Did you know that Bolt was the first Disney movie to be fundamentally changed when Disney bought Pixar in 2006 and hired Pixar’s “brain trust” (John Lasseter, et al) to oversee all creative content at Disney? Prior to the Pixar merge, the movie was called American Dog and involved a cocky TV star dog who gets lost in the desert (while accompanied by a one-eyed cat and a large, radioactive rabbit) and believes the entire adventure is being filmed for his TV show.  

Questions about the animation job market - animation tips and tricks with Animation Mentor co-founder Shawn Kelly

Some Words of Advice for the Temp and Rookie Animator

In the fast-paced industry of animation, there are lots of issues that come up in regards to schedule, style, story, and salary. I personally am sick of talking about those issues so I thought this would be a good opportune ty to give some advice. That advice is directed toward the Temp Animator (contract animator) and the Rookie Animator.

Over the past few productions, we’ve called upon a lot of additional contract animators to help us in our fight. We’ve also hired some newbies! A good number of those people were lucky enough to be asked right out of schools like AnimationMentor.com. With all the people that come and go we’ve seen a lot of personalities. Some work well with a team and some don’t! So below I’ve listed a list of things that I think any animator new or old could keep in mind, so that they can be the best team player they can be.

Before I begin listing, I just wanted to throw a few things out there. The first thing is that at Blue Sky I am extremely lucky to be working with THE best team ever. Sorry to those who work elsewhere, but it’s true. Everyone there is really close. It’s like a big family. We are fortunate not to have a lot of swelled heads walking around and everyone works well together. I think it has a lot to do with everyone feeling like each member has something to offer and something that they can learn from. So when I’m writing this response, I’m trying to keep in mind all the things that my team looks for in a team player, and all the things that make it easy to pass on someone that works really hard to make the cut.

Secondly, I just wanted to say that I know I’m not perfect either. I’m sure I can learn from this as well. After all, nobody is perfect. Not even you Melvin hahaha!

To all the Temp Animators out there. Here is a list of things that will help you land one of the few coveted spots on an Animation Teams roster.
  • Respect the deadlines but most importantly DO GREAT WORK. Now with this particular advice, I may receive a little flak from my employer, but I think this is the most important thing. Too many people fear the deadlines no matter how unreasonable they may or may not be. Keep in mind that if your work is just okay, you won’t get the job, regardless of how well you hit that schedule. In a related note, if your work is just okay, it won’t be great demo reel material either. So my common sense tells me that doing good work above all is a win win situation. Just simply hitting your deadlines will do nothing but make number crunchers happy, but leave you feeling exhausted and having nothing to show for it.
  • Be eager to learn. While you are at that big time studio, soak up as much as you can from as many people as you can. Even the other temps!!! I don’t care how precious your time is, a good animator is a learning animator.
  • Take your critique like a man (or a very strong woman). To many animators think they take criticism well, but I see way too many people trying to explain themselves or getting defensive. Just take it with a smile. Feel free to brainstorm with them or to ask questions to clarify something, just don’t get defensive.
  • Congratulate your fellow temp. In some productions, I’ve seen some temps get hired before their contract is up. So, when a fellow temp gets a job BE HAPPY FOR THEM. They deserve it. I’ve seen some people feel dejected because it wasn’t them. It doesn’t mean that the opportunity is lost. In fact this can only help your situation because now you can see exactly what they are looking for. Remember your goal is to be working with them now right?
  • Listen to the Lead. If a character lead suggests ways to keep your character on model visually or acting wise, LISTEN TO THEM. If you throw away that advice because you think what you have is better, or you don’t think you have the time, you may be in trouble.
  • REMEMBER, you are there to do the work no one else wants to do. I can’t tell you how many temps think they are being punished because they have a 24 frame reaction shot. They should consider themselves lucky they aren’t animating rocks. The only time you should think there is something out of the ordinary is if you get a cool shot.
  • Try not to complain. I say “try” because some things are too fun to not complain about, like overtime dinners. But I’ve heard fellow animators say “(so and so) hasn’t been here long enough to complain.” Don’t be that dude!
  • If you are working with a character, especially one new to the film, consult the lead. They worked really hard on establishing that character, so seek them for some advice. Regardless of how cool your idea may be. If it’s that cool they’ll love it too!
  • Overtime. Do it, but don’t do too much. If you do too much you will cost the company too much. Then you really need to have a kick a** shot. Besides, when you put in too many hours you tend to get diminishing returns. More time doesn’t necessarily equal a better shot.
  • CLAIM YOUR HOURS. I see a lot of people new and old not claiming their hours. You are cheating, and you are hurting the rest of the team. A movie’s schedule is based on numbers, and so is yours. If they think you can do a shot in three days, next time they may make it two. Oh no! It actually took you five days you just didn’t claim it. Good luck chuck!
  • STUDY STUDY STUDY. When you’re not at work, study your animation. Always try to improve.
  • Don’t stress. First of all, you’re not the only one who is stressing, but the team wants people who can handle pressure with a smile. No matter how bad you might think you are doing, just remember, the team likes your work, you have the talent. After all, that’s what got you there.

