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How animation educators see things

Share your views on the state of the Animation Industry.

How animation educators see things

Postby Charles » Sun Jul 20, 2014 7:47 pm

For a long time I've had strong feelings that what students are learning at many of the top animation schools / programs in the country are all about prepping their prospects for opportunities in the studios and pretty much nothing else.

Work for hire is the overall mentality behind these programs with little to no attention on the things going on outside of the status quo system.

My suspicions have been well founded as of late. I'm part of a large group of educators nationwide that receive communications from each other concerning news and topics of interest relating to teaching animation. Some very distinguished individuals in the field have been sharing their views about how best to prepare students for the studio based job market.

In all the discussion, there has been very little to no attention paid to anything outside of this paradigm.

I'd like to share some of the communications I've received. I won't be identifying the authors nor the schools they're at, but it will give you a good idea as to the mindset of the contemporary educators community and how they see things in terms of preparing their students for professional careers.

I'll follow up soon.
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Re: How animation educators see things

Postby Charles » Sun Jul 20, 2014 7:54 pm

Here's where it starts...

..............

Hi, all,

I would be interested in opening up the discussion here to see what your thoughts are. Pres. Obama has created a score card for American universities that grades us for cost, graduation rates, loan defaults and job opportunities. Are colleges and universities outside of the US under the same pressures?

Should we be focusing on making sure students get that first job to pay the loans or build the creative capital to be directors, or award-winning artists one day? I suspect most of us walk a fine line trying to reach a balance between industry and art in our curricula. I'd like to hear your approach.

Are the pressures of employment affecting how we teach? Some animation programs focus first software and current skills while others stress lifelong learning. What is the best balance?
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Re: How animation educators see things

Postby Charles » Sun Jul 20, 2014 7:59 pm

This is among the first responses and the only one that even mentions something outside of studios...

................

If I can, I'd like to suggest the question be broadened a bit, or enhanced.

In addition to "first job or last job," we should also be asking should we be training students for studio jobs, or for the plethora of animation jobs that exist outside the studio system? Should the education be oriented toward traditional studio jobs, or have a broader focus, allowing animators to earn a living doing what they love without ever setting foot in a feature studio?
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Re: How animation educators see things

Postby Charles » Sun Jul 20, 2014 8:07 pm

Here's a follow up at length...

...............

My experience has shown that you teach the highest level of the industry and allow the students to follow their career paths from there.

While in Ireland coordinating / teaching at the European School of Animation, we had the greatest successes when we taught at a feature animation level and then let the students "filter" down into their animation careers be it feature, TV, interactive, independent, etc. The Don Bluth Studios bought the curriculum from Sheridan and developed it from there.

Of course, the reason we took this tack was because the unemployment rate was at 33% and our brief was to train people for jobs.

Now Ireland has a thriving animation community embracing all areas of of animation - feature, TV, interactive and independent films in 2D, CG, Flash, stop-motion, etc. Their work was showcased this year at the Annecy Animation Festival and their TV work in May by Animation Magazine. Everyone in Anim. Mag. was a former student from the school.

You start with the artistic and animation fundamentals and build from there. The Gobelins School in Paris is the best current example of a program. They learn the fundamentals and layer the software on top - not the other way around.

I have also found that incubator studio projects where students are "cast" according to their skill levels have been very helpful for the participants to learn the pipeline and gain valuable experience and confidence.

The Brits still have a challenge with this concept their over 200 animation programs and only 4 or maybe 5 are actually geared toward professional skills.
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Re: How animation educators see things

Postby Charles » Sun Jul 20, 2014 8:11 pm

Here's another response...

..............


I suspect that whether we train students for the first job or their last, we should teach them the skills that will allow them to succeed in the field and industry of animation.

For community colleges that means giving students the foundational information (the principles of animation) for being good animators; using both traditional methods and modern CGI, software based fundamentals. The secondary job of community college is to give students a taste of specialized jobs and software. Allowing them to become familiar with the more advanced, specialized parts of the animation industry.

For 4 year institutions it should mean continuing that specialized knowledge and giving the students the touchstone into the industry in the form of internships.

In my mind, whether I am teaching students for their first or their last job is irrelevant. I am teaching students to tap into their potential to be the best animators they can be; regardless of when or where their life journey will take them.
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Re: How animation educators see things

Postby Charles » Sun Jul 20, 2014 8:13 pm

Here's another thoughtful contribution to the discussion...

