Animation BirthdayToday is the one year anniversary of when Animation Mentor opened it's doors for business. I can remember it like it was yesterday. So much has changed in a year it's so incredible to think about it. I had stumbled upon the Animation Mentor website about a year and a half ago. I was determined to learn animation but so far up until that point all my attempts had failed. Through grad school, internships, night classes, none of my efforts had gotten me any closer to my dream. After all that I still didn't know the basic fundamentals of animation or even where to begin.
I had applied to Sheridan a few years before, at the time the best traditional animation school, I didn't get in and cried so hard, now looking back it was probably a blessing in disguise, I was available when AM opened. I remember waiting eagerly as the time was coming up for AM to open, I remember calling Francis at least weekly to see ask "can I apply yet?". Then it happened, they announced the school was opening and ready to take submissions, it all happened so fast, I filled out my application and barely got it in on time, then the calls to Francis and Rosie began again, this time I was asking "did I make it in the school?"
I had no idea how many people they would accept and after so many disappointments in my previous attempts to learn animation, I didn't want this opportunity to slip past me. I just knew from the teaser trailer on the website that their philosophy and approach was going to work for me and I was instantly hooked. It didn't matter that no one knew what the heck I was talking about when I blabbed on about this internet school and how it was going to change animation forever, I 'm pretty sure most people thought I was nuts and didn't take me seriously, but I just knew it was something very special.
I was working a full time job in NYC at the time when AM opened, it was pretty crazy timing because I had just started the full time job about a month before and had also signed up for improv classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade not knowing that AM would happen on top of all these things. My job at the time wasn't rewarding, I wasn't learning anything about animation or any art for that matter, most of the stuff I had to do was technical which is not my fortay, and I didn't see any room to grow as an artist. After AM began I was overwhelmed, it was hard, the hardest school I've ever been to, maybe it was so hard because I was such a complete noobie to animation, or maybe it was hard because I could sense what was riding on my progress, all my animation goals, my entire future depended on my performance at this school, and the way I saw it, it was my absolute last chance to make something of myself.
After so many failures in my attempts to become a working animator, I didn't want to mess this opportunity up. So I made a tough choice and quit my job to do AM full time. I had to do it, I had no choice, I could see that I was messing up my chance by not having enough time to work on my homework, which left me frustrated and upset that I wasn't making progress. The answer was simple, just try harder, which meant spending more time on my assignments. That was the best decision I could have made to help myself, and my work began to improve.
By class 2 I had moved to LA and was deep into the obsession of AM, so much to do, so many friends, so many resources. It was awesome having so many new experiences and meeting so many people. Siggraph was a major turning point, and I had the time of my life hanging out with my internet friends. After Siggraph I was even more determined to improve, I still wasn't meeting the high expectations I wanted to achieve. So I tried even harder. The healthy competition atmosphere of AM really motivates you, there are all these amazing students, most who have much more experience than me, and when I finally felt like I was keeping up and not falling by the waste side anymore, it was a major achievement for me. I mean here I am with all these students with so much more talent and experience than me, and I'm actually holding my own, it was empowering. And in turn, it made me want to try even harder.
By class 3 we had gotten into acting, and a lot of the time I felt over my head. I was satisfied with my assignments but always knew I could do better, I knew my lack of experience was a hindrance, I was holding my own but there's no way you can make up for years and years of animation practice in a few short months. I had a long way to go. I kept focused on my assignments and got a surprise a few weeks into class 3, it was Walt Disney Feature Animation, they were offering me a position as assistant animator on Meet the Robinsons. Is this really happening? This is crazy! I couldn't believe I was so lucky. I have only AM to thank, because without them I would still be trying to figure out how to animate a bouncing ball believably.
I finished class 3 while working full time, it was a struggle but totally worth it, I wouldn't have felt right if I didn't put the effort into finishing my assignments. I wasn't able to register for class 4 because of the workload and I have been working on animation tests here in my spare time. I have been working here for 5 months so far, and every day is better than the last. I am learning so much from the amazing talent here, and it's been really fun getting to work on this movie. And that's a year, what a year.
Hey AM, I'm one year old today too because of you.