We had so much fun talking to alum Dave Vasquez, who’s currently working hard on Blue Sky’s upcoming film Nimona! Check out his sage advice and recent animation inspiration below.
Student Experience at Animation Mentor
Animation Mentor: What’s your most memorable experience from Animation Mentor?
Dave Vasquez: I think the incredible community. I have fond memories of being in that very first class of Animation Mentor. I made so many lifelong friends, many whom I still work with today. Back then it felt like there was a definite “we’re in this together” mentality among the students, the mentors and everyone at AM. It was a really strong community and that really helped propel us forward since this was a totally brand new thing for animation education. I’m always grateful for everything I learned at AM but even more so for the lifelong connections I made.
I’m always grateful for everything I learned at AM but even more so for the lifelong connections I made.
AM: What did you learn from Animation Mentor that helped you get to where you are now?
DV: AM gave me the animation foundation that I had been lacking when I had studied at other places. It really elevated my game when it came to how to study, practice and execute my work.
AM gave me the animation foundation that I had been lacking when I had studied at other places. It really elevated my game when it came to how to study, practice and execute my work.
Developing your eye is super critical and AM is the place where I really started to do that at a higher level. It also didn’t happen overnight. It took years of practice, but AM gave me that foundation to move myself forward and eventually achieve some goals I never thought possible.
Advice for New Animators
AM: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to current students?
DV: Be patient and focus on your own animation journey. Everybody learns at different rates and just because someone gets something faster than you do does not mean you won’t get it. You will get there if you are committed and don’t give up.
It can be so hard not to compare yourself to others but really, the only competition that matters is with yourself. Strive to be better than you were yesterday. Focus on improving one thing.
In this field, persistence is everything. It can be so hard not to compare yourself to others but really, the only competition that matters is with yourself. Strive to be better than you were yesterday. Focus on improving one thing. Then move on to the next thing and so on. It’s all about building that solid foundation and AM is a great place to do that.
AM: Have you seen a piece of animation recently that inspired you? What was it?
DV: I actually really enjoyed Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal series. I love that there’s no dialogue and everything is through pantomime. I found it super entertaining and emotionally engrossing (though it is pretty graphic). The animation, posing, staging and visual storytelling are all quite amazing.
AM: What do you love about animation?
DV: For me it’s all about the storytelling. Of course I love to see great animation that’s beautifully executed, and as an animator I’m constantly striving to achieve that myself, but at the end of the day it’s all a means to an end to tell a great story. This is where I think animation has a real advantage. You can tell just about any story. I think we have barely scratched the surface on the types of stories that can be told through animation. It makes me excited for the future of the craft.
Learn a Little More About Dave Vasquez
Dave grew up as a pretty big fan of stop-motion animation—his heroes at the time were Ray Harryhausen and Phil Tippett. That passion led him into a career in live action filmmaking for a few years before discovering computer animation. He got his start in video games, completed Animation Mentor, and eventually made it back to working on films. Fast forward to today where he’s an animator at Blue Sky Studios and is currently working on the upcoming film, Nimona!
Check out these other great interviews:
Q&A with Blue Sky Senior Technical Animator Teresa Storhoff
Interview with Pixar Animator Mike Stern
Meet Into the Spider-Verse Animator Alex Olea
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.