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So you want to be an Animator? Here's what to expect.

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Welcome RJ. Don't know what you mean about drawing over 3D frames - do you want to add 2D elements or make the 3D look 2D? Or maybe something else?

I would kinda like to learn how to do both, both mostly adding 2D elements.

Hi, be sure to check out my blog! A few thing there, and I'll also be putting some of my work (pictures and short carttons) there too in the future:
I am also making a Flash animated cartoon that I plan to air on it's website in Fall 2008. It's called Tednut and it's about an personified peanut named Ted and his friend Kernal, and their basic adventures in their town of Sleepy Oaks, New York:


The Wife would prefer I go "In-House" somewhere to find that 33 year job

The long term job virtually doesn't exist even in office/suit jobs....Neither does 9 to 5...(stay and get the job done)
"They" say the average worker has 7 career (that's careers, not just jobs) changes in their lifetime.
I too grew up watching my dad working over 20 years at the same place. When I was young and wide-eyed I had this naive notion that creative jobs worked the same way....being totally clueless about freelance, etc.
If I could have had my middle-aged mind in my 17 year old body back then, would I have still pursued animation? I don't know.

I'm not sure exactly what you're asking for. What I meant was, learn the basics of whatever software you're interested in, then add the skills you need to accomplish the task you've set for yourself. For example, if you wanted to be a modeler, you'd need to familiarize yourself with the modeling tools in whatever package you're using.

So what you're saying is If I want to be a TD I need to learn the basics of lighting/shadows and character setup? Like if I'm using 3ds max or Maya I should learn how to use the basics? but how do I do that if I don't have the software?

"You can never be a real winner if you've never been a loser" -DPoV

My wife has been at the same company for 20 years, and the guy who was the best man at my wedding is close to that at his company. Aside from those two, everyone else I know has moved around a lot.

And my wife and best man have had lots of different jobs within those companies too...

So making tons of money in games is just a myth?

Thats some good advice. Im assuming that you are an animator.

I would kinda like to learn how to do both, both mostly adding 2D elements.

Most likely you'd composite elements together in a package like After Effects.

Just so you know, that was curiousity from my own sense of observation and visual judgment. Drawing from photos has its place and you certainly demonstrate one useful thing (having an eye for technical, rote accuracy). But it's just one of many muscles to practice flexing.

Would you be willing to share some of the life drawings? Not for criticism, I'm just curious what they'd look like coming from a mind with that strong of a power. To see if it applies academically or more expressively.

No, G-man, you would have done what I was gonna do: become a lion-tamer.

We coulda head-line in Vegas, baybeee! We woulda been BIG!!

LOL! OMGosh, WHat a mind-picture is that!:D (A la Sigfried and Roy :D )

I know this is my first post.
I've read through every major thread on this forum and others, so I'm not just posting this randomly.

Here is my situation:
I'm 24 and have never been to college. So i have no art training. I draw, and have been picking up books to learn real techniques (not learning to draw anime). I'm not the best but am working real hard.

I'm currently saving money and trying to prepare myself to commit to going to school full time. I don't want to do something half way, I want to commit and go all out. So commitment shouldn't be a question.

I'm very very computer savvy and learn really fast so the technical side of things I'm not worried in. I've been able to accomplish everything I've ever put my mind to.

However, How well should I be able to draw before even trying to apply to these schools? I know once in the school quite a few classes are taken to further to give better understanding.

Basically, I'm trying to figure out where I need to be to get in the door (not saying I'm going to set my goals for the minimum requirement) I just need a goal to start with. So if this is holding me back from even starting school, I'll work as long as need be.

So, basically, I'm trying to find out how big the overall importance of this skill set is to start with and then later on. I've kind of read some people say they don't draw that well, and I've also read the complete opposite.

In advance, thanks for any help or advice.

Just so you know, that was curiousity from my own sense of observation and visual judgment. Drawing from photos has its place and you certainly demonstrate one useful thing (having an eye for technical, rote accuracy). But it's just one of many muscles to practice flexing.

Would you be willing to share some of the life drawings? Not for criticism, I'm just curious what they'd look like coming from a mind with that strong of a power. To see if it applies academically or more expressively.

