Darcy Vorhees, Flaming Medusa
I took art classes since I was in grade school, got a bachelor’s degree from Pratt, studying film with a concentration in animation. After (and during) college I learned how a studio works by working as a studio assistant in a small studio, and how freelancing works by freelancing. I learned how to produce projects by jumping into it with Animator’s Ink in New York City. After deciding to start my own company, I took some business classes offered by Bad Girl Ventures, a not-for-profit in Cincinnati that focuses on educating female business owners and facilitating start up capital for their businesses. I also have learned from every job I have ever had. I am still learning to this day, and have more to learn after that.
Gabriel Polonsky, Gabrial Polonsky Studios
I am self-taught and from the school of hard knocks. My parents are both well-known fine artists and educators so I grew up around art of all kinds. I began animating, sculpting, drawing, painting, and film-making when I was about 3 and never stopped. As a professional, I have had the great fortune to work with some of the best people in the industry, collaboration is one of the best ways to learn. Otherwise, (as I tell my students) keep your eyes and mind wide open, the answer to every creative question is out there. Formal education is wonderful (I have been teaching college animation and art courses for 18 years) but NEVER discredit or underestimate your own ability to teach yourself and trust and develop your natural talent.
Jerry Chambless, Illum
Well before I say this, I want to state that formal education has its place, but there are many avenues for training in this or any industry. I have a BA in Advertising & Marketing from Northwood University & a BFA from Ringling College. During my first degree, I actually worked in advertising firms gathering as much real world experience as I could so I wouldn’t be pigeon-holed as education without experience. After working several years as a designer & art director, my wife saw that I was burning out & took my portfolio to Ringling after a conversation we had about my love for cinema & animation. She got me admitted before I knew. A road trip later & I found that I was going back to college. However to this day I am constantly learning & training on my craft.
Stephen Fishman, Mac and Cheez
I went to film school and really didn't learn too much about the tools or techniques that I use on a regular basis today. But, since I graduated, quite a bit more animation software is being taught in schools. There were people using Alias Wavefront, and USC did have a Quantel Domino as well, but we spent a lot of time on ancient Moviolas and Flatbed editors (some linear tape editors as well). Avid had just been released and getting access to this new software and the requisite instruction meant being in grad school or taking special electives on top of a full schedule.
In other words, I didn't learn much in school aside from rudimentary lighting, composition and editing concepts. I learned a lot of what I know on the job and on my own time. Never rely on school to get you where you need to go. You need to be creating your own individual work outside of the curriculum and assignments. Speculative work is what got me where I am today, something interesting to put on your reel. There are some schools that emphasize portfolio building but you still need to be entrepreneurial and hustle like crazy.
Joddy Eric, Madwerkz
In my life I’ve studied cinematography and film focusing on the science of light and the qualities of the photochemical process. I have a degree in Design and continue to enhance my skills with workshop/online studies through FxPhd, Digital Tutors and Autodesk University.
Jeff Williams, Parallax
I began animating as a very young child. I remember making a stick figure animation in the corner of an elementary school English book and getting my hand whacked by a nun's ruler. I mowed lawns at two bucks a pop to save up for a $49 Baia editor's reel at K-mart, to edit 8mm film and stop-motion stuff, and that was truly one of the best educations of my life. It gave me a sense of how much movement per frame looked right when running real-time, cutting film with a knife, and it serves me to this day as I map out a scene in my mind and on the timeline of my CGI software.
Really, true life experience is THE BEST. Though I got a lot of good experience at the Art Institute in KC, nothing compared to my own crude animations I produced in my little room at my mom's house in Springfield, MO in the 70's.
Charles Gaushell, Paradigm Productions
Bachelor of Architecture with a minor in Finance. A lot of long nights and weekends to learn CAD (Datacad and AutoCad), 3D (Lightwave3D), 2d programs (everything Adobe), editing, multimedia, web development, etc. And many years of working with clients to develop analysis tools for helping them clearly define their business, service, product or project. Others in our firm come from a variety of backgrounds – graphic design, fine arts, land planning, film school, and self-taught.
Tawd B. Dorenfeld, Polymorph Productions
I graduated NYU in Film and Animation. I was in the last class not to work on computers circa '92 - '96. So upon graduation I took an internship at a small company Animation NYC. They had a good amount of Macs and I got to sit and teach myself AE 3 and Photoshop 3 by making my own animated short. After that I moved to LA and with my old Mac continued to practice animation and filmmaking everyday like piano. I only took art related gigs to give myself a drive to know people and constant practice of the art. I really believe it was all that, that gave me the full education to know I was a honed, and responsible animator. You can animate like the best, but if you do not have the discipline to complete a task then you are a talent without hands.
Brad Graeber, Powerhouse Animation
Personally, I went to the Visualization Sciences graduate program at Texas A&M. That being said, I want to express again, that animation has more to do with putting in the time creating the animation. If you are looking for a school, try to find one that puts you through the paces. You need a lot of studio art hours and time invested in working on portfolio pieces to be able to hit the ground running when you enter the work force.