Twenty years ago today on Sept. 25, 1995, I started my first job in animation. It was a paid internship at Warner Brothers Feature Animation. I had three months to prove that I had what it took to work on an animated feature. And what an incredible three months. I basically got paid to take classes (acting, improv, life drawing, etc.) and learn the craft of animation. I was getting paid to draw and have fun. My artistic skills grew leaps and bounds. (These sorts of opportunities don't really exist as much today. Now, you're thrown right into the job and are expected to run with it and if you can't then they show you the door.)
I, fortunately, did have what it took and on Dec. 20, 1995 I became a full-time employee. I believe a couple people in my group didn't make it. Which was hard seeing that it was 5 days before Christmas. But that's Hollywood for ya. While at WB I worked on Space Jam, Quest for Camelot, and probably the best film of all the ones I worked on in my animation career, The Iron Giant.
After finishing the Iron Giant I was laid off until if and when WB decided to do another film. Thankfully, I didn't have to wait because I was excepted into another internship this time at Disney Feature Animation. It was a bit weird to go back to being an intern after already having worked in the business but I was told that I had to learn "the Disney Way." It had always been my dream to work at Disney so I figured I'd do it. Once again I was being paid to take classes and learn about animation but this time it was from some of the greats of Disney animation. We had classes with Walt Stanchfiled, lectures from Mark Davis, we sculpted, we animated, we went to the zoo to draw. (We also worked on production work while being paid much less but I won't go into that.)
Once again I made the cut and was offered to stay on at Disney. My time at Disney wasn't always rainbows and unicorns but I stuck it out and worked on The Emperor's New Groove, Atlantis, Treasure Planet, the short One by One, and Home on the Range. I also received screen credit on Brother Bear but I don't think I actually worked on it.
Eventually the days of traditional animation at Disney came crashing down around us and I found myself once again looking for something to do next. From here I started to work on lots of different things and at lots of different studios. Over the years I've worked on Stripperella, an animated Spawn direct to video feature that never saw the light of day, Wow Wow Wubbzy, Ni Hao Kai-lan, Lilo and Stitch the TV show, The Emperor's New School, The Dinosaur Train, Fan Boy and Chum Chum, and the Bravest Warriors.
My days working in animation had many ups and downs and some definite low points but I never could have imagined back on Sept. 25, 1995 how much my life would change. I've made so many great life long friends, I met my wife Suzanne while working at WB and we both got hired at Disney on the same day as well, I've had the opportunity to meet and work with some of the most incredible artists that have inspired me to get better and taught me so many things. I learned how to tell a story and how to act with a pencil which eventually led me to where I am today writing and illustrating my own stories and making books.
I may not currently be working in animation but I'm so grateful for everything and everyone (good and bad) that got me to where I am today. It's been one hell of a rollercoaster ride and it's still going. All proof that with a lot of hard work and persistence you can live the dream. I look forward to the next twenty years and can't wait to see where the ride takes me.