Oh certainly, but.. sadly I'm roughly 400 miles from them and I don't have them on the internet. Otherwise I'd be happy to. I drew a concept car of sorts today. I thought it up myself and kind of looks like a newer dodge with a mustang tail end and a Chrysler rear and a Mitsu front grille. It's a sketch and I'd put it on there If I had a scanner here. there's one on the lower floor I could ask using. I might just go and scan it today if it will work. Just wait till Saturday and I'd be happy to get them on there. I'm comming back to the wasteland I call paradise of sorts..? Naw, The dale sucks.

"You can never be a real winner if you've never been a loser" -DPoV

Ken, I have a question. Can a person have a dialog with a potential employer and back out, with out slaming that door shut for some possable work in the future.

hey thanks for the response.

I'm pretty much so trying to plan this upcoming year for working on my drawing alone. I was originally thinking, time wise, that I would try to just see if i could get accepted into schools but maybe I'll end up taking the whole year to try and get myself up to par.

Also first year at most of these schools contains core classes?
So I could possibly clep and take some local college courses to soak up those credits and save money?


Well I went and scanned my concept sketch. I Designed it myself, no still life, no picture, just me thinking and putting it on paper, I started it today when I woke up and I "finished it" today. I'm still not sure if I'll finish finish it but It was good practice in design. Well I guess I'll let you decide if I should finish it. I'll get those still life drawings up as soon as possible. When I scanned it it became blurry so when I made it sharper it made it darker, and I wasn't familiar with the software downstairs so, I just left it. It was done in pencil. (which explains all the smudging and stuff that makes it look like crap.)

If you want I could take a picture of it with their camera and try it that way to preserve the pencil look to make it look less pen like.

keeping it real - DPoV

"You can never be a real winner if you've never been a loser" -DPoV

hi ken..,

u said the fact...but the way u wrote it..i feel nervous....

Mostly because everyone else is screaming. (Hey, if Dubya was my president, I'd scream too).

Hay he was our governer for two years before he got the big office. Please don't blame us. :D

And now back to the thread. In Austin there is a film society and they offer help with getting funding for films. I was thinking that this might be a source to get funding for an animation project. Has anyone every tried to get funding for any type of cinema?

Being a good at drawing in an art field is never a bad thing.

By the way, how old are you?

the Ape

...we must all face a choice, between what is right... and what is easy."

As far as finishing it, that's your decision, but if you're honest about improving I think it's good sense to finish what you start just to see what you learn along the way.

I had a figure drawing teacher last term that discouraged us using our erasers if we could limit the temptation, because it was interesting to see the progress, or at least the so-called 'scars' that helped the drawing get to where it needed to be. With that perception I think it's actually pretty attractive.

Personally I dig the sharp pen-like line for anything that resembles a design or schematic drawing. Really it comes down to a few perspective issues and some indications of thickness and solidity, but for being self-developed it's pretty strong, especially since going by your comment and the date on the first drawing you're in...9th grade?

In any event three cheers for having the courage to bear all -- it's how you're going to get better. I really look forward to seeing the life drawings. Don't be afraid to invite criticism either, as long as the people you're asking understand it should be constructive opinions only. Also don't forget we have Show and Tell forums where you can showcase your own personal gallery and have others watch your skills develop whilst they contribute their thoughts.

Hey, I'm wondering if any of you guys would mind me asking you a couple of questions about the animation field. I have an assignment for my planning class where I have to interview someone in the field I'm considering (which is animation) about what it's like.

wow... well put! Ken brings up a bunch of very good points. However I think he might be a little doom and gloom for a new guy to hear. As for the money issue, if you stick with something long enough the money will come, eventually. The beautiful thing about animators is we LOVE to do what we do. We'd probably being doing it for free. So getting paid just enough to scrap by when you first start out isn't a huge deal because we simply love to come to work. I get up everyday skipping into the studio! Although think I work at the happiest place on earth. :-D My point being if this is truly your passion then DO IT! And don't be afraid, it's a lot of fun and things will work out for the best. Just as Ken said, it's a lot of hard work, just be aware of that.

