Today, it is possible for animation artists to pickup the skills of their trade without going to a special school to study animation. There are numerous great books that teach animation techniques such as Richard William’s The Animator’s Survival Kit. By following the instructions in these books, you can conceivably teach yourself the nuts and bolts of animated film making. Taking the home instruction idea even one step further, some books are now equipped with CDs and DVDs.
The best talents in animation know that there is always more to learn. In a healthy career, we don’t reach a point when we throw our books or our tools away. We need them too much. Our journeys are over when we stop, not when we think we’ve learned all there is to know.
So, if books play such an important part in our learning and development, why the need to enroll in an animation school? Why should one put in the time and expense required to get a degree in animation from one of the fine schools? It would be hard to imagine a filed where a college degree means less than it does in the animation industry. When it comes to finding a job, talent, enthusiasm and relationship all take precedence over where you got your degree.
Why Go To School?
Yet, before all the school recruiters faint in shock, I’d like to make the case for going to school. While it’s true that there are many great books teaching the art of animation, a book cannot critique your work. It is the trained eye that can help advance your skill by leaps and bounds. With the structure provided by teachers, assignments and grades, the availability of equipment, and the inspiration supplied by peers, one has the best shot at learning the animation arts.
Learning the animation arts is a discipline. It’s not always fun. In school (or on the job), we’re not always drawing what we’re comfortable drawing. We are pushed to go beyond what we could or would be doing if left to our own devices.
Perhaps, most importantly, animation schools employ teachers that are working in their field. While this does not automatically make them great teachers, it does help students have the opportunity to make those first vital connections they’ll need if they’re to break into the industry.