To the Rookie! Don’t get cocky! Here is some stuff to remember to remain part of the team even if you stay employed.
  • Stay humbled by the work around you.
  • Think that you can learn more from others than others can learn from you.
  • Respect your elders. Don’t make any suggestions to their work unless they ask for it.
  • Remember seniority. You’re still going to have to eat it from time to time. We all did.
  • Let the veterans do the complaining. Even if they agree with you, they might just think your some ungrateful rookie. You can definitely share your frustrations though.
  • Stay wide-eyed. Don’t lose that kid in the candy store feeling.
  • CLAIM YOUR HOURS. I don’t care if you spent an hour away from your computer playing air hockey, that’s your choice during your work hours. Live with it.
  • Keep asking questions. Keep learning from those around you.
  • Don’t complain about having too many good shots. You’d be surprised how many people will say “I just need a break” to someone who’s been animating 24 frame reaction shots for the past couple of weeks.
  • Don’t seclude yourself and don’t start clicks.
  • Don’t act like your ideas are the best ones and everyone else’s are insignificant.
  • Don’t try to push your techniques, or what you think animation “is” on everyone else.
  • Stay positive at all time. No one likes a Negative Nancy.

About Nick Bruno
Nick Bruno is a mentor at AnimationMentor.com, senior Animator at Blue Sky Studios, and a current guest blogger on the Tips & Tricks blog.


Upcoming U.S. Movie & Game Releases

Your inside guide to U.S. movie & game releases and the visual effect companies who made movie magic.


The Day the Earth Stood Still

U.S. Release Date: December 12, 2008 (Conventional Theatres & IMAX)

20th Century Fox

Synopsis: The Day the Earth Stood Still is 20th Century Fox's contemporary reinvention of its 1951 classic. Keanu Reeves portrays Klaatu, an alien whose arrival on our planet triggers a global upheaval. As governments and scientists race to unravel the mystery behind the visitor's appearance, a woman (Jennifer Connelly) and her young stepson get caught up in his mission – and come to understand the ramifications of his being a self-described "friend to the Earth."

The Tale of Despereaux

U.S. Release Date: December 19, 2008

Universal Pictures

Synopsis: Once upon a time, in the faraway kingdom of Dor, there was magic in the air, raucous laughter aplenty and gallons of mouth-watering soup. But a terrible accident left the king broken-hearted, the princess filled with longing and the townsfolk despondent. All hope was lost in a land where sunlight disappeared and the world became dreary gray. Until Despereaux Tilling was born...

A brave and virtuous mouse, Despereaux is simply too big for his small world. Though tiny, wheezy and saddled with comically oversized ears, Despereaux refuses to live a life of weakness and fear...believing he was destined to be celebrated in the tales of chivalry he so adores.

