Celebrating 15 Years of Animation Mentor
As you do with any important birthday, we’ve decided to celebrate 15 years of Animation Mentor all year long! We’ll continue reflecting on what this milestone means for our community by sharing Q&As with alumni, mentors, and students.
Today we checked in with Greg Kyle and Dave Burgess, two of our longest-serving mentors. Enjoy!
The Mentor Experience
What do you love about teaching at AM?
Greg Kyle: What I most love about teaching at AM is seeing the work improve over a semester. Sometimes it’s almost unbelievable. The last bunch of years I have been mentoring Class 3, Advanced Body Mechanics. I have seen assignments at the start of a semester where a jump & landing didn’t have believable weight, timing, or force, and overall just wasn’t working very well. Eight weeks later that same student has an assignment where the character is running, dive-rolling, climbing, flipping etc. and it looks great! All the fundamentals are working. I get a kick out of that. It’s the students’ work, but I really enjoy being a part of that growth.
What I most love about teaching at AM is seeing the work improve over a semester. -Greg Kyle
Another aspect of mentoring with AM that I really enjoy is that I am reminded of what it was like to be a student. The insecurities, the unknowns, the desire to succeed—all are things that I forget about the older I get. AM helps me really appreciate being an animator. I get paid to make characters bounce around and say silly things. What better creative job is there?
Dave Burgess: I love being able to share what I’ve learned in my many years of animating with students who are just starting their journey into animation. I usually teach Class 5, Advanced Acting, and it’s a joy to see those “lightbulb moments” when a workflow or process really lands with a student. I also love watching AM grads make their way in the industry. I work with many—including some who have taken my class. 🙂
It’s a joy to see those “lightbulb moments” when a workflow or process really lands with a student. -Dave Burgess
Trends in Animation
In your time as a mentor, what’s one positive trend you’ve seen?
DB: I am happy to say that the balance of male to female animators has shifted considerably since AM began. In the early days, it was quite common to get classes made up entirely of dudes. Now the split is often closer to 50/50, men/women, which is so awesome! On my last project, The Lego Movie 2, our animation team was split 50/50, men/women—I am really proud of that.
Students know there are AM alumni all throughout the animation industry now. Between film studios, game studios, tv studios, domestic work, oversees work etc. there are jobs out there and AM grads are a part of it. – Greg Kyle
GK: A positive trend I’ve seen since I started with AM way back in ’05 is that there is less doubt in the process. I used to get questions in the Q&As or privately asking if they were doing the right thing. “Is this the best way to become an animator? Are there going to be jobs? Is mo-cap going to make key frame animation obsolete?”. I don’t get those questions anymore. Students know there are AM alumni all throughout the animation industry now. Between film studios, game studios, tv studios, domestic work, oversees work etc. there are jobs out there and AM grads are a part of it.
Advice from the Pros
What advice would you give to an animator who’s just starting out?
GK: The advice I’d give to any animator starting out is work your butt off. I think one in a million animators might have a gift where everything comes easy and everything they animate looks great. The rest of us, especially as students and junior animators, need to put in the hours, make the mistakes, learn from the mistakes, figure how to take a piece of animation that’s not looking right and make it look good.
I think one in a million animators might have a gift where everything comes easy and everything they animate looks great. The rest of us, especially as students and junior animators, need to put in the hours. -Greg Kyle
I had a great opportunity to be a summer intern at Chuck Jones Film Productions while I was an animation student. Chuck Jones wasn’t there on a day to day basis, but he came in a few times during the summer to talk to us 5 interns. He had many stories about the old days, but one of the things he talked about that I will always remember was that he believed everyone could draw. “Everyone has good drawings in them, the problem is that there are about 10,000 bad drawings in the way of the good ones. The more you draw, the closer you get to the good drawings coming out”.
I believe this translates to a lot of things in life, including CG animation. There are no magic buttons. There is no substitution for the experience of figuring things out for yourself. Yes, getting good instruction and guidance is very helpful and important, but very little will come of that if you don’t put the work in.
Work hard and be open, positive, and collaborative. Those are some of the key things that any studio looks for in an artist. -Dave Burgess
DB: Keep your long term goal in mind, but be open to any opportunities. Any job will give you experience and ‘miles on the pencil’ and help you get closer to being what your dream studio is looking for. Also work hard and be open, positive, and collaborative. Those are some of the key things that any studio looks for in an artist.
Start your animation journey today by learning from animators at studios like Pixar, Blue Sky, and ILM! Get more information about Animation Mentor’s Character Animation Program.