers free digital books and has profiles and interviews with different artists and design professionals.

Keeping Up with Trends

Sites like Illustration Age and How  will help you keep up with what is going on in the world of illustration and design. They have interviews, profiles, reviews, and, yep, tutorials, to help you keep up your skills and stay current with what is going on in the book, gaming, design, and film industries. Another way to keep up with what’s going on right now is through a trip to your local newsstand and bookstore. Look through the magazines to see what fonts and design trends are popular. Check out the children’s books and graphic novels to see what innovators are doing.

An Endless Free Resource

Don’t forget your local library. Even small libraries have collections of children’s books, graphic novels, and art books to give you inspiration. Most have video collections where you can find documentaries and films on art history. Getting to know the history of illustration trends helps you understand the craft and will help you find your unique style as an illustrator. Your library may have a fine arts gallery or a special collections area where you can look at old and rare books and manuscripts. Make friends with the reference librarians and they can help you find the right materials for you.

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Studying illustrators of the past is a great way to get inspired and learn your craft. W.W. Denslow’s illustration from “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” (1900).

Any great beginner resources you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below!