Also I side note... he is right about %10 of a class having a future... that has been my experiance as well. HOWEVER most of that other %90 really really stinks. You DON'T need to be pixar quality to get a start in the industry, you do need to show some raw talent and skill that a studio is willing to take you in and in 6 months refine and make you a bad mamma jamma animating machine! (just be aware that it's not going to be pixar taking you in either)
Character Animator - Lucas Arts

I like that the answers here aren't all "Follow your heart and it will work" because we all know that's a ton of bullshit.
What I needed was a good smack from reality and that's what I got.
If anything, the "demotivating" aspects just inspired me to be more stubborn and to keep at it with even more ferocity.
Thank you for your advice, everyone.

However I think he might be a little doom and gloom for a new guy to hear.

If there's ever a good time to hear the doom and gloom it's before you're waist-deep in the swamp... ;)

Please Helppppppppp

hiiiiii i am an indian and xxxxtreamely interested in animation u mentioned dat the best institute in london is buornemouth university .I went through de site and saw admission procedure it says a total of some 300 points is required some 200 points in creativity nd another 100 in maths or science but my field in india is maths physics chemistry and c++
then how will i get through it

That was great. I just imagined myself sitting in the main office at AWN school, waiting my turn to go up to the front desk, and peering off to the side and seeing a bunch of pamphlets with these diagrammatic illustrations of young kids....Drugs, teen pregnancy, oh, and there's the Ken Davis Guide to Accepting Reality...

Trying to get back on track to drawing more myself, and it's a day-to-day thing to find the time...always good to get the engines revved...

You know, just for the record, $35k is a decent salary when you're living and paying your rent/mortgage in Minnesota, but when you're living in one of the big cities where animation studios are actually located, where rent alone can be several thousand dollars a month, those average salaries start to get a lot tougher to live on. Just sayin'. :)

Does everyone agree with me that Ken should write a book? ......

He just did..................................................................................................:D

* c l a p s *


Hi all, I'm quite new into animation looking to make new contacts and meet new people i would like to know where events are for all animators to meet up, if anyone knows of any clubs where animators meet up each month, please get back to me :)

Thanks Guys

Definitely agree with the hit in the head thing. I had some major head trauma as a kid and still have the scar. I've read about famous illustrators/animators having head trauma as kids too many times to discount it.

It's sick, but sometimes I think that if I have a kid I ought to drop him on his head ....

Its got no pictures!
It ain't a book unless its got pictures!

Maybe you should think seriously about doing the book as part of a group of contributing authors. Get five people and you make up an outline, divide up the work and go for it. There is a lot more nuts and bolts to work out but it is just my one cent.

I keep saying one cent because I put the other penny onto the bank. :D

Majority of the post here are correct.

But one word of advice is you need to be very dedicated in order for you to succeed in your chosen industry.

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So you want to be an Animator? Here's what to expect.

Do you want to be an animator? Want to do 2D? 3D? Stop motion? Ask your questions here.

the Ape

...we must all face a choice, between what is right... and what is easy."


I've spent the last 2 hours reading this thread word for word. The diversity in this thread is exactly what I needed to read.

My issue. Point Blank Form:

-30 years old. Married 4 years (together 8). No children.
-Have previous schooling and portfolio is mainly - web and print.
-2D/3D is my passion. Gaming is my passion.
-I have been drawing since I can remember.
-I'm in a booming Oil and Gas Industry in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
-Proof that money isn't happiness.
-I want to attend an entry level course that touches base on all genres/avenues of the gaming industry, while I beef up my portfolio in 3D
-Main concern. 2 cities in Canada. Vancouver and Toronto. I have to sell my house, relocate and buy a house in that market, and attend fulltime school.
-I am leaning towards Toronto for education at these institutes: - scroll down to MEDIA - which I don't know. - for the broad spectrum. To find the road/avenue I want to go down. Model? Map design? etc...

I am leaning towards the art institute. Use that to beef my resume as I expand my portfolio and hone my skills.

Here is my dilemma. I know what industry I want to tackle, explore, be a part of and grow with. Hence either Van or TO. The wife is successful graphic designer (BA and MA and gaggin' to get me to TO for ages obviously). She wants Toronto. (USA is not an option btw-timeline dosent permit it) I have to make this decision, apply with my portfolio and get the house on the market by Jan 2007. Ya, makes for happy-hairy-hectic holidays.

