The Padded Cel: Tooniversity and Beyond

This month I have been asked to provide profound insight into a) picking an animation school and b) landing a job in animation. Rule #1 of Showbiz Success states ‘always offer more than what is requested.’ To demonstrate this concept, I will also address c) how to apply for a witness protection program after publicly impersonating someone with profound insight:

Picking An Animation School. Based on hours of painstaking research on the website of the little-known Institute for Animation School Picking (www.hornycheerleaderz.com) I was amazed to learn of several highly scientific methods for selecting a school. However, if throwing the I Ching causes you to break windows, your local yellow pages does not list ‘Animation Aromatherapy Astrologists’ and your hands are too palsied from gripping the Playstation joystick to flip a coin, you might be forced to do some research’based on honest self-assessment. What is your specific area of talent/interest? Is it more design or more technical? Is it cel animation and traditional drawing or CGI? Pure special effects or storytelling and creating characters? Video games, television or movies? Do you want to be a writer/creator as well as an artist?

Or, are you simply seeking an animation school with a kick-ass football team? I found 19 states in the U.S.which have one or more animation schools or programs. I’ll leave it to you to check out the football programs.

There are smaller, lesser-known programs around the country, some of which specialize in interdisciplinary approaches to animation. (If you think ‘interdisciplinary’ means that you will be disciplined for putting drugs ‘inter’ your system, I’d recommend starting with two years at a local community college.) Or, for those who feel they have statements to make, there are traditional university film schools which support an animation specialty within a framework of a traditional filmmaking curriculum … in which aspiring filmmakers are taught to make pretentious, self-indulgent and incomprehensible student films.

Now, if you are someone who has chosen animation as a platform to communicate your important ideals and personal values, here’s a valuable tip: get them completely out of your system at school before you begin!

Looking For A Job In Animation. My advice here is unimaginative and clich’d (Please withhold comment regarding the rest of the column.) Get your foot in the door. Pursue any job at any company that produces animation, and do so with the same vigor, exuberance and humility that you would if seeking to direct the next Pixar feature. (What, you’re not humble?) While there may be exceptional cases of a remarkable talent going right from school into an influential creative position (I don’t know of any, personally.) There are also people who win the lotto. (Whom I clearly don’t know personally; otherwise I’d be spending my time toadying up to them for handouts rather than writing columns.)

The other thing that seems difficult for industry newbies to grasp is how few individuals in all of the entertainment industry are actually allowed to assert their creative opinions and vision unchallenged. Certainly, 99.9% of us toil in ‘collaborative’ environments subject to a decision-making food chain in which, no matter who you are, there is always someone one rung higher who gets to reverse you’and seems to revel in doing so.

Now, about that witness protection program advice I promised? I’m afraid we’re out of room for this month. Rule #2 of Showbiz Success: ‘Overpromise and underdeliver.’ n

Robby London has worked in animation for more than 20 years as a writer, producer and executive. In other words, he definitely knows what he’s talking about, capice?

Photo: Attentive students of animation learn at an early age that it pays to make a spectacle of themselves in front of the whole class.