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Do You Need Natural Talent To Be A Good Animator?

by | Oct 10, 2018

We asked former student, current mentor, and Blue Sky Studios animator Dan Segarra, “Do you need natural born talent to be a good animator?” He took it to the studio and asked five animators at various stages in their careers—here’s what they had to say!

I think we all know that the answer to this question is a big resounding NO. Maybe you just need to hear it from someone to believe it.

Animating well is HARD. It takes a lot of practice and studying to understand. Whether you have a knack for it or not you will put in many hours trying to master it. However, talent is definitely not a requirement.
Well don’t just take it from me. To show this, I’ve asked a few of the many excellent animators at Blue Sky Studios what three things are needed to be a good animator. Since I didn’t want to influence them, I asked them if talent is needed AFTER they gave me their answers. Here’s what I found.

Jeff Gabor’s Peanut’s Movie animation reel.

Jeff Gabor (Supervising Animator)

Jeff’s Vimeo Channel

Me: What three things are needed to be a good animator?

Humility – accept that you can be better
Strong Workflow – one that allows you to adapt to changes and different challenges
Creativity – show this in your animation choices and your decision making

Me: What about talent?

Jeff: Animation is a skill that can be learned.

Jin Kum’s Hotel Transylvania animation process.

Jin Kum (Lead Animator)

Jin’s Vimeo Channel

Me: What three things are needed to be a good animator?

Persistency – “I struggled through my failure to get better”
Planning – be prepared before animating
Feedback – show early and show often

Me: What about talent?

Jin: Working hard will get you there. I believe everyone has the potential to be a good animator.

Garrett Shikuma’s Rio 2 animation reel.

Garrett Shikuma (Senior Animator)

Garrett’s Vimeo Channel

Me: What three things are needed to be a good animator?

Make Time to Study – learn what it is that makes good quality animation
Learn to Draw – this is valuable so you can communicate visually from your imagination
Don’t Underestimate the Principles

Me: Do you need talent?

Garrett: No. Talent might make it quicker, but determination, grit, and repetition are needed to get to your destination.

Theresa Adolph’s Ferdinand animation reel.

Theresa Adolph (Animator)

Theresa’s Vimeo Channel

Me: What three things are needed to be a good animator?

Self Motivation – have the desire and passion to want to improve
Determination – push yourself to get better
Make Mistakes – don’t be afraid to fail; and when you do, keep moving forward

Me: What about talent?

Theresa: Maybe you start with artistic sensibilities, but after that it’s about self-discipline and pushing forward.

Daniel Ceballos’s Spring 2018 Demo Reel

Daniel Ceballos (Animation Intern)

Daniel’s Vimeo Channel

Me: What three things are needed to be a good animator?

Collaboration – feeling comfortable reaching out to others and applying their feedback
Observation – develop a passion to observe and analyze movement
Thick Skin – every crit rips you to shreds; take those broken pieces and make something better

Me: What about talent?

Daniel: It’s more about pushing through and reaching your goal with the course of time.

My Ferdinand Animation Reel

Me (Animator)

Dan’s Vimeo Channel

Study – learn what makes something good quality animation
Practice – apply those concepts into your own personal work
Guidance – find someone you respect who can tell you what you need to improve on

…and talent?

Here is my perspective on talent. I was not the best animator in college, however I was persistent. My college short wasn’t the best quality, but I finished and learned from it. After graduating I knew my quality wasn’t where I wanted it to be so I kept studying and pushed forward. I took online classes (at Animation Mentor actually) and learned from people better than me. I did my best month after month to raise my standard and with time it paid off and I was able to work in film.

Talent is great if you have it, but sometimes (if not most of the time) talent is simply mistaken for years of practice, hard work, and the determination to keep pushing through your failures.

Keep moving forward and continue raising your own standard in becoming a good animator!

Here are more posts you might like:
6 Key Skills to Succeed as an Animator by Bobby Beck
From School to Studio: Sir Wade Neistadt’s Journey to DreamWorks Animation
How I Got My Dream Job: A Q&A with Alumnus and Framestore Animator Usman Olomu

Dan Segarra Animation Mentor

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