I respect all your opinions and advice.

Please fire me your thoughts. I gotta' make a "snap judgement that is well thought out."

Thx all!


My vote would be for Toronto for all of the reasons mentioned (i.e. wife's interest, cost of living/housing) as well as a more work opportunities for both of you. However...and I realize that I'm a bit late in responding...what about Sheridan?

BTW, born and raised in Vancouver and have lived in Toronto for about 8 years now...happy to answer questions about either place, though you've probably made your decision by now!



I'd buy that in a heartbeat.

Does everyone agree with me that Ken should write a book? I've printed his posts and tacked them to my wall... gotta be a sign.

Think about it Ken. I know I'd buy that book, and everytime I heard some kid say they wanted to be an animator or an artist, I'd let them borrow it.

Follow @chaostoon on Twitter!

Everyone is freelance!


The state of mind you have to have is that YOU ARE FREELANCE!

Especially if you aleady have a job- you have to keep that state of mind. No One works for a company for 20 years any more. The industry changes so much so quickly if have to keep that "freelance" attitude.


Step 1: Obtain a Degree

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

Step 3: Maintain Proficiency in the Technology

And then u will be on right track to become a successful animator.

Best of luck:)

I agree with everything besides step one. You don't necessary need a degree to be an animator, at the end of the day; producers are going to be way more interested in your portfolio/demo reel then what college you went to...

There are plenty of people at my studio who have been there for ten years or more, so it does happen!

Hey Ken, you definitally seem like you know a lot about how to get into animation, and what to do once your there, so i was wondering if you could answer some of my questions. I would like to know, what colleges do you think would be best for starting in animation, and what kind of computer is best for creating animation? Thanks so much if you, or anyone else here, could answer my questions.

I agree with Ken here. Really, you should look at what you need to know as an individual. Some will say you don't need to have drawing skills for 3D but really , you do. Even the straightest 3D animator I know , who never had a single drawing lesson , could draw. In fact , most non 2D full 3D animators draw all over their books just trying to work out expressions. It's just part of the process unless you are someone who does nothing but mocap. Myself I am learning all kinds of 3D because I don't really need to learn to draw ( I have skills there ) . If you need both I would find a school that does 3D but has included drawing courses. If you already draw just look for a good 3D training course.

Now I recommend that along with animating ( if thats all you want to do and not lighting or whatever ) you learn rigging. Why ? Because you greatest frustration will be working with characters that other people rigged. Often people who don't understand animating. Do you want to have to keep running to a TD to get them to rerig for you ? No, you need to know this so you aren't limited to other peoples limits.

A person I know ( an experienced 2D animator who switched to 3D and learned not only modeling but rigging ) was contracted by a giant studio who is doing a 3D feature . They subcontracted this person to animate some sequences. He got their models and discovered the rigging was awful and so without telling them her rerigged the entire model. The difference between his and the giant studio's was like night and day. So much better they wanted to use his version of the rig but refused to pay him for rigging so they can't.

Now on computers, I am a total mac girl but they are more expensive with less options. Graphics cards are not as cheap for G5s (in fact they are twice the cost so upgrading as new things come out will be more costly down the road) . Top of the line cards for PC are like 150, for mac 400 and up so , despite being a macie , I am recommending a PC . The biggest name of course is Dell and I have used a lot of those but in the PC world things change a lot . They seem consistant quality and reasonably priced but you should really hang around the 3D forums or ask really experienced 3D animators. The great thing about 3D animators is most of them will think nothing at all of writing out what they think the latest great affordable PC system for 3D is (and thats what you want, the latest because again things change fast ) . They are full of tricks like fast inexpensive raid arrays .

I'm in high-school now, but I'm moving to an animation college soon. The school asks for a portfolio consisting of ten works by me. I intend to do some paintings, some life drawings, animal drawings, cartoon drawings and some portraits as well... But I wonder what exactly the shool expects to see from my works so I can prepare my portfolio better. Any experience in this kinda stuff? :confused:

::: Quick, babe! Gimme my clothes, he's comin' back! :::

Now, in my career, I've done multiple rounds of corrections--the most being fixing a job 11 times. Yes, that is abnormal, but that situation was unique as well.
I've done many jobs where no corrections were called for AT ALL, and done jobs where there were 100% corrections. The WHOLE thing had to be re-done.
Some of these jobs were no problem, some even enjoyable.

