Animation School vs Industry


The above 2 pictures popped up on my Facebook feed today, and thought they were a good example of something I’ve noticed having made the transition from Animation Mentor to the industry.

Animation Mentor and other character animation specific schools have set up a great system that reflects the day to day role of an animator in a medium to large studio. The idea of choosing an audio clip, using a prebuilt rig and showing just playblasts allows the student to focus the vast majority of their time purely on the animation.

But even within the assignments you’re still getting a taste of the different departments in the pipeline. You will create your own story for the shot, probably draw up an animatic, mod the rigs to create more unique characters, build a set, establish staging, etc. While the mentor will act as a director, there’s still quite a lot of creative room given to the animator.

If you have a look at the above images though you can see that so much had already been established by the story artist. This to me is a good example of where school and industry differ.

The room given to the animator is going to vary widely. The director’s/supervisor’s directing style, detail in storyboards, the deadline, the type of production, the studio culture, etc is all going to influence how much room an animator will have to move in bringing ideas into the shot. But for any students reading, I think it would be worth finding some storyboards (or progression reels) from films you like and compare it to the final production. While it may not be the most eye opening exercise ever, it will give you a greater insight into the actual role of an animator and what to expect when you do make the leap into the industry.

Animated by Carlos Baena

Animated by Jason Martinsen

2 thoughts on “Animation School vs Industry

  1. Julien

    Hi Tim,
    I just wanted to leave a reply here, because I’ve a different point of view.
    Of course, you know what you’re speaking about and you know how it works in the industry, but I think you forget about something : There is a lot of other studios that do not act like huge Dreamworks-like factories.
    In a lot of studios, you may have to move cameras (and show picture compositing skills) or make some proposal about the animation/posings/action (because the director has no idea of what he wants or because – for instance in VFX – they shoot the plate without knowing how CG crew will be doing their job) or, as it is a TV series cartoon or even a low budget movie, the director did not plan every shot as good as they would deserve it, because of tight deadlines… And in those studios you canot just follow exactly what is drawn in story board (if you have the luck to have one).
    So to conclude, I know you’re speaking about feature films in the greatest studios with good conditions to do great job, and I know that most of young animators day-dream of working in that kind of studios…. but there is a huge “risk” that some Animation Mentor students will never work for them. So, I guess it is good to let them touch a little bit of the job which is animation aside.

    By the way, thank you for this great blog full of really nice stuffs.

  2. Tim Post author

    Thanks for the differing view Julien, always welcome! Actually I’m not talking specifically about features, having worked on 4 short films and 2 TV series I still find this to be the case. Even from a director’s standpoint when working on DUEL, animators veering off previs tended to cause more problems than solutions as we specifically set staging, pacing and the flow of action over the entire short in that pre-production stage. Sure we change cameras, poses and choices through animation, but it’s more of the idea of “plussing” what’s been established rather than really bringing something new to the table.

    If you’re finding productions that differ, then great. I’m yet to see it though.


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