Doctors for the Human Spirit

Ameila_Lorenz

Here is a letter written by Amelia LorenzCalArts graduate, and animator at JibJab Media Inc.

Lorenz had the opportunity to go through the internship program at Pixar Animation Studios during the summer of 2011. You can watch her demo reel here.

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Transcript:

Dear Willie,

Animation has been an incredibly rewarding career for me, so I encourage you to go for your goals and don’t give up. I haven’t been in the industry for even a year yet, so most of my learning experience has been from school and talking with professionals in the industry. But I’d love to pass on their advice to others, since it has greatly helped me:

  • Keep it simple. This is deceptively difficult. But I find that sometimes, when something I’m working on isn’t working out, I apply this rule and it helps me approach my problem from a new, clearer perspective.
  • Work smarter, not harder. It’s tempting to stay up all night and crunch to finish a shot…and in school, at first I thought this was a necessary part of the process. But I found that it’s just counter-productive. I made sub-par work, and it took me way longer! So plan, commit, and follow-through with your schedule. Get up early. Avoid crunching cause you’re just going to crash later.
  • “Done” is better than “perfect”. This advice helps me keep things in perspective. First of all, our opinion of “perfect” can change at any time. so we could be “perfecting” something indefinitely. Secondly, what you might see as a flaw in your work could go completely unnoticed by someone else. And our goal in the end is to share our work with others, right? So shoot for something complete that others can enjoy. A complete shot or a complete short film, not necessarily a “perfect” one.

All of this advice has helped me keep both feet on the ground in a pretty wacky career. It doesn’t sound glamorous, but I found it incredibly valuable.

One other thing that I sometimes remind myself- storytelling is a way of bringing people together, and it can be a way of healing sometimes. So animators may not be like police officers or fireman or doctors, in the traditional sense, but I believe as storytellers we can be like doctors for the human spirit. We can show that the world can be beautiful, that people can learn and grow, and that life can be pretty cool. We can be like the cheer-leaders of the human race! So that makes me feel good, even though “all I do” is draw. I try to draw for good reasons. It seems like as long as I enjoy what I do, and others enjoy it too, then it’s worth it.

Good luck! Hope this helps.

Amelia Lorenz (signed)

Need to Create

Here is a letter written by Daniel Gonzales, animator at Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Gonzales’s feature film credits include Wreck it Ralph, and Cars 2 as well as promo for Toy Story 3. Be sure to check out his blog, where you will find a goldmine of wonderful advise.

Transcript:

PIXAR

October, 2011

To all aspiring artist,

Deep down inside you, inside all of us artists…at one point in our lives we’ve all discovered a huge desire to create. A desire so unexplainable and strong, it’s what makes us artist.

I would wake in the middle of the night as a child with the need to draw, the need to un-load ideas and images from my mind. And that still happens till this day!

To all you who want to be animators..first and foremost, you must find and recognize the same desire to create. Not only for others but to create for yourself. To create for the primal need to just create. Don’t create for the sole reason and purpose of entertainment: to make others laugh and cry. Create to appeal to yourself. I guarantee that your work will connect to more people when you are creating a piece that makes you laugh or cry or think. You’ll be creating from the heart and NOT creating from the assumptions of what might make someone laugh/cry/think.

Stay away from cliche’s. The best tool for original ideas come from your mind, memories and your childhood.

When you ask others to critique your work, remember you’re doing this to ONLY improve technique, skill, execution. You will never grow as an artist if you are always asking others if your work is “good”. Your work becomes good when it connects to you! Most importantly YOU.

When your work is so intwined with your thoughts and your heart that the thought of asking if someone else likes it is pointless.

ask others= improve skill

ask yourself= to improve concept.

Artist never have asked permission to try something new and crazy. Let alone ask if it’s good. Picasso, Mozart, Dali, Monet, Van Gogh, Goya, Buddy Holly, the Beatles, Wagner, John Cage and many more…they just DID IT.

To imphasis the point that the greatest work/ meaning/ originality come from within, here is Edvard Munch’s description of his inspiration for the painting, “The Scream”.

