Is Your Demo Reel Ready for a Major Studio?


Shawn Kelly Demo Reel Webinar

In our recent webinar, Animation Mentor Co-founder and Industrial Light & Magic Lead Animator Shawn Kelly took a little break from working on Avengers 3 to critique some student demo reels and to talk about do’s and don’ts, creature animation, and what studios are looking for when they review reels.

It was awesome sauce and we learned so much! And now you can watch the replay.

Thanks, Shawn, for filling our brains with so much great demo reel knowledge! And thanks to our three Creatures Workshop alumni—Szilard Hadobas, Alex Yaremchuk, and Chad Yapyapan—for sharing their rad demo reels.

We’ll have more webinars in the future! Stay tuned.

Also, read some related posts:
Top 3 Reasons You Want Creature Animation On Your Demo Reel
6 Animation Tips Every Creature Animator Should Know
The 6 Most Common Mistakes with Creature Animation

Shawn Kelly Animation Mentor

Want to learn from pro animators like Shawn?

Learn how to animate epic creatures with our Creature Animation Workshops! Work with professional Industrial Light & Magic and Digital Domain animators who’ve worked on Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and more!


  1. This is an outstanding discussion in regards to animation principals, as well as insights into what is going on in the review room and how to apply these concepts to your demo reel. It really is top notch input and is very appreciated! :^)
    The only point where I start diverge from what Shawn is saying is in regards to answering the question about transitioning from school mode to work mode. Due to my personal experience working on both countless commercial spots in over 20 different commercial studios, as well as a few game cinematic sequences at various game studios, I have to disagree with him on a few points:
    • While, yes, it is true that you usually work with a Director or Project Lead, it has been my experience that 99% of the time the client is dictating how the animation should look or how they think your performance should be. There is a strong sense of entitlement from the client (and rightfully so) since they are the ones fronting the money, that they should have the final word on what “looks good”, regardless of what training you have as an animator, the anim principals you have incorporated, what your director has fought for style-wise, or what is considered good animation in our industry. All to often someone who has absolutely zero background/experience in animation is calling the shots because, honestly, it’s their chance to dip their thumb into the creative pie. And it is worth mentioning here as well, that often, the client has their own creative team that has to agree with your creative team before the client even sees it. Unfortunately (and as usual), money is king here and will dictate how the final product comes out. And don’t even get me started with a client’s legal department.
    • In regards to planning your shots, out of the 15 years I’ve been in this industry I’ve had that luxury maybe a handful of times. I’ve never worked in film, so I can’t attest to that side of things. But in the commercial world and the game cinematics I’ve worked on, that option/time simply does not exist. The client will give you shots to work on, and then will often want to see something in a couple hours. Sure, you can do 5 min of thumbnail sketches, but filming yourself for reference, or spending time trying to find reference on Youtube is not practical. In the end, it’s all going to be changed ten times over by the client and I’ve found that just diving into a shot yields the quickest results for the work environments I’ve been exposed to. They may not be the best shots, but they get banged out fast. Time is money and the client does not want to waste time. I would love to be able to plan my shots more often.
    • In regards to getting a shot “good enough”, again (and unfortunately) I have to say that I have really never had the luxury to get a shot to the best that I wanted it to be. Almost 100% of the time “good enough” is where the shot ends up because of delays in client responses, last minute changes, or fundamental changes that ripple up the pipeline…aka…”We know the deadline is two days away, but can we make the character a female cat instead of a bird now? Is that easy to do on the computer? Oh… and we can’t change the deadline, though…it still airs on Thursday.”. Unfortunately, good enough usually (and by no choice) ends up being the goal in the end. Sad, but true.
    I’m in no way trying to be a downer or discourage anyone from this career path, I just felt a bit obligated to get out some hard truths that I’ve come across in my career. Just my two cents. Hopefully, it helps prepare less seasoned or student animators for some real-life working environments.
    All said and done, this is an EXCELLENT presentation, Shawn! Thank you so much for sharing your experience and insider knowledge with everyone. It really does help!


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