Some were blood-curdling nightmares.:eek:

But that too, changes. :rolleyes:

Oh god, that is just so unfair. I like to work for clients in person, not long distance , but this is so I can reach across the table if they do that kind of thing. A good way to start is to set your limits. That means when you take a freelance job there are limits to corrections. No client can change their mind on dialogue or shots (unless it is works within the existing scene ) without paying . For a commercial I take no less than $250 a foot just for rough animation and additions and corrections are at the same rate unless I screw up something royally, then its totally my cost (haven't had that happen yet but you never know) . When I was doing freelance I took their deadlines seriously and made them take mine seriously. Most freelancers have jobs lined up so one bad client can wreck your schedule.

There are good add execs and there are bad ad execs. I had one ad agency where the exec wrote four pages of gobbltygoop describing a characters emotional subtext for one 2 second scene out of a 30 second commercial. We did three commercials in a row for this company and the first two came in underbudget and ahead of time and they loved them ,they promised a large bonus if we finished early but since there was nothing in writing ..... but during this time , the head of the studio I was working for had developed bad blood between himself and the ad agency rep ( if you see Howard Sterns Private Parts the movie , this exec was exactly like the character Pigvomit ) . The owners wife was doing the accounting and this exec had been verbally abusive to her so my boss let fly at him one day on the cel phone over that. Great, so after that they took away the storyboarding from him (as punishment ) on the last one and had a live action board artist do it who, never realized that the commercial was only 30 seconds long.

They spent weeks to come up with boards that were so amateur anyone else could have done them in a half an hour. Unfortunately because of this they had wasted most of our production time and I had like a week to do 30 seconds . They were awful and simplistic boards (the commercial was sexist and stupid as well ) and impossible to work with and the actions required were longer than the scenes were cut. Somehow I got everything in and we finished. Everyone who saw it loved the animation and eventually I will put the original up on my site. When the ad exec saw what they had done they decided they wanted wanted to lose a cut all together and make another scene ( they wanted to hold back paying me for the 2 second scene as they had not realized it would be that short (darn I was only going to get paid for 28 seconds ) but the studio owner paid me anyway because he knew they were so wrong and told them so . Problem was, I was off to do a feature and I told them they had two weeks to get me the new boards or to go to someone else to do the corrections. Now remember, this was a 2 second scene, in the meeting I told them at minimum, all they were asking for could not be put in that shot , it was like 5 seconds worth . They nodded like zombies and after 2 weeks the window was closed and I went off to work on a feature for a year.

Months later I saw the commercial and just shook my head . Whoever the poor person was they got to do it had to animate 5 seconds on to an additional scene meaning 12 seconds to try and get their dumb idea to fit ( nightmare avoided ) and so other scenes had to go. It was soooo bad and they were unable to match the drawing style and it was terribly stiff ( I don't blame the animator as I'm sure they had no time at all to do it given the ad agency unbelievably wasteful thumbsucking ). It was a mess and ran for an incredibly short time but I'm sure viewers complained as it really was a tasteless idea . That in a nutshell is freelance commercial animation.

And that 11 correction wasn't so bad. I was inbetweening a scene for a animation "mentor" of mine early on in my career and the gent was giving me some tough-love on the work. I had a lot of sloppy habits accquired early on and having to go back over this scene over and over again was not only frustrating, but it instilled in me a discipline that remains ( mostly :rolleyes: ) to this day. No work or act is so sacrosanct that it cannot benefit from a little more practise.

Oh I agree Ken, no work is sacrosanct ..that is if you have time. I'm glad it was a good learning experience for you though. I find that by version 5 my animation begins to suffer and my interest wanes :) What always drove me crazy was they take six months at the ad agency to think up these things and give just a few weeks to execute them. In London where the all the 2D commercials for Europe were made 2 months was not unusual and the quality of that shows . The execution was often brilliant. The agencies here don't really care about the commercial though because how they make their money is different. For the newbies out there the ad agencies make their money not through creating the commercial but through booking the air time. As I remember they make like ?% off every station run booking. It actually means they are pressured to produce it just to make their money. "Tough Love " animators are just another endurance contest on top. When you are young this is where you learn though and everything is good experience.

my god..
what a fascinating thread.

is this something like that twilight zone episode, when the "normal" people slip through the crack of time, and see how time and reality is "REALLY" built?

