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Journey to Disney: Tony Chau’s Story

by | Feb 25, 2013

Tony Chau Nov2012 Reel from Tony Chau on Vimeo.

Tony Chau initially studied biological sciences and music. Then “I stumbled upon a random Q&A recording by Animation Mentor students for anyone interested in the school. It was hosted by one of the first Animation Mentor grads, Aja Bogdanoff. I was awe struck by their enthusiasm and on a whim decided to apply. I got accepted! Woohoo!”

Tony completed the Character Animation Program in 2011 and was then accepted into The Reel FX Apprenticeship Program. And now, he’s about to step inside and begin Disney’s Talent Development Program.

We are super happy/excited for you, Tony (and way proud, too). And we are super happy/excited/thankful for you to personally share the experience.

After reading Tony’s story, we invite you to tell yours. Apply today for our Animation Fundamentals. You may also request more information or contact an Admissions Advisor. See you in the studio school.

— The Animation Mentor Crew

How did you learn about Disney’s Talent Development Program and how did you go about applying?
News about Disney’s Talent Development Program has always been floating around at Animation Mentor. Between that and Disney’s presence at CTN-X, the opportunity was easy to learn about. Disney has a great online submission system that’s easy to navigate and you simply submit everything electronically. As far as what content they’re looking for in your animation, though, I had the pleasure of meeting some of the artists as well as the recruiter at CTN-X to pick their brains on that topic.

Did you have any previous animation experience prior to Animation Mentor?
I had no professional experience as an animator and no artistic background to boot. Animation was just a small musing to me as I was trying to study what it meant to be a director. The year before I signed up for Animation Mentor I dabbled in the stop motion process, from puppet making to animation to effects. With the Internet at my disposal I was just teaching myself animation during this time and that was roughly all the animation experience I had going into Animation Mentor.

How did Animation Mentor prepare you for this moment? Did you find yourself thinking back to a lecture or assignment?
The Animation Mentor experience was very special to me because there were lessons around every corner. Certain highlights include going into Introduction to Acting, suddenly being faced with the challenge of portraying emotion. A lecture I’ll never forget is Personality and Logic with Cassidy Curtis where we really get to dive in deep into character animation. We also get to see Eric Goldberg walk us through a 2D test, listen to Doug Sweetland give his take on what entertainment means, learn body language with Andrew Gordon, add design in animation with Mark Oftedal — so many topics that go beyond just the surface of simply moving geometry through space. I feel like I have a long way to go still but all of these lectures, among so many others, started me down a path of searching for substance and meaning.

Why do you think Disney contacted you for an interview?
I think the demo reel I sent in finally sparked an interest from the studio. Ultimately for animators, the reel does most of the speaking.

Why do you think you were offered the position?
I can only guess at this point, but something does come to mind. A year ago I had submitted my work into them and asked where I stood as an animator. Ultimately I wasn’t ready yet, but they sent me off with a batch of notes to improve on. Coming back a year later with an updated demo reel, they responded to the progress I made. I think the simple fact of treating our first meeting as a helpful challenge rather than an obstacle went over really well with them and they might have seen potential in me through that exchange.

What advice would you give to the Animation Mentor community regarding the job search?
Be ready to put in the time. Setting aside time and putting in time are two different things too. Feed into the love you have for animation to drive you forward, it’s an extremely interesting art form that albeit at times is tough, [but] in the end it’s really exciting and fun. Remember that and remember why you’re choosing to pursue this.

When searching for work it is really important to be truly objective with your skills. If you don’t know where you stand, ask and be prepared for the answers. This can be a painful process but do know that people are out there to help you, especially in the Animation Mentor community. Find the people who are willing to tell you the truth. In most cases when people really spend time to break down your work and are grilling you with notes, it’s a good sign. Be very grateful for those people and cultivate those relationships. To quote Randy Pausch, “When you see yourself doing something badly and nobody is bothering to tell you anymore, that’s a very bad place to be. Your critics are the ones telling you they still love you and care.”

Snatch opportunities as they come, each is a step on your journey and will uncover lessons along the way. Be aware of what’s going on in the industry as well. Keep in touch with fellow animators / artists and stay up to date; a little foresight can go a long way.

Cheers everyone, thanks for reading and good luck out there!

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