Education of feature animation writer/director

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Old 07 July 2011   #1
Education of feature animation writer/director

What is the education route that will best enable me to eventually become a writer/director for feature animation? Should I learn character animation, or should I learn traditional live-action direction? My long term goal is to make my own animated movies.

I am currently considering attending Animation Mentor, which I like for its focus on character animation specifically. I have been able to find lots of online tutorials for most of the other CG subjects, and wouldn't need to get them in a school setting.

If I did indeed pursue education as a live-action director, I would still want to spend some time, perhaps on my own, learning animation as well. I want to be able to direct the specific style of the animation, and animate some parts myself if possible. I also want to be able to understand the process fully so that I can direct it properly.

I have seen that many feature animation writers and directors, like Brad Bird, Pete Docter and John Lasseter, for example, were educated in animation (seems like all of these guys went to CalArts!), but I wonder whether their education contained details about direction that I wouldn't get in the Animation Mentor program. However, the Animation Mentor program includes making a short film, so I expect that some direction is taught.

I'd like to hear any thoughts that you have on this question.
Old 07 July 2011   #2
You are talking about becoming one of the gods of the industry? lol Well, I would never curtail anyone from following their dreams, but it should be noted, that becoming the next John Lasseter or Brad Bird is well the highest position I've ever seen requested on this site. It would take a pretty brilliant mind, unwavering energy, passion, talent, ambition, and leadership. There are probably 20,000 other animators that want the same thing and have a huge head start on you and about 20 of them are ever gonna make it to directing a feature film at Pixar. Secondly, are you writing and storyboarding? ALOT!? Yes, one of the best paths to direction on fully animated films is character animator and AM is tops for training, but to write, you need to be writing stories now, making movies now, etc. Many of those guys were making films at 10. I remember watching the documentary on Peter Jackson and he had made nearly 50 movies by 15. hehehe After hearing me bash this a bit, you have to go back and ask yourself if this is a realistic endeavor. If so, go for it! But can you live without ever directing a feature? I know I can.

Last edited by MrPositive : 08 August 2011 at 11:22 AM.
Old 07 July 2011   #3
May be advice by MrPositive doesn't sound so positive but upto an extent he is right sowhat if you don't have the resource to go to CalArts or make films at early age,it doesn't mean you don't have the Talent .
There are people who made short films and put them on youtube and well ,signed big contract with some of the bigger names of the industry.
All you need is the right kind of motivation and of course some Talent .All I can say is start with small steps and see how things go for you ,everybody thinks he can write or direct but when pen and paper comes(well I still like pen and paper) in front of them they don't know what to write forget about how to write.
If you think you have the Talent and great stories struggling to come out here are few links you might be interested in.
Old 07 July 2011   #4
^ Thanks for the links.

I think I have the resources to go to CalArts, if it is the best place to go. But is it? I thought that they focused on hand-drawn animation. But if they teach the writing/directing side of things as well, it might be worth it.
Old 08 August 2011   #5
The majority of directors of animated features come out of story departments (though many worked as character animators before entering said story department). As such, you want a program that'll teach you story-boarding. SCAD and SVA are the only two schools I know of that have a dedicated story boarding/comics major, but many animation programs, including CalArts and CCA, will let you specialize in storyboarding. To the best of my knowledge, AM only skims the surface of storyboarding.
Old 08 August 2011   #6
^ Yes, I was wondering whether Animation Mentor covered storyboarding and more general storytelling skills, or whether it just set you up to fill the animator role in a production team. I think I might be able to learn storyboarding from books, though. I'm not too excited by the look of CalArts as it stands now.

Last edited by AlexanderL : 08 August 2011 at 05:43 AM.
Old 08 August 2011   #7
With sufficient dedication, you can learn virtually anything from books, but if your real interest is in story, I'd recommend going to school somewhere that can teach you that.
Old 08 August 2011   #8

I do not want to steer you one way or another, because as others said, you don't have to go to CalArts.
But when I read your post, it immediately made me think of this..
Old 08 August 2011   #9
^ haha, yeah that is amusing. It's also helpful though, because it's a nice list of people whose biographies I can now look up.
Old 08 August 2011   #10
Looks like nepotism to me or there is a lobby of Calarts who hires or promotes people from CalArts.

Old 08 August 2011   #11
Originally Posted by gregjenings: Looks like nepotism to me or there is a lobby of Calarts who hires or promotes people from CalArts.

I don't think it's anything like that. It's just that people at the appropriate age to be directing now went to college in the seventies or early eighties, and at the time CalArts was the only decent animation program in the country. In another decade or so you're gonna see a lot more animation directors coming from other schools.
Old 08 August 2011   #12
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