Have you ever wondered what it'd be like to work for one of the world's greatest animation studios? As a kid I dreamed of working for Disney as an artist. When Mulan was in pre-production my family and I took a trip to Disney World and Universal Studios. We were able to walk through sections of the studio where they were drawing Mulan. It drove me crazy! I wanted to work for Disney with all my heart.
Now that I'm 28 and haven't drawn much in over 10 years I'm thinking about getting back into the game. I'm contemplating whether or not to get my art skills back to where they were before....and beyond. I might even try to work for a company that stands out as the best in the field. An animation studio who's name we might recognize at a glance. And what studio is this? None other than PIXAR!!! The company that brought you Finding Nemo, Cars, Toy Story, Monsters, Up, and so much more! Wouldn't that be amazing? Well, it's definitely possible. And wouldn't you like to know how to become a Pixar artist?
I've watched interviews and interviews from current employees about how Pixar goes about hiring new artists. And I'll let you in on the little secret that will boost you into an amazing profession. Becoming a Pixar animator will invigorate you to become even more creative and to strive to be the best in the field. Working for the best in the industry will provide you a stepping stone to achieve whatever you desire. So what are we waiting for? Oh yeah....me!
BECOME AN ARTIST
First things first. You must hone your artist abilities so that you have your own style. You should be able to draw people, animals, and objects in many different stances (all of which look and feel realistic). You must also have the ability to draw these things with your own style engulfing them. Having your own technique is key, but so is knowing composition, stances, and feeling within a picture.
Second thing about being an artist is that you must be drawing, sketching, painting, or molding at all times. This has to be a passion for you. Not necessarily just working for a great company like Pixar, but actually loving what you do. Being obsessed with your artwork and every detail within it.
I've harped on this fact in another article, but you must be able to tell story within your drawings. If you can't display emotion and drama within your sketches, then you better start learning...and fast! Pixar Animation Studios cares about story. That is what makes a film stand out. The quality of art helps bring the story to life, but the foundation has to be story. I can't stress enough how important this is. If you are able to tell story in such a way to captivate your audience, to pull them into it, and to draw out emotions from them, you will be a success in every venue you want to step into. Story is what we as humans crave. We live, breath, and dream story. Why are TV show so popular? Why do we love movies? Why do we enjoy hanging out with family and friends? Because of the impact story has upon us. We are living stories.
Now we must discuss some practical matters. Because this is where the rubber hits the road on this trip to California. And speaking of California, if you're not living near the Pixar Studios in Emeryville, CA, then you'll need to move there (Pixar Animation Studios recently opened a new studio in Vancouver, BC as well). It is crucial that you get your face near them when they want to see your portfolio. You'll need to start making contacts, and the best place to do that is right where they are. Employees will be in the vicinity. So pack up and get the move on. Your future is waiting. You don't want to be stuck thinking that you could have lived your dream while mopping bathroom floors. If you don't take your future into your own hands, you could be working in these fields:
Not that these professions are bad, but you could be an artist for Pixar!!!
You'll want to have the best portfolio you can think of. And you'll definitely need your sketchbooks (your best ones). Contained within your portfolio, you'll want a range of characters you've created and drawings showing that you know your stuff. And by "your stuff" I mean shapes of beings, movements, and facial gestures. Important! Know your stuff....please.
Now, Pixar likes to first go through its own employees to see if they know anybody that would be a good fit in the position. This is quite successful for them. So if need be, get out there. Visit galleries, jazz clubs, churches, and the such. You want to meet people. And with a little positioning, you'll eventually find somebody that knows somebody that works at Pixar. Take 'em out to dinner. Ask to interview them. Give a huge gift without asking anything in return. Then build a real relationship with them. But if you're still out of the loop and can't find any friends (I'm sorry, I'll be your friend), then read on.
Take your portfolio to the studio itself. Try to set up a meeting with somebody there. Research research research! Find the folks that you are interested in. Perseverance is vital at this point. When somebody finally answers and agrees to meet, be polite, curtious, and an upright citizen. Bring you portfolio, but don't ask them to see it. Let them ask. Feel everything out with your gut. Trust your gut. And don't forget this pincher: BRING YOUR SKETCHBOOK!!! They will most likely rather see that than your portfolio. This is good! When they ask, show them your sketchbook and you'll soon become a Pixar artist. Especially if your sketchbook shows that you know forms and shapes, improvisation, and have your own style.
If everything that you've done thus far turns out to be unsuccessful, you know what to do as an artist. Go back to the drawing board. Start creating another sketchbook. Perfect your skills. Create a better portfolio. And do not quit until you become that Pixar animator. And I guarantee, you will. If you do not quit. If you're good enough, belief in yourself, and desire to work for Pixar with all your heart, you will succeed. Let nothing get in your way and it can't. Good luck to you in your endeavors! And when you become that artist, give me a shoutout. Cheers!
There are some big names in California. Some names that might help you in your search for contacts or even some simple advice:
- James Robertson
- Daniela Strijleva
- Dice Tsutsumi
- Nate Wragg
- Everette Downing
- and Aaron Hartline
I hope this list will be a start for you on your journey. Good luck!