First of all, hi everybody. I’m inching my way back to the site. So much clean up, dusting off and re-learning how to do things around here but that’s for me to worry about, not you. Here’s a baby step in the right direction.
I received an email this week asking for some advice on what would help someone get into the animation trainee program at Disney. My answer applies to any level of animator. Of course, I think this advice would help many people, so here is my brief, but fairly complete, answer.*
Four things that make a reel work, in order of importance:
Believable performance. Not necessarily “realistic” but believable for the style of animation and situation. This is the part that is hardest to teach. Do your characters show that they are thinking, making decisions, judgments, choices on their own. Do the expression, body posture and dialog shapes accurately reflect what is being said (or what isn’t being said)? Over acting, bad acting, unbelievable acting, and acting that does not fit the situation – those are the the biggest turn offs.
Convincing physics. Do you know how to move characters? Do they have weight? Will I believe they exist in a reality that has gravity? Do they feel like they are built of flesh and bone and not just filled with empty space? Are movements motivated by internal forces – both mental and physical?
Entertainment. Do you have original ideas and ways of solving problems that aren’t typical? Show us how you think that’s different from the crowd. Do you pass over the obvious and make choices that are surprising AND appropriate for the situation?
Polish. This is the bonus round. All of the above are most important but if you can do them along with great polish – spacing, arcs, timing, slow-ins/outs, no pops or wonkiness, obvious care in the details – then your work will stand above the rest.
You may look at your body of work and think that you’re missing some of these things. Well, what is stopping you? You have the tools to animate. You can carve out some time. Do it and animate something new that gives us all of these things and your chances of getting the position you want will greatly improve!
*Of course, this is my own opinion and I am not attempting to represent Walt Disney Animation Studios. With that said, I have worked there forever and I’ve seen thousands of reels and hired scores of people.
Here’s a follow up post.