I had the pleasure of meeting a number of aspiring animators at this weekends WonderCon. All were eager for a place in the animation business. It reminded me of a welcome I had written some time ago and I thought it might be appropriate at this time.
Welcome to our crazy club. You’ll get no lofty comments or pretentious BS from this old cartoon veteran. That’s because as animators we’re simply entertainers. We’re not teachers, scientists or humanitarians. We’re really not that important. This is not to demean our profession because we do provide a valuable service. That’s because we make people smile and laugh. And that, in my humble opinion, has considerable value.
When I was a kid I fell in love with moving drawings and I couldn’t wait to try my hand at this remarkable medium called animation. Even at my advanced age today I remain fascinated by the special magic created by the animation artist. When I sat at my tacky handmade drawing table in my Santa Barbara home so many years ago, I knew I was doing something very special. I knew I was becoming a part of a unique group of creators and that feeling has never left me. Many years later, I would sit at a drawing desk at the Walt Disney Studios and place a blank sheet of paper over the animation pegs. At that moment I realized how far I had come. All the way from a kid drawing in the corner of my parents home to the world’s premiere animation studio in Burbank California. Who says dreams don’t come true?
Today, I wear the title, “animator” with special pride knowing my work will never reach the lofty heights of the Disney Masters or even my talented peers. However, I did crank out my fair share of footage over the years, though I confess most of it would probably be described as marginal at best. In any case, one day my heart soared when I received a compliment from an old master animator I truly admired. As the animation veteran viewed my meager offerings on the clattering Moviola he suddenly laughed and said, “That’s pretty funny stuff.” It was the greatest compliment I’d ever received in my professional career and I drove home that evening feeling like I was on the top of the world.
In spite of my efforts, my animation career came to an abrupt end one day when an old gentleman decided I might be better at another job. The old gentleman with a mustache was known for his intuition and insight so I thought it best not to argue with him. I traded my animation disk for the sketchpad of a story man, but I never lost my love for moving drawings, and I’m convinced I never will. It is an amazing job that never loses its luster. Of course, I still remember the palpable fear at the start of a new scene when this kid was suddenly confronted with a blank page. Clearly, animation is a daunting task. However, I remember the joy when the work is completed and my sketches have suddenly sprang to life. Magic accomplished with only paper and graphite. It’s the magical medium we call animation, and I’m so glad I’ve spent my life doing what I love while other poor souls trudged off to work each day. You will work, of course, and you’ll work hard. However, if you’re anything like me - you’ll love every minute of it.
Welcome to the club.