Growing up Disney: I Wanna Be an Animator!

One of the careers that “stuck” the longest with me (you know how kids are, they change what they want to be on a daily basis) was animation. More specifically, of course, Disney animation.

Ever since I can remember, I was always drawing Disney characters and I thought I was destined to work for Disney. So, during one trip to Walt Disney World, I talked to two animators. One that was drawing animations on watches and another that was drawing animation cells that tourists can buy.

The woman that was drawing on watches told me how she went to college at Ringling School of Art and Design, which is one of the best colleges you can go to, to become a Disney animator. Disney hires a lot of graduates from that school. She told me how much she was struggling and how this was the only animation job she could get.

The man who was drawing animations cells for tourists asked me if I had learned the “Disney style” of animation yet. I was 13 at the time and said no. He told me that I should have learned their style the moment I could pick up a pencil and that I would need to learn it if I ever wanted to animate for Disney. You can find the Disney style of animation in Disney´s Learn to Draw book series. Disney sells these books to teach you how to animate their characters. The basic i dea is fairly simple, for example: when you are drawing the head, you draw a circle, a vertical line going down the center and a horizontal line going across the circle, where you would like the eyes to be. The books explain all of this in great detail, I highly recommend buying these books if you wish to become a Disney animator.

He then asked me about how serious I was about becoming an animator and gave me some advice that has stuck in my head to this day, “Don´t mistake a hobby for a career”.He asked me if I could see myself drawing the same thing over and over again, only moving it maybe 1/2 an inch each time. If I could, maybe animation wasn´t just a hobby for me. If I couldn´t, maybe I should consider choosing another career.

After talking to him, I went home no longer wanting to become an animator. I eventually grew up and went to art school for Graphic Design. After transferring to a college in Pennsylvania, I began to take a few animation courses for fun. In my Digital Animation class, my professor was Matt Novak, a children´s book illustrator who is a former Disney animator. He worked on such animated movies as Beauty and the Beast and Rescuers Down Under. Digital Animation was a somewhat advanced course at my school so he once asked me why I decided to take it when I had no plans on making a career out of animation (I was the only graphic designer in the class). I told him because it was my childhood dream to become an animator and I thought I´d just see what it was like. He asked me what turned me off from animation and I told him the story about meeting the animators in Disney World. He shook his head and told me that they weren´t real animators and in fact the “animator” you meet that shows you how to draw Mickey in the “Magic of Disney Animation” attraction at MGM, isn´t even a real animator. He said it was wrong of them to scare me away from going into animation, since they were obviously not very happy with their own careers. It is not the kind of profession that is going to put you into the poor house and there is more to it then drawing the same thing over and over again. He said it was a shame that a couple of people who didn´t know what they were talking about, made me change my mind about becoming an animator.

I don´t regret not becoming an animator and in fact, that was even more true when I took the Digital Animation class. It was the hardest art class I have ever taken and I know that is how animation is done these days, digitally. I just hope that there isn´t another little girl out there, listening to other people instead of living out her dream and finding out for herself if it does or doesn´t work.

Simba sketch by Jennifer Davis.


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