Monday, January 13, 2014

Renewed Vision

I’ve been trying to figure out what exactly happened in the last few weeks. My attitude toward my goal of entering the world of animation has shifted dramatically, very suddenly.

I’ve been in LA for five months now, but it’s only been since the last month or so that I’ve been aggressively educating myself on the industry and the art. I’ve been reading blog articles by professionals in the field. I’ve been buying books on storyboarding and on how the industry works. I’ve been listening to multiple podcasts every day about what’s going on in Disney, Pixar, and other studios. I’ve bought DVDs of movies just so I can listen to the commentary tracks. I’ve learned about blocking and staging and layout and lighting and all sort of other film related technobabble.

During the last few days, I’ve been trying to remember what caused this shift in momentum. Why did I spend four months in this city before I started buckling down and really devoting myself to learning? 

Then I remembered.

It was the arts and crafts show at Disney Feature. Evan Mayfield, who had been working at Disney Toon Studios, invited me to accompany him to an employee-and-family-only arts and crafts show in the Roy E. Disney Animation Building. The two of us have been making custom found-item lamps, and he both wanted some help setting up his display and said that I could set up some of my lamps for sale as well.

I had driven by this building many times in the past and had day-dreamed about going in, someday, maybe, perhaps. Maybe, someday, even working there. And now I was inside it, for the last reason I would have ever imagined. Because of my silly little side-project of making custom lamps.

I got to look around the offices there and see concept art for Frozen and for Big Hero Six, which doesn’t even have a trailer out yet. I saw John Lasseter’s office, which is full of figurines of Disney characters and all sorts of cool Disney knick-knacks. I got to see the personal artwork of artists who work there as they set up their booths for the show. It was all so much to take in that I felt more numb than anything. 

As the show started, all sorts of employees who work there came by and admired both Evans lamps and mine. Unfortunately, I didn’t have many models ready to display and I didn’t sell anything, but through the experience I learned two things: One, that people who work for Disney Animation are just regular folks, not super heroes or gods among men. And two, I gained some validation as an artist, through the accolades given by people checking out my lamps.

I talked to Evan about all this afterward, and he offered lots of encouragement for my goals that seemed so silly and ridiculous. Through it all I realized that there’s nothing stopping me from believing I can attain the dream of working there.

Something about that experience re-sparked the fire in me. I think I needed the recharge, after all the energy exerted in moving here. It took so much out of me to press through the challenges of just getting here, so much prayer and hope in trusting in the impossible, that I must have been burnt out. Walking into the studio, looking around, meeting and talking to people who work there, all brought back clarity to the original vision. 

That was the cause of all the drive moving me forward.

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