...............


When in doubt, I think about my professors, who, I believe, taught to the last job. It's kind of like what ... said, "...teach them the skills that will allow them to succeed in the field and industry of animation." Period.

For-profit schools like the one where I currently work are four-year schools that tend to have a community college population, so it is a little frustrating sometimes to have students who lack skills and who may be in school only because their parents want them there (therefore also lacking passion for the field.). Nevertheless, when they're in my classroom, I expect them to create the kinds of work that will get them studio jobs when they get out. I don't like to watch people throw tuition money down the drain.
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Re: How animation educators see things

Postby Charles » Sun Jul 20, 2014 8:16 pm

A rare insight into some of the behind the scenes politics of animation schools...

...................


The school where I teach, as some of you know, is kind of the culprit in all of this -- the reason for the scorecard that has been created by the president.

The issue went something like this: Admissions reps would sell student loans to people who didn't quite know what they were getting into. The corporation who owned the student loan company also owned the schools. Students who barely made it through high school get into these for-profit schools that have virtually no admissions requirements. (No art portfolio required, only a 2.0 GPA, no SATs required...). These students would skim through their programs, graduate by the skin of their teeth, and of course not be able to get any kind of job even closely related to their field, and would default on the loans, and that burden fell upon the taxpayers. So the government sued Education Management Corporation (owned by Goldman Sachs.)

Now this school is telling students to write their congressmen and tell them to not pass the Gainful Employment law, saying that the government is trying to take away students' choices, when really that law protects students from the above-mentioned practices.

And of course the school's way of cutting costs is to lay off all their full time faculty and rehire them as adjuncts, which does hurt the quality of the education. (Undermining the morale and loyalty of the faculty.)

A bit off subject -- forgive me -- but thought y'all might want to know the reason for the pressure.
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Re: How animation educators see things

Postby Charles » Sun Jul 20, 2014 8:32 pm

As I reviewed the comments I posted above I realize that there's more topical activity in regards to alternatives such as being independent, but not much is expounded in that direction. But progress is being made judging from some of these educators' thoughts.

At my school, The Animation Academy in Burbank, our discussions are very balanced in terms of studio employment, work for hire situations, developing a client base, and taking advantage of the crowdfunding phenomenon in regards to personal projects and launching original content. In many ways we are and have been way ahead of the curve in addressing issues and situations that other schools delve into lightly or not at all.

In any case, I hope you find this interesting and helpful. If you're a student at an animation school and you feel you're not getting all the info you need to make solid decisions about your career and the paths that are available to artists today, consider challenging the conventional thinking with some non-conventional discussions. You'll be better for it and I'm sure your colleagues will appreciate the incentive.

Good luck to all and of course... Keep Creating! That's the ticket to success no matter where your journey leads you. :D
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Re: How animation educators see things

Postby Charles » Sun Aug 10, 2014 7:56 pm

Thought I'd add some new comments that have come in concerning the topic of how animation educators see things...

........

I think the question is:

How do we prepare them for their first job?
How do we give them the skills that will allow them to keep current and employed through their last job?

I agree that good drawing, design, storytelling and animation skills are essential. But what is difficult is getting their technical skills and 3D animation skills to a high enough level to get hired. Teaching them to research, find the relevant online sites and self train will allow them to keep jobs. (as well as learning to be a nice person.)

Steve Hickner has a great section in his book on the ideal employee - high skill, low maintenance. How do we teach to that value?

I'm not sure the industry is changing as quickly as it used to, but I think, upon the ability to generate "reality" and the increasing complexity of the images, the question is how do we get them (the students) there in the same brief time that they have in school. That to me is the harder challenge. That and an increasingly older, experienced and talented workforce available to compete against.

.......

Also...

.......

I still say that if we continue to teach them good drawing, design, storytelling, and animation principles, they can adapt to software changes and general changes in the industry.
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Re: How animation educators see things

Postby Charles » Mon Aug 11, 2014 8:59 am

More viewpoints from educators...

.............

First jobs are the first step on the ladder--and they are never the last. If students are only taught to minimum standard, they will never achieve more. It is best to have the training for the future.

.............

There is of course this annoying issue that without a first job, there will be no others. But yes, we should definitely avoid teaching only button pushing which almost ensures that the first job will be the last.

I hope this essential discussion will be well documented for people unable to attend this years conference.

(Thanks to AN it will)

.............

