Learn Animation Like Disney – Degreeless | Rusty Animator
Rusty Animator
Share and Help Animators

Learn Animation Like Disney – Degreeless

Isn't it interesting that the creator of the worlds most renowned animated movies - Walt Disney - never had an animation degree.

To learn animation and be an 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.

But..It had been 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).

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. It's 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 a 100k Tuition bullet, hustled through 'useful' classes like Geometry or Compositing, and believed my degree was worth more than toilet paper.

For far recommendation animation schools, exact steps to learn animation fast, and astonishing examples check out our - ultimate guide to the best animation schools

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.

50 % Complete

Download The Ultimate Guide
For Your Convenience

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?!

There's 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 nowhere. After all wouldn't you want to be in your dream career with hundreds of people who are glad you're 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 struggle!

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

Congratulations! You've saved yourself years of self-doubt, debt, and unemployment - just by reading this.

Now you're ready to confidently choose a course that gives you the best shot of reaching that credit screen.

To help you choose the best courses to learn animation - check out our ultimate guide to the best animation schools

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.

Want to easily learn the basics of animation from a Pro in 8 weeks?

Animation Fundamentals

If you want to confidently start going after your Dream Job this year...

  • Anonymous says:

    Hey, just wanted to say thanks for putting the article together. I did not go to art school, but I did go to college for a degree in Engineering, which is as useful as 4-year degrees can be, but I’ve found it not to be my passion and goal in life.

    So now I’m working full time and planning to learn through an animation program like iAnimate to get me started down that path. I’m a few years late to the game, but with your advice I think I can make up that time with the proper path, as opposed to spending more years in school.

    Thanks again!

    • Absolutely, we can make up the time and living your dreams. You can never be ‘late’ to that game. Appreciate the comment hearing from you and your story is what this is all about. I’m so glad it helped. More to come…stay tuned.

  • Andrew S. says:

    This is amazing content. I’m not striving to become an animator, but I do have a number of creative pursuits in my life. I’ve always prided myself on being a generalist, but my favorite line in this post is:

    “Put all your eggs in one basket. Michael Jordan isn’t known for Hockey.”

    For too long I’ve been trying to do too many things. Thanks and we’ll see where it goes.

    • Fantastic! If this post helped – then future posts probably will too. A few generalists have spoken about this…I’m glad its helping you guys as well. Curious what you’ll end up focusing on…keep me updated on your progress.

  • Gautam says:

    Hello friend! Great article, but I have one question. How do I deal with parents that expect me to go to a “real college”? The already don’t really think that I should be pursing anything art related as a career, but I think they would absoltley draw the line at me not going to a traditional 4 year college and getting a degree. The problem is, I know that its is me who is going to have to face the student debt, but I don’t know how to approach this. Help!

    • This is the kind of pressure that feeds whats wrong in education. Put yourself in their shoes…what is the main reason they want you to go for a degree and especially away from art? They are concerned you wont make enough money to take care of yourself..the ‘starving artist’ myth.

      You’ll have to really do your research and pitch a compelling argument between your options. Consider that more people than any other time in history…have found their degrees useless in making them stand out and actually find work. Find facts on that. Also weigh out the costs of the colleges you’d be likely to attend if you followed their advice…and then the debt you can save them or yourself by learning elsewhere. (100k for Ringling Computer Animation vs 18k AnimSchool) I’d also prove how people do make a living being an animator/artist…there wages and how many jobs are out there.

      If your serious about this, do your research, and show it right…they’ll take you seriously. They’ll see your not messing around and you’ve got a plan to take care of yourself. Their out to help so dont be angry about it. Worst case scenario you have to go along with their plans…get a job and come back to it.

      Good Luck!

  • Nicole says:

    Great post!!! My story is the same as a lot of people, went to art school got my degree, didn’t learn to animate in school – came out a generalist, but this was before AnimationMentor even existed. Went through the animation mentor program and now I hold that certificate higher than my degree. I’ve worked a little in games and currently doing some motion graphics work, but my goal is to get back into a studio, so I just keep pushing forward and animating shots in my spare time. Right now I’m taking the Animals and Creature class from AM and I’m going to be refreshing my reel and get some other shots polished up after I finish course. Then it’s back to animating new stuff and learning!! It’s a never ending cycle but I love it!

    Slightly off topic, but I heard someone the other day talk about how this statement love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life couldn’t be farther from the truth, because if you love what you do you will work twice as hard and I couldn’t agree more, this is very true especially among artists.

    • Thanks for sharing Nicole. Your story will definitely help others feel like they are not alone. I’m sure if you keep chipping away as you are…you’ll get exactly where you want to be. Keep the passion and it will soak into your artwork.

  • Jerry says:

    This is a great article Rusty 😉 I can relate to your story because I am living a similair one right now. However, mine is even worser :/. I have completed my 2 years of college at a multimedia school in Slovenia and I haven’t learned a god damn thing here. There was no rigging, no animation, no motion graphics design classes, no nothing. It was just a couple of stuff from every field joined together and explained poorly. I got my degree but it was worthless. I couldn’t get a job anywhere because of my lack of experience. So basically I feel in to this huge hole of depression which made me think If it’s even possible to succed in this kind of field.

    I knew that I had to learn all this stuff by myself if I would want to get a job. So I started to learn through VideoCopilot at first, then I shifted to TutsPlus network. It was pretty crazy because I had very little motivation and It was very hard for me to start to learn. But then I was more and more in front of my computer and learning like crazy.