When he's banished from his home for not following the rules that society expects of a mouse, Despereaux befriends fellow outcast Roscuro, a good-hearted rat who can't bear to look in the mirror and hopes to live far from the grim underground of his kind. While Despereaux begins his noble quest to rescue Pea--a princess who can't see beyond her distorted view of the world--his pal Roscuro receives a painful rejection from her highness that sets him on a course of self-destruction.

Along their parallel adventures, the two encounter colorful characters from a serving girl who wishes to be a princess to the evil leader of the sewer rats, who plots revenge on humans from his fiefdom in the subterranean shadows he relishes but Roscuro can't abide.

From the highest turrets of the glittering castle to the dankest dark of Dor's sewers, friendships will be tested as Despereaux and Roscuro embark upon a journey that will change the way they look at their world--and themselves--forever. In this tale of bravery, forgiveness and redemption, one tiny creature will teach a kingdom that it takes only a little light to show that what you look like doesn't equal what you are.

The Spirit

U.S. Release Date: December 25, 2008


Synopsis: Adapted from Will Eisner's comic book series, The Spirit is a classic action-adventure-romance genre-twister written for the screen and directed by Frank Miller (creator of 300 and Sin City). It is the story of a former rookie cop who returns mysteriously from the dead as The Spirit (Gabriel Macht) to fight crime from the shadows of Central City. His arch-enemy, The Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson) has a different mission: he's going to wipe out Spirit's beloved city as he pursues his own version of immortality. The Spirit tracks this cold-hearted killer from Central City's rundown warehouses, to the damp catacombs, to the windswept waterfront... all the while facing a bevy of beautiful women who either want to seduce, love or kill our masked crusader. Surrounding him at every turn are Ellen Dolan (Sarah Paulson), the whip-smart girl-next-door; Silken Floss (Scarlett Johansson), a punk secretary and frigid vixen; Plaster of Paris (Paz Vega), a murderous French nightclub dancer; Lorelei (Jaime King), a phantom siren; and Morgenstern (Stana Katic), a sexy young cop.

Then of course, there's Sand Saref (Eva Mendes), the jewel thief with dangerous curves. She's the love of his life turned bad. Will he save her or will she kill him?

In the vein of Batman Begins and Sin City, The Spirit takes us on a sinister, gut-wrenching ride with a hero who is born, murdered and born again


Prince of Persia

U.S. Release Date: December 2, 2008

Game Studio:


Synopsis: Escape to experience the new fantasy world of ancient Persia. Masterful storytelling and sprawling environments deliver a brand new adventure that re-opens the Prince of Persia saga. Now you have the freedom to determine how the game evolves in this non-linear adventure. Players will decide how they unfold the storyline by choosing their path in the open-ended world.

In this strange land, your rogue warrior must utilize all of his skills, along with a whole new combat system, to battle Ahriman’s corrupted lieutenants to heal the land from the dark Corruption and restore the light. Also, history;s greatest ally is revealed in the form of Elika, a dynamic AI companion who joins the Prince in his fight to save the world. Gifted with magical powers, she interacts with the player in combat, acrobatics and puzzle-solving, enabling the Prince to reach new heights of deadly high-flying artistry through special duo acrobatic moves or devastating fighting combo attacks.

Kingdom Hearts RE: Chain of Memories

U.S. Release Date: December 2, 2008

Square Enix


Synopsis: Sora, Donald and Goofy travel down a long road that meanders through endless fields, and come to a crossroads. As Sora stands in the crossroads, he gazes up at the night sky and thinks of his lost friends. Just then, a mysterious man approaches from down one of the branching paths. "Ahead lies something you need," he says, "but to claim it, you must lose something dear." The man vanishes before a single path, leading to a castle that eerily resembles a girl's drawing...In the coming journey, what will Sora and his companions gain, and what will they lose?

Kingdom Hearts: RE: Chain of Memories is a fully 3D remake of the Game Boy Advance title with a newly-redesigned battle system (based on the KHII Reaction system), new cards, new boss battles, new game scenes, and full cinematics and voice dialog.