I don't think teaching just button pushing is ever and educational goal for me - but I guess there are places out there that do that. To be honest, there was a time that would get you your first job but not anymore.

I think we should always be teaching the art of animation, not a specific method or software.

.............
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Re: How animation educators see things

Postby Charles » Mon Aug 11, 2014 9:23 am

Educators' comments keep on coming...

............

I could not agree more. Here at our college we teach the fundamentals of animation; both traditional and computer. In the short 2 years a student is with us we want to make him or her a lifetime learner of animation. We hope to infuse the passion to create; not just what a student can learn from a DVD or web tutorial.
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Re: How animation educators see things

Postby Charles » Mon Aug 11, 2014 11:44 pm

The conversation continues with some of the top animation educators in the field...

............

I am approaching my 39th year anniversary in the industry. I can tell you that students who do not learn animation/artistic skills are hampered from the start. Software is not that important. Studios teach or update software all the time. They do not teach animation or art. They will offer classes to keep skills sharp but that's it.

Some folks talk about how important it is to be creative... a person with more artistic/animation skills is in a much better position to be creative.

...........

Another comment from an educator...

...........

The only studios that teach software anymore are the ones that have proprietary tools in their pipeline. The industry is no longer like it was 20 years ago, where if you had animation skills a studio would hire you and teach you Maya/Max/Softimage/whatever. There are too many good artists out there who also have the technical/tools skills, and students schooled only in traditional techniques are at a disadvantage. The best programs strike a balance between teaching animation technique and skill and software skills.

I've had plenty of students who had completed "art skills only" programs and were phenomenal artists, but couldn't find a job because they didn't know how to use Photoshop, or Maya, or Flash, or whatever. Heck, even using a Wacom tablet is a necessity these days.

A tools-only program also doesn't serve the student well - knowing which button to push doesn't help you at all if you don't know when or why to push it. But any program that doesn't train their students to be at least minimally functional in the software tools they will encounter every day on the job is just as big a disservice to its students.
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Re: How animation educators see things

Postby Charles » Tue Aug 12, 2014 12:15 pm

More shared thoughts from educators...

..........

You are right... there should be a balance in their education. A teacher/ school should always examine industry practices and needs and then determine how to proceed (if they want their students to get jobs).

The Gobelins School in Paris is probably the best example of an extremely effective 2D program that has morphed in the best CG program. They teach the student 2D/ artistic skills and then layer the CG on top. This approach allows the students to learn how to animate, embrace and internalize the fundamentals before learning technical aspects.
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Re: How animation educators see things

Postby SNAKEBITE » Wed Aug 20, 2014 5:16 pm

There's a lot of official talk about being an employee. The use of the word "balance" is ironic considering the utter lack of balance of perspective.

I get it too. Old programming is hard to get rid of...without the "proper training"...hahaha

More independent thinkers will lead the way. People who want to fight for this new employee go for it...Seems like they are setting us up for even more abuse...Hey man, there's always more people to take your place. Lets keep those monopolies in place. More desperate people means more competitive bottom lines. Win Win for...well, not everyone....for a few no doubt. Getting the students ready to kiss their toes.
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Re: How animation educators see things

Postby Charles » Thu Aug 21, 2014 1:41 am

Tends to be one sided doesn't it. I've noticed that for a long time. The educational influence is heavy on getting a job within the system. Not much there in terms of developing an Independent Economy or taking advantage of alternative approaches to content creation and revenue generation.

A lot of people are succeeding in ways other than work for hire situations.

On the other hand, salaries in general at the studios here in town are at an all time high. Artists are making big bucks working as employees. A friend stopped by yesterday and told me what his new gig is paying. I can understand why artists would want to go that route.

Still, the one point perspective in the halls of academia are not entirely serving the best interests of their students. Check out what a group of teenage artists were able to do with a crowdfunding campaign that wrapped up just a couple of hours ago...

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/grim ... card-game/

While their contemporaries are hard at work trying to get that studio job and dealing with massive student debt, they're already creating on a professional level and making money.

If a 17 year old artists is this successful with their own property through a crowdfunding campaign imagine where they'll be at 25.

The artists being trained for work for hire will come knocking on their door looking for a job.
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Re: How animation educators see things

Postby SNAKEBITE » Thu Aug 21, 2014 11:26 am

Is she hiring? put a good word in for me! hhahahaha thats awesome!
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