For the past fifteen years, the Holy Grail for most new character animators has been a staff position with one of the major studios - Pixar, DreamWorks, Sony, Blue Sky or Disney. Today’s new animators are encountering a rapidly changing industry landscape that includes entirely new production models. Movies such as Chico and Rita, Rango, Coraline, The Illusionist, and Waltz with Bashir cost much less to make than, say, Brave or Madagascar 3, and they play for more demographically specific audiences. New channels of distribution and exhibition are emerging, and Hollywood’s big studios are feeling the sting that accompanies a mega-budget flop like Mars Needs Moms. Even lofty Pixar is having trouble sustaining its own high creative standard while producing three movies per year on an assembly-line basis.
We can do a better job of preparing the next generation of animators for the industry realities that await them. We can do a better job of mentoring the next Miyazaki, Lasseter or Disney. Granted, the computer has largely replaced the pencil as a primary animation tool over the past twenty years, but drawing skills are a visible marker of aptitude for animation in general. Take that away and you are basically left with analytic computer programmer/operator potential.