Isn’t it interesting that the creator of the worlds most renowned animated movies – Walt Disney – never had a degree.
To learn animation and be a animator – you don’t need one either.
For the longest time, I wanted to live creatively, move my own T-Rex in Jurassic Park, see my name…on the big screen…as those credits roll.
It was a year…after graduating Valedictorian…with a B.S. (ironic initials) in Computer Animation. My Demo Reel, Resume and Unique Cover Letters had all been mass spammed to 48 companies. Where were those job offers? Each day, for all those long months, greeted me the same…with Silence.
It was soul crushing. What had I done wrong? What was wrong with me?
Fellow graduates shared the same fate. Most of us, including myself, returned home…living under the security of our parents as we waited for our lives to begin. Others not so ‘lucky’ had to take whatever work they could find (Best Buy Electronics Consultant).
It was embarrassing…spending tons on tuition..and living back with Mom and Dad. Had we all done wrong? Were our dreams a joke? Was I doomed to being a sandwich artist at Subway?!
I was desperate for work – afraid my dream would never happen.
The black hole of despair almost pulled me in.
None of that CRAP in my head was accurate.
The truth does set you free…but first it makes you feel like a dumbass. All my life I was blind and suddenly everything was in HD. It’s the education system. Its broken.…especially when it comes to Animation and Art. We are all taught from the age of 5…go to school, get good grades, go to college, get your dream job. They leave out the danger: Financial Debt, Unemployment, Aimlessness, and Depression.
I followed the ‘Expert’ advice. Bit an 80k Tuition bullet, hustled through ‘useful’ classes like Geometry or Compositing, and believed my degree was worth more than toilet paper.
Astonishing Revelation #1 – If everyone has a college education…is it special?
Would you rather have a book on Directing or have Steven Spielberg show you how in person?! We all know the obvious truth behind this…yet Degrees are some how different…no dont be hypnotized. Nobody cares about your Resume, your Unique Cover Letter, or your B.S. certificate. 120% of your focus should be on your Demo Reel. Your Animations. Your Art.
Be Michelangelo – Create the Sistine Chapel and NEVER have anyone doubt your painting ability. Now if you have a degree already they aren’t completely useless..in a few rare cases..but they definitely aren’t worth the ride alone. Focus on the best way to improve your skill whether just starting out or taking yourself to new heights. It can and will get you HIRED.
Skills lead me to my next point.
Astonishing Revelation #2 – Trying to learn it all makes you mediocre
If you had to drive from Boston to NYC…but first had to go to L.A. and Miami how much longer would it take you?
Put all your eggs in one basket. Michael Jordan isn’t known for Hockey.
As an Aspiring Animator you should only be concerned with one thing. Animating. The skill of moving a character around convincingly. How to make a character act, think, and compel people to feel sad or laugh. This alone is a skill that can never be mastered and has an extremely high learning curve. Unfortunately, most colleges tend to focus on all disciplines in Computer Animation.
Learn only from sources that cut the to the chase. No modeling, rigging, composting, lighting, scripting, math classes, psychology, creative writing. Just animation. From the basics to the more advanced. Yes all these disciplines can make you a better artist, train your eye and add creativity…but you could be spending your time becoming a world class animator. Eat sleep and breathe it.
Do you have the skill to animate giant evil robots? Make a ninja parkour up a wall, backflip and land like batman?
Think Pixar takes ‘decent’?!
Focusing also has the added benefit of saving your life. You cut the time cost in 1/2 to becoming AMAZING.
Astonishing Revelation #3 – Skip CRAZY Tuition
If your Demo Reel is all anyone cares about and all you NEED to focus on is actually animating…why would you need traditional college at all?!
Yale or Harvard Law may very well cost less than a degree involving art. You get to save yourself or $50K-$200K in Tuition Debt. Debt that would make you paranoid about the cost of milk for a decade.
Instead you could put that money were it counts. With the best online tutorials and courses: AnimSchool, AnimSquad, IAnimate, Animation Mentor, Digital Tutors, Gnomon School. The Holy grails of animation books: The Illusion of Life, The Animators Survival Kit, Character Animation Crash Course. Hell with the amount of money those courses cost you can do all of them and still have spare change.
Astonishing Revelation #4 – Learn from Professional Animators
Andreas Deja (Master Disney Animator – Scar/Jafar/Hercules) and your High school art teacher offers to teach you animation. Who would you learn the most from and the fastest?!
Theres nothing quite like a pro sharing wisdom. Most colleges will lack this and the difference is night and day. Choosing a learning program with the right mentor ALONE can make up for all the aforementioned problems. In fact, in my first college, my mentors were what kept me going after it was over. They were former Disney Animators and they ingrained passion for the art.
Fortunately now, you can have your cake and eat it too. Affordable courses are out there, teaching only animation, and they are usually run by pros.
Astonishing Revelation #5 – Your Friends are your lifeline
Michael Jordan and the rest of the 95′ championship team are playing basketball against just YOU. Do you stand a chance? HELL NO.
Now say MJ took your place..and you had the rest of the team helping you. Could MJ pull it off? Granted he’d have the best chance of anyone…ever…but he couldn’t stop all that passing and extra defense alone.
The same is true, especially now…in a super connected life. You will learn far faster with feedback from other animators, seeing their own work progress, and stand the best chance of getting job after job..by having FRIENDS.
No – I don’t mean the lame way of “I’ll send a LinkedIn Request!”
I mean if you start learning animation get involved with the community. Start helping others out if you see issues in their work. Some will return the favor. Reach out with the willingness to help consistently and soon you’ll be chatting about the latest Game of Thrones Episode, how the world doesn’t know what animators do, and why Metallica helps you block faster.
The friends I’ve made and truly tried to help over the years have gotten my foot in the door for jobs. They let me know when they hear about opportunities. And since we know each other well…really look forward to being able to work together.
So don’t go it alone…that path leads no where. After all wouldn’t you want to be in your dream career with hundreds of people who are glad your there – cheering with you when shots are finaled and movies are done?
Now your ready
We’ve covered the illogical pitfalls of Animation Degrees. A college education isn’t needed…just the skills to make AWESOME Animation. Find a course that only deals with Learning Animation, Requires no more than 20k tuition, Form a team of friends and above all Learn from Professionals. Congratulations! You’ve saved yourself years of self doubt, debt, and unemployment – just by reading this.
Now your ready to confidently chose a course that gives you the best shot of reaching that credit screen.
Take the First Step
So what have you gone through? I want to hear your stories. Did a college experience leave you feeling unequipped? What was your biggest insight from this post?
Leave a comment below. I want to hear your side.