    At that time I was a part of a dance school here in my home town and others learned about what I was doing and the boss from the dance school asked me If I could make a commercial for the promotion of our dance school so other kids would join it. And I did it of course, also I made a lot of trailers or commercials later and this clips got me a job at a national TV station. I was a video editor in charge of making trailers for the upcoming movies, shows on television. At that time I realized that I want to work more with VFX and motion graphics. With that motivation that I got from my first job I made more and more exercises on my own and later It got me a job at another station as a creative graphic where I helped with a graphic design for the X-Factor Slovenia show. This was a huge breaktrough for me and I knew that I wanna work with VFX and motion graphics even more.

    Later I started working for a studio which was led by my friend but it bankrupted after a year so I was without work and didn’t know where to go so I started applying for a job somewhere else and there was nothing for me. One thing that really made me sad was when a director of one company I was applying to said they will only call me for low budget projects. I lost a lot of confidence because of it and I didn’t know where to go. I had a degree but it meant squat. I didn’t have any money so I would be able to travel and try my luck abroad. I was stuck.

    Then a friend helped me understand the knowledge behind employment. I familiarized myself with some articles and some video materials that he sended me and I took a complete different approach. I started to visit these people in companies and asked them specific questions considering their work. I wasn’t applying for a job. After my visitations I realized that every company I visited was working for themselves. Basically these companies are like camps and they have their own country there and no one is allowed there. So if I wanted to get a job I should have become a freelancer.

    With my knowledge of business that I got from my friend I managed to get in touch with some people and make some projects for them but were paid very low. I still have these kind of problems.

    My main goal right now is to contact as many people from abroad as possible and exchange knowledge, experiences, ideas etc. Learn more and more stuff to succed 🙂 I will also be getting myself into Nuke compositing and 3D character animation. My friend is a great animator and he is going to be my mentor. 🙂

    I am still living with my parents. I am still searcing for a full-time job where I could save a lot of money so I could travel, see the world and finally get settled somewhere abroad. I think I still have a lot of work to do to reach my happiness (pursuit of happiness movie) but I still believe in myself and I think stuff will pick up. 🙂

    I look forward to your future posts Rusty. 😉 enjoy everybody 🙂

    • Appreciate the kind words Jerry. Its obvious you have a lot of drive. Its important you see how you created opportunity for yourself..with XFactor and even before that with the Dance school. Praise yourself for those accomplishments – your building from on success to the next. Most people expect stuff to happen for them – your hustling.

      Now Nuke Compositing and 3D Character Animation are completely different and will require a lot of man hours to learn each skillset. That said…as you experiment with both pay attention to which you enjoy more. The best thing you can do now is specialize and focus on one discipline.

  • jerzy says:

    Hey man, first than all, amazing post! I mean it! And I sort of see myself reflected in your words.

    I’m an 3D animator from Cuba. I started about 7 years ago to learn how to animate. Living in Cuba I was, and currently struggling, to get internet access. But still there were amazing free online tutoriales, which most of the time back in my beginnings I had to download them in text format (google cache) because the band-witch that I had.

    I never went to art or animation school, there are not animation school in Cuba, and I don’t mean I would never wanted to study, or just like you say, go to online animation school like iAnimate, Animation Mentor, those are amazingly good… but such obstacles never stop my willing to become an animator.

    I made a lot of good friends along my animation career who have helped me A LOT to become what I’m today as a person and as an artist, and they are still there for me, the same way I’m still here for them and for the people who want or need my poor, tiny, almost invisible wisdom in animation. 🙂

    Again, thanks for those great advices and comments, which I’m all 100% agree with!

    Just keep updating this website, it is becoming GREAT for our community.


    • Wow! Jerzy hats off to you for both your persistence and very kind words. Its much appreciated and it lets me know its helping people just like you. Updates are in route! Until then let me know if there’s a topic or something in particular you would like to see discussed. A tutorial, an article, a podcast?

      Wish you the best moving forward. Keep the passion.

  • PreYeah says:

    Hi Rusty. Wow, am I glad I stumbled on your post (and it was a very good one too)

    I Can fully relate to your article: Did my undergrad in a traditional art school (majored in Animation and minored in Video Game Design & Development). At the time, I wanted to become an Animator, but cluttered course load and time constraints made me feel like going for rigging would be more convenient so I ended up taking courses specialized in rigging.

    Graduated in 2011, and had the incredible luck of being offered a Technical Artist position at a triple-A game studio. Eventually, I tried my hand at mocap animation (since I didn’t take it at school) and I loved it!! I’ve been at the studio for 4 years now and it’s rekindled my interest in revisiting and refining my craft in keyframe animation.

    I’ve been looking at online schools that do (and teach) just that (Animation Mentor, iAnimate, AnimSchool) and the more I researched, the more of a better fit they seem to be for me. I honestly thought I would never consider it! Although I’d like to stay in video games, I am interested in their feature film animation because I think compared to game animation, feature film animation is held at a much higher standard (please correct me if I’m wrong), and getting into games from film is probably easier than the other way around (again, please correct me if I’m wrong).

    I’ve applied to both AM and iA but I’ll eventually only register for one (for now anyway).

    Again, thank you for writing this and sorry my comment is so long. I will be adding you to my Favorites.

  • >