GUESS WHAT?? We’re Celebrating our 15th anniversary and we’re SO EXCITED about it!
Our story goes like this:
Founded by professional Pixar and Industrial Light & Magic animators, Animation Mentor first opened its doors on March 27th, 2005. Our Co-Founders, Bobby Beck, Shawn Kelly, and Carlos Baena, wanted to create an online school where anyone in the world who wanted to learn animation could do so. It was the first online animation school of its kind and has produced a multitude of talented graduates, many of whom work at top studios like Pixar, Sony, ILM, and BlueSky.
- A lot has happened since 2005! Take a look:
- 2005 – Animation Mentor is founded, and then the first ever YouTube video is uploaded (it’s called “Me at the zoo”)
- 2006 – Twitter joins the internet and Pluto is downgraded from a Planet to a dwarf planet by The International Astronomical Union—we still believe in you Pluto!
- 2007 – Apple Introduces The iPhone and the word “Hashtag” is added to the dictionary
- 2008 – Iron Man premiers to rave reviews and Call of Duty: World at War (the first of the series) comes out
- 2009 – Pixar’s Up becomes the first computer-animated feature to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture
- 2010 – Instagram gets its start and DreamWorks releases How to Train Your Dragon
- 2011 – Minecraft goes live and continues to grow in popularity to this day
- 2012 – The Avengers, the first epic Marvel crossover movie, is released in May
- 2013 – Disney’s Paperman wins Best Animated Short Film at the Academy Awards
- 2014 – Frozen is released and “Let it Go” gets stuck in heads worldwide
- 2015 – Netflix releases its first feature length film, Beasts of No Nation, starring Idris Elba, and Hamilton debuts on Broadway
- 2016 – Nintendo releases Pokémon Go and the Chicago Cubs win the World Series for the first time in 108 years
- 2017 – Wonder Woman has the biggest opening ever for a movie directed by a woman ($100.5 million debut)
- 2018 – Incredibles 2 is finally released, over a decade after The Incredibles premiered
- 2019 – Sony releases Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, using a revolutionary mix of 2D, 3D, and hand-drawn animation techniques to create a new style of animated film
- 2020 – Animation Mentor turns 15 years old!
Our Co-Founders Weigh In
In honor of the occasion, we asked our three wonderful Co-Founders to share a little about the Animation Mentor journey. Read on for some inspiring animation thoughts!
How do you think Animation Mentor has evolved in the last 15 years?
Carlos Baena: Both the company and the community have evolved along with the industry. It’s clear animation students are able to pick up animation and acting concepts a lot faster than when we started the school.
Bobby Beck: Wow, from the moment we imagined it we never imagined it would have such a dramatically positive impact on the industry. I know that was our biggest dream for it, but seeing that come to fruition is touching, humbling and exciting.
Many of the team members are the same, others have been with us for a few years, and some have moved on. Overall, though, I’m proud to say the vibe, passion and energy still shine through in a big, big way. It’s what keeps me engaged and wanting to give my all. I think we all feel that way. We’ve become fully trusting of each other so we can be open and honest about anything no matter how long someone’s been in the company. That creates such a fantastic environment for myself AND the team to work in. I think that’s why many of the team members have been with us for 10-15 years!
Right out of the gate, we were careful to create an environment that could foster easy feedback and friendships the way Bobby, Carlos, and I had found each other in school. -Shawn Kelly
Shawn Kelly: Fifteen years ago, so much of what this school has become was still just a dream for us, and our community was in its infancy. Right out of the gate, we were careful to create an environment that could foster easy feedback and friendships the way Bobby, Carlos, and I had found each other in school. Fifteen years later, there are not only many hundreds of friendships that have been forged through the school, but I’ve lost track of the number of marriages! The mentors, peer buddies, and students have made the community their own, creating an unparalleled support network that just blows my mind. It’s probably the aspect of the school that I’m the most proud of, and the thing I hear most from students about as one of the things that really makes the school special.
What impresses you most about our students and alumni?
