Our new Cosmo team begins next week and we’ll be getting straight into some animation. A new team. It is going to be fun, creative and challenging. A good time then to offer my list of 8 things that I would like every animator who works with me to learn. Here they are…
1 – BE YOUR OWN QUALITY CONTROL
We all have our own internal quality control. Working in any hierarchy can cause us to disengage our own quality control and rely on the next person up the chain. That is not how you get the best results. Get a scene to its absolute best first. When your animation director or director is looking at a scene that is already excellent, we can all get it from excellent to magical together. Taking a scene from stinky to acceptable isn’t quite as rewarding for anyone. So be your own quality control. It is just about working at it until it’s great.
2 – TREAT EVERY SCENE INDIVIDUALLY
Act. Feel. Experience the scene. Sound like method acting? Well, it is. We don’t move the same every time. Life isn’t like that. Animation should create life. Characters shouldn’t just move, they should think and feel. Treat each scene like a unique moment, because it is. The same old tricks won’t always work and definitely won’t make your work better. Get fresh and get creative!
3 – DRAW
Even if it’s not your strength. Even if there isn’t a huge amount (or even any) drawing required in the style of animation you’re working in. In fact, especially if that’s the case. Drawing is usually a far more direct communication between your brain and the finished product than any software so drawing can help you keep a sense of the whole. It can pull you back to thinking about the characters like characters, lives, not just pieces or menu options. Draw.
4 – BE PART OF A TEAM. ACTIVELY
That scene you’re struggling with? There’s an animator beside you who has probably finished a scene just like it. It is so easy to get buried in your scenes. Don’t let that happen. Talk about your work. Learn from the strengths of those around you, and pass on your own strengths. Get active about making this a team.
5 – DELIVER ON TIME, EVERY TIME
Don’t miss deadlines. Seriously. Ever. Deliver on time. If you do great work that is delivered late, all that will be noticed is that it was delivered late. Remember that delivering on time usually means factoring in fixes, whims of directors and losing a folder somewhere along the line.
6 – BE RESPONSIBLE TO YOUR AUDIENCE
Never forget who you’re working for. No, not me. Not our producer. Children. Try to see your scenes not from the point of view of the person making them, but from the point of view of a young child watching them. Put yourself on the other side of that television. Know why you’re making shows, scenes and characters come to life. That sense of purpose will make your work more enjoyable and make it much, much better.
7 – BE YOU
You are most valuable when you are great at what you do, not just great at what everyone else does. Bring your strengths to your scenes. Surprise us with a little bit of your personality in a scene, your personal touch. Animators are often expected to be chameleons for very good reasons. But everyone has their own history and interests, everyone followed their own path and every single animator has something that the other animators don’t. Don’t suppress that. Explore it. It is what will make your scenes special.
8 – YOU ARE BETTER THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE
Sure, we get the odd cocky animator coming through the doors on occasion. But mostly, I find what can hold animators back is a lack of confidence in their abilities. We are all so much worse at evaluating ourselves than we are at evaluating others and that can cause us to get flustered and tied up in scenes, making them more complicated than they should be while we convince ourselves we can’t get them to look the way we want them to. Well here’s the thing: I have only hired people I know can give me great scenes and most companies are exactly the same. You have the know-how. You have the ability. You are a good animator. All you have to do now is make your scenes demonstrate that.
And really, that just comes down to point 1, bringing this list full circle.
So there you have it. 8 things any animator working with me should learn. 8 tips for my animators starting on Cosmo, and perhaps animators elsewhere.