Animating for the future
Young animators weigh in on the struggles of working while their industry is in flux, chat about changes they want to make, and share the phrases they never want to see in their emails again.
As the world collects itself after a year of disruption, change, and transformation, young animators find their footing in the swiftly-changing industry.
We spoke to nearly a dozen young animators as they reflect on their future. Many of them remarked on the way that the pandemic, and being at home, forced them to evaluate their art and work. Young animators weren’t beaten by lockdown, instead, they approached it as a time to develop their own craft, finding their footing in an increasingly unstable industry.
Vin Kim, an Art Director and animator working at Scholar, says, “I had a lot of moments where I didn't know what to do since I couldn't go out, and I ended up spending more time in front of the computer experimenting, learning, practicing, and trying new things out.”
“I feel like I started producing more work in my downtime which began as a way to destress and take a break from the screen,” says Katie Heady, of Carbon. “I’ve also gotten invested in making comics about my mental health and experiences. It’s been a great outlet for me and it was really amazing to see such a positive response from my friends and followers… The pandemic has really hit people hard in so many ways and it’s cool to see that my comics, which were originally just me venting, can also help somebody get through their day.”
Connections were also important to the animators. Prevented from attending festivals and other networking opportunities, many buckled down to create an environment of collaboration and communication within their own teams, making sure to check in on their co-workers as people and not just as teammates. Euiyoung Kim, working as a 2D Compositor at Awesome Inc, reminds me that, “animation is a constant collaboration process between different talents and having kind, talented, and professional teammates has really encouraged me to become a better teammate myself.”
Exploring their own creative process, I asked what they consider to be the best part of being an animator. Urja Vakta, a 23-year-old freelance animator/illustrator responds that “the best part of being an animator is enjoying the plasticity and the playfulness of the medium.”
It’s strange how much physics applies to this medium, and it feels like a great cross of technical application and artistic subjectivity. —Emily Kundrot
“The absolute best part of being an animator is breathing life into something inherently flat and lifeless,” explains Madison Kelly, who goes by MGK, a Designer/Animator for Scholar. “The magic of scooting keyframes all day, and then finally seeing it come to life is one of the most rewarding feelings that will never get old, and something I’ll chase for the rest of my life.”
Emily Kundrot, of XYZ, the in-house production studio at Arts & Letters has similar feelings. “I love being able to articulate how different drawings move. There’s so many possibilities to how you can choose to animate something, and each movement can add a ton of personality to a character or object. It’s strange how much physics applies to this medium, and it feels like a great cross of technical application and artistic subjectivity. Once you start animating a drawing, it’s very difficult to go back to drawing still images!”
Belen Saenz de Viteri, of Awesome Inc, would disagree. Her straightforward answer; “Drawing!”
The group is optimistic. They’re not shying away from the struggles of working from home, but they’re all adjusting. Animation, which is and always will be, a team sport, has encouraged every animator to adapt fast. But they’re not content to be the only things changing, and the industry is going to have to adapt to what these young animators want.
Young animators weren’t beaten by lockdown, instead, they approached it as a time to develop their own craft, finding their footing in an increasingly unstable industry.
Kundrot says, “currently there’s a lot of pressure on newer and lesser-known artists to create and publish “everdays”, which are small drawings or compositions put together in one day. I feel this is counterproductive to someone trying to learn on their own and prioritizes speed and social media likes over personal improvement.”
Kundrot worked as a cel animator on Daymaker, produced the shot for the dancing feet (from :39-:41) and animated 2D flourishes for the 3D tunnel sequence.
Hailing from Canada, Drew Wiebe, of Buck, remarks, “I think often animators still in school or just starting out take jobs that don't pay them enough. I get that's so much easier said than done, but when I was just starting out and taking some occasional freelance work I definitely took jobs where I ended up working countless hours for free. Despite what I thought of the opportunity, in the beginning, it was never worth it in the end.”
De Veteri adds that she’d like to see the phrases, “Can you make this logo for free?” or “You’ll be paid in exposure!” removed from her emails, permanently.
If I could remove one word from a client brief, it would be ‘soon’. —Paola Chen Li
Heady takes a more internal approach to change. “I look forward to more diverse voices in the industry. We need to include more diverse voices in our work in order to show art that reflects the world we live in. Ads should not play it safe. The industry needs to wake up and see all the people they’re excluding.”
E. Kim agrees “ I would like to see more diversity in everything! In stories, designs, casts, and everything else that makes an animation project. I believe that there is much more we can do to diversify what we do. I’m looking forward to being a part of that, and to witnessing it.” Vakta adds that she “looks forward to telling more stories of inclusivity while promoting the uniqueness of individuality.”
Euiyoung Kim worked as a compositor and clean-up animator on Polaris.
The asks on animator’s time are massive. Everyone wants something different, and expectations are often set to different standards across people’s imaginations. When asked what words they could strike from their briefs, instructions, or emails, the answers show how a lack of communication is often the core problem, not the intention.
MGK hates when someone says to “make it pop.” Wiebe would like to add “make it fun,” to the list of phrases she never wants to hear again. Her co-worker, Paola Chen Li, says “If I could remove one word from a client brief, it would be ‘soon’. Even though we can get a good piece out in a short amount of time, we all know we can get an even better one if we were given more time!”
That seems to be the common thread here. Throughout every animator’s answers, all their struggles, they now know that they have time to make their art, and their careers, work for them. With WFH setups becoming common, remote work is now the norm, and it seems like out of all the creative roles out there in the ad industry, animators are in a perfect position to take advantage of the shift. Young animators across America, and the world, are creating a new kind of work environment, one built on collaboration and collective energy, and the industry better be taking notes.