BB: The community at Animation Mentor is my favorite thing. As it has evolved it’s become its own thing in such a great way. We used to have to help push people to engage and make friends but, as time has gone on, we’ve seen the community give itself an identity. One that is supportive, encouraging and understanding. They don’t just learn animation, they’re making real friends and connections. Shawn, Carlos and I always had high hopes that this would happen and it did pretty quickly.
Now there are people who have met through Animation Mentor who’ve gotten married and have had kids! Over two dozen marriages now from folks who met through the school. That’s outstanding in our book and that’s something we have no influence over all at all, that’s part of that organic quality that comes from an engaged, passionate community.
The community at Animation Mentor is my favorite thing…We used to have to help push people to engage and make friends but, as time has gone on, we’ve seen the community give itself an identity. -Bobby Beck
CB: Originality when it comes to Acting. Every year I see animation tests that impress me constantly. Additionally, the degree of support within our community, which also includes an incredible Animation Mentor staff which year after year have been there helping our students.
SK: What DOESN’T impress me about our students? I dare you to find me a community of artists with a stronger work ethic, more positive attitude, or a higher willingness to help each other. Seeing their name in the credits of nearly every film or show I see, and every game or VR experience I play is the true testament of their talents. I’m beyond proud of them!
Where do you think animation is headed next?
SK: I think integrating 2D elements and style even further into CG work (à la Spider-Verse, Peanuts, and Connected) will continue to reshape what we think of as possible in CG, and continue to bring even more of a sense of artistry to the work. I also really hope projects like La Noria open the doors of western animation up to a wider range of genres. Both of those ideas feel like they can redefine what animation is, at least to western audiences, and create so many new opportunities to push this art form we all love so much!
My hope is for studios to keep taking chances in their stories, to be bold, to think outside the box. -Carlos Baena
CB: My hope is for studios to keep taking chances in their stories, to be bold, to think outside the box. I feel we are slowly getting there. When it comes to our animators, I always think of animation as a vehicle for actors. So finding creative and original ways to keep making us feel and be entertained as audiences.
What is the future of Animation Mentor?
BB: The Animation Mentor platform has evolved a great deal over the last decade and a half. I finally feel like it’s living up to the vision we had in those early days; i.e. tools that make it easy for students and mentors to give each other feedback by drawing right on their work, a super tight pipeline that’s integrated into the platform that gives mentors access to the student’s files while also teaching them important lessons about how to work in a professional studio grade pipeline.
We have a lot more planned and we’re just so honored that Animation Mentor has such a positive reputation. It’s something we fight for and that keeps us on our toes working to provide an incredible learning experience to our students, mentors and teams that lives beyond their expectations. That’s our motivation and what drives us daily!
Overall, what has this journey been like for you?
CB: Over the last 15 years, Animation Mentor has always given me the gift of meeting incredible people in our Industry and around the world. It’s something I never take for granted. I always hope students and alumni feel their Animation Mentor journey is worthwhile and they feel excited to enter the Industry. We get to work in the most special art form.
I’m beyond lucky to have done a few things in my life that I can be proud of, but there is nothing that fills me with more pride than being one of the Co-Founders of Animation Mentor. -Shawn Kelly
SK: I’m beyond lucky to have done a few things in my life that I can be proud of, but there is nothing that fills me with more pride than being one of the Co-Founders of Animation Mentor. Watching students hunt and catch their dreams, seeing alumni as Animation Directors on some of my all-time favorite films and games, having made hundreds and hundreds of friendships along this journey and so many relationships that are incredibly special to me, getting to work with the best school staff in the world and being a part of that family…it’s all kind of overwhelming, and I’m just incredibly thankful to be along for the ride with all of you. I can’t believe it’s been 15 years. Here’s to the next 15!
Thank you to our amazing students, experienced mentors, passionate staff, and global community of artists for all the support you’ve given us these past 15 years! You are the reason we’re here and the reason we love coming to work everyday.
We hope you continue to create beautiful art and share it with the world. We’ll be cheering you on when you do!
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.