“I was walking along a path with two friends, the sun was setting, suddenly the sky turned blood red. I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence. There was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord of the city. My friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature….” – Edvard Munch

As long as you take your desire and never stop improving your technique, you will never be less than what you want. It’s not about where you end up, what studio you work at, how much money you make. It’s whether or not you are happy with what you are creating.

I never grew up with much of anything. Single parent home in a forgotten run down neighbor hood! As a child I knew more people who have been to prison then to college. Seeing poverty and drive-by shootings was unremarkable to me.

I would find comfort in drawing, pushing myself and my skills to communicate my ideas. I knew my desire was my ticket to get out. Over time people took pleasure in my art, but I never made it for them. It was not them but for me. I needed to draw. Soon then I learned to paint and then to build, and then to animate. I didn’t learn for the sake of learning how to animate, but because I needed to express myself and animation offered another/ different opportunity to do just that, express myself. This mindset has carried me through highschool, college at CCA, 3 years at Pixar, and now mentoring @ Animation Mentor. Most would be content and settle..I can’t.

I need to create, I need to satisfy my artistic desire to continue to express myself until the day I die.

To you aspiring artists/animators out there, never settle down until you are satisfied. And if you find yourself satisfied, you might want to check your inspiration, and desire.

You might of lost it.

Good luck to all. Start at the top and work your way up. Never stop. Patience is the key to all artists!

Respectfully,

Daniel Gonzales III

Persist

Here is a letter written by Austin Madison, animator at Pixar Animation Studios.

Madison’s feature film credits include Brave, Toy Story 3, Ratatouille, and UP. Be sure to check out his blog, and also follow him on Twitter @munchanka.

Read what Madison had to say about The Animator Letters Project on his blog, after Letters of Note featured it on their website.

Listen to Madison read his letter on the air with KCRW’s the Business:

Transcript:

PIXAR

May 17, 2011

To Whom it May Inspire,

I, like many of you artists out there, constantly shift between two states. The first (and far more preferable of the two) is white-hot, “in the zone” seat-of-the-pants, firing on all cylinders creative mode. This is when you lay your pen down and the ideas pour out like wine from a royal chalice! This happens about 3% of the time.

The other 97% of the time I am in the frustrated, struggling, office-corner-full-of-crumpled-up-paper mode. The important thing is to slog diligently through this quagmire of discouragement and despair. Put on some audio commentary and listen to the stories of professionals who have been making films for decades going through the same slings and arrows of outrageous production problems.

In a word: PERSIST.

PERSIST on telling your story. PERSIST on reaching your audience. PERSIST on staying true to your vision. Remember what Peter Jackson said, “Pain is temporary. Film is forever.” And he of all people should know.

So next time you hit writer’s block, or your computer crashes and you lose an entire night’s work because you didn’t hit save (always hit save), just remember: you’re never far from that next burst of divine creativity. Work through that 97% of murky abyssmal mediocrity to get to that 3% which everyone will remember you for!

I guarantee you, the art will be well worth the work!

Your friend and mine,

Austin Madison

“ADVENTURE IS OUT THERE!”

Don’t Give Up!

Here is a letter written by Aaron Hartline, animator at Pixar Animation Studios.

Hartline’s feature film credits include Brave, Cars 2, Toy Story 3, UP, Ice Age 1-3, Horton Hears a Who and Robots. You can check out his blog, and his Daily Post-it doodles. You can also follow him on Twitter @TheDailyPostit.

Read what Hartline has to say about the letter on his blog after it was featured on the Letters of Note website.

This is the letter that not only encouraged me to follow my dreams of becoming an animator, but also inspired me to start this project as well.

Transcript:

Hi Willie -

Thank you for the kind words! Reading your letter, all I could think was DON’T GIVE UP! If you really love it, then don’t let anyone tell you it’s too hard, that you will fail.

When I took a tour at Disney right out of Highschool, I showed the tour guide/animator my work. She said ‘It’s easier to get a job as a professional basketball player than getting a animator position at Walt Disney Studios‘. My mom said ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ I was so angry. So motivated. I knew if I worked hard that one day..some day..I could do it! Took me 14 years of trying but it happened.

You can do it Willie!!

Work hard and really want it!

Check out www.animationmentor.com. I teach there. It’s a great school w teachers who are professional working animators at the major studios.

Hope to be working with you one day.

-Aaron

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