Ken, this is such a marvelously explain "fact of life" about the professional world.

well done!


Actually, I do a kind of 60s softcore version of this. The first thing I'm animating in AE is a woman walking. Not just a typical walk cycle-- she's in a tight black skirt, walking through a jungle. I went for the 50s blond-- she kind of reminds me of Vera Miles. It's not quite there yet, but I'm getting confident. I want to look at that walk and get the ungawa factor I get from scenes in certain Russ Meyer movies. Next, I'll try a latina. Eventually, there might be a tryst. Lipstick lesbians are even a guilty pleasure of a lot of straight women I know. Director Andrew Blake does some nice work in this genre.

Right now, I'm trying the tentacle brain from my site. The tentacles will writhe, the eyeball roll, and the brain breathe. If I should become aroused by this, I'll seek help.

interesting threads, Ken. It's very refreshing for people like yourself, with your experience, to honestly tell the world their thoughts and opinions.

I myself have been working as a 2D animator steadily now for a little over a year and a half, and in that time have gotten to experience the joys and the pains of animating for shows, commercials, and feature. I board, design characters/layouts, and animate. I actually DO love animation, being an animator. I had ALWAYS known i wanted to be an animator, since I was 8 years old. It is quite honestly a drug.

For all those reading this awesome animation thread, it can definitely be everything that has been said about it. It is like no other job, the hours can be insane, it can be lonely, dark, depressing, maddening and futile. --YET, it can also be some of the best, most shining moments of your life. Creating a living's almost indescribable.

It's my opinion that to really succeed, you must be of a different breed of people. Talent goes a long way, but DRIVE goes further. I yearned and craved and yelled and worked and slaved and sacrificed, sacrificed like hell to get to where I am today. It cost me dearly in many ways, but i wanted to animate more. Those who cannot sacrifice will probably never animate, or at least never do anything worth talking about.

I hated my job this week, and I was WAY into overtime, but getting home at 5AM in the morning i remembered who I am, what I am, and the insane amount of animation i had just created. That living work I had just created.
And I went to bed satisfied.

Thanks Ken! :D I live in Viet Nam, and the school is in Singapore - They don't take many international students each year, so it's really competitive to get accepted! It is not the same to pursue animation here in my country - Animation is not yet a business, and no school specializes in it, which is why I have to travel all the way to Singapore... :( I guess it is twice as hard for me to succeed in the business, don't you think? Cuz few Vietnamese have made their name in animation (at least none that I know of)... Anyone ever heard of one? :confused:

::: Quick, babe! Gimme my clothes, he's comin' back! :::

That just means we're due! Lead the way! =)

I am an animator--have done that. I'm a cartoonist, storyboard artist, comicbook artist, illustrator, designer, caricaturist.........done a LOT of jobs.
My experience is in the 2D arena, and I have contributed to 3D projects.
I also have taught, until recently, this stuff to adult students.

Making a ton of money in any of these fields is mythical, but possible IF you go about doing the right things. There's a lot of what Oprah Winfrey talks about regarding luck here: the meeting of preparation with opportunity.

MOST people make subsistence wages.....that is averaging around $30K-$40K a year. Some will report more, few a bit less. Some with jobs holding more responsibility can take home up to and over $100k a year--but that's not going to happen overnight.
Bear in mind that ONLY the TOP 10% are making the huge money--$250K or more--and those folks are very talented to boot.
The mega-stars in this biz sacrifice a lot to get where they are, and its a unique sacrifice for everyone that attempts that stature. If you want to hit that kind of goal--that stratus--then you'll find out what that is on your own.

As for being nervous.........nervousness only comes from inadequacy.
The industry doesn't have a lot of room for the inadequate--but schools seem to gloss over this point.
I'm not going to mince words with anyone here--YOU