I get asked on a regular basis a few of the below questions:
-How old were you when you started working for Disney? 19. That was back in 1994.
-Where have you worked in the company? Disney Consumer Products (DCP) , Disney Feature Animation (Disney animation Studios) , Disney Toon Studios , Disney Stores* where I currently work as Principal Designer. *(and as a cast member at the Disney Store in high school!)
-Do you work in the computer? No, I work with pencil and paper believe it or not! :)
and , How did you get started? Any advice for someone just getting started in the industry? I answered this two part question recently and thought it might answer some of those questions for you as well.
This was a response to an email I received asking how I got into product design. I should mention that the industry has changed a lot since I got started. This is just my own personal experience.
I started at a really young age with Disney. Sometimes I wonder still how it all happened. I certainly didn’t really think I would ever be designing product. I went to CalArts to study character animation right after graduating high school, where the average age student entering was 24. At the end of my second year there was a job fair where a bunch of studios came up to visit our department. Disney animation was there, as was Disney Consumer Products (DCP). I applied to both even though at the time I planned to finish 4 years of college. DCP offered me a spot in a summer internship program right around the time Disney animation offered me an animation test on “Pocahontas”. I took the summer internship at DCP, which within a few weeks became a full time “Senior Character Artist” position. I jumped at the chance and didn’t return to school. That is something I wouldn’t necessarily advise people to do. But , it was my path at the time. That same week , Disney Animation called back to let me know they liked the test I had done for them and would like me to start work on Pocahontas, which was in production at the time. As I had just taken a job with DCP, my boss asked me to give them (DCP) a year and if I still wanted to go over to animation I could go after that. A year passed and I knew I belonged in animation. Luckily Disney animation held a spot for me on “Hunchback of Notre Dame”. That was my first film of many until they let us all go at the end of 2003 after “Home on the Range” when Disney animation went digital.
Looking for a way to keep drawing, I started at Disney Toon Studios where I worked on a few films both on the animation crew and in character design. I had also started freelancing again for DCP when a job for the Disney Stores came up. I had never designed product before, but I could draw, had disney experience and had an eye for good design. I was offered the job and was SO excited, then freaked out that I had no idea if I would be a good fit for what the job required. Luckily everything turned out fine and I’ve been here ever since.
So you see, I really took a non traditional road to where I am today. The hardest thing to do for most people is to figure out what they want to do and go after it. Most people at 19 are just figuring that out. Looking back at myself at that age, I am surprised I made all that happen. Take your time, find a path that works for you. There are schools with great art programs and also programs for product design. So if that is what you ultimately want to do, find the right school and DRAW!
Some general advice I would give anyone looking to get into the industry. Draw from life. Go to life drawing classes, the mall and sketch people, the zoo and draw animals. All of it! It’s good to know how to draw disney characters. But unless you totally understand the human body or anatomy it’s hard to come up with new poses. Learn to properly draw hands and feet. It sounds funny. But, in portfolio reviews over at animation, they would immediately pass over someones work who seemed to be hiding the hands and feet in their life drawings. Study product and design. Figure out what you like and don’t like about a particular item. Or, maybe think about how you would make it better! Learn photoshop and illustrator. I’m a dinosaur in the industry and still work at a big animation desk using pencil and paper. Also remember, there are also a lot of smaller companies that work on Disney product. So don’t limit yourself to only looking to Disney for work in the future. There may be a company near you that is a Disney licensee that would need a great designer.
Hope some of this info helps.
The folks over at the Disney Insider blog gave me and some of the “Sketchbook Ornaments" I designed for the Disney Stores a little shout out this morning. Thanks, guys! I say “some”, because most of them have sold out by now. Hopefully you didn’t wait too long to get your favorite!
disney prinat the individual panels of art I created for D23. Happy holidays from myself, Belle, Beast and D23. #23DaysOfDisneyChristmas
Released a little early as part of the press release for D23’s “23 Days of Disney Christmas” on D23.com is the art I created for this special occasion. The theme this year was “perfect gift”. In other words, what would the perfect gift be for one of your favorite characters? I chose Belle. And what better gift for her than a library card from Beast? Hope you enjoy. :)
Below is a list of some of the other super talented people i’ve been included with:
Disney Television Animation character designer Tara Billinger, who works on the new Mickey Mouse cartoon shorts, crafted a colorful holiday scene with the “fab six” (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Pluto, and Goofy-with a “hidden Oswald” thrown in) carting their sleigh through the snow, ready to unwrap some holiday delights. Disney Consumer Products principal artist Steven Thompson presents a delightful illustration of Beast giving Belle her “ultimate gift”: a library card! Other participating creative talents from around the world of Disney include producer Don Hahn (The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast), Disney Master ArtistDave Pacheco, Wander Over Yonder executive producer/creator Craig McCracken, Monsters University production designerRicky Nierva, Disney Consumer Products lead artist Anthony Whitfield, Disney Television Animation’s Andy Suriano (Mickey Mouse cartoon shorts), Cris Bernabe-Sanchez of Disney Corporate Creative Resources, Monsters University character design art director Jason Deamer, and Gravity Falls storyboard artist Sabrina Cotugno-along with more than a dozen other Disney talents.
Happy Birthday, Walt! I can not thank this man enough for giving me the childhood I had, and inspiring me to have the career I have today. I learned that “if you dream it, you can do it.” Watching Disney films as a child, I knew the only thing I ever wanted to do was draw and work for Disney when I grew up. Now, going on almost 20 years doing just that, I am so very thankful for Walt Disney and the legacy he helped create.
Once again I am honored to be included in the D23 “23 Days of Disney Christmas”. Each holiday season they feature artwork created especially for this event by different artists from all over the company. There are some talented people included, and it really is a huge honor to be among them. To follow along each day, click here to go to the “23 Days” main page on D23.com. Scroll down to see new art each day! I’m not sure which day my art will be posted. But, I will be sure to let you know as soon as it goes up.
As an added bonus, this year there is a sweepstakes to go along with the celebration. see below for info.
This year D23 is giving away one officially embossed reproduction of each piece of art from our 23 Days of Disney Christmas series, and you can enter for a chance to win! The theme is “The Ultimate Gift,” so your prize will be a sketch of a Disney character receiving their dream holiday gift.
Click here for more info and how to enter. Make sure to enter, and good luck!
Until I can share with you the art I created , Click here to see the post I did about the art I created last year. Hope you like what I have in store for this year. It’s a real, beauty. ;)
Elsa. . Final clean up drawing. Pencil and paper.
One more before I leave on vacation. A few sketches I did of sisters Anna and Elsa from Frozen. These were drawn early in the process of character development on the girls. For product we start concepts and development about 12-16 months out from the film release date. In this case character art was needed for application on product we were working on at the time. Since the characters are 3D in the film, translating them to traditional 2D presented a bit of a challenge. Especially since at this time the final look of the characters was still evolving.
Between work and trapeze rehearsal, my plate has been SUPER full lately. You can see my drawing hand pictured here. Yikes! So, I am officially on vacation until after Thanksgiving. Have a happy holiday. See you soon! I’ll see if I can dig up a drawing or two I can post while finishing up at work today.
With just 160 posts, I’ve somehow been able to attract 3,000 followers to my little Tumblr. I wanted to take a quick second to say……..
Thank you for taking the time to check out my art. You know I’m a huge Disney fan myself, so I want to make sure I’m doing my best with every project I work on and everything I share with you all.
I promise a lot more fun Disney stuff coming your way really soon. Stay tuned!