The Unexpected Animator

I have loved animation my entire life.

From an early age, I was deeply into animation. I loved it. I studied it. I tried to consume as much of it as possible.

As I got older, I continued to watch various cartoons, animated shorts, really obscure and out there stuff. I went to animation festivals, I bought books and tried to teach myself more about the art of animation. The only problem – I was always terrible at drawing.

Try as I might, I was never able to get what was in my head onto paper – it was a critical issue if one wants to become an animator. However that would change.

 

There was a product in the late 90s that came out. It was called “FutureSplash Animator” and it allowed you to create shapes and objects and animate them on a timeline. It offered a complete toolset that could easily have you creating your own animations within a short time period. Eventually, out of this product, evolved Flash – which was (and in some ways, still is) the industry standard for online animation for several years.

Soon, I found myself working as a technical illustrator for automotive training manuals. There was a push to make these more interactive since they were moving the training online, and I was tasked with taking my drawings and making them move. It was my first foray into animation, and while pretty basic, it got me thinking about animation in a way I had never thought about it before.

Animation is, and always will be, a very manual task. This was the first thing I learned.

In the old days of animation, every single frame of an animation had to be drawn, then colored, by hand. For one second of film, you would need to draw 24 images. Just imagine how unbelievable it was that motion-length animations were ever made! It takes an incredible amount of time and talent to create an animation. These days, computers make it much easier – you can create a start and end frame and have the computer animate your in-betweens for you, you can select and fill colors digitally, you can create bone structures within your design and create animation cycles with ease – but even these basic things take time!

Now, by no means would I claim to be an animator – I feel that’s a title that’s earned, but I have found myself, especially over the past year, placed in a role as the “unexpected animator”.

Fortunately, those years of working on different animation projects and having spent time learning the ins and outs and all the little tricks, has helped me out in my current position.

I’ve had several opportunities over the past year to work on some great animations with classic IP at work. None was more iconic then when I got to animate a walk-cycle for my boss, Mickey, for an interactive project.

It wasn’t a big project, but I still had the chance to do something I always wanted to do – and never did I think as a kid that one day I would be animating one of the most iconic characters in the world.

In doing so, it gave me so much more appreciation for the talented people who do this day in and day out – it took me the better part of two days just to make a walk-cycle, I’m sure these people can draw his shoes without looking.

So, will I ever be an animator? No. But do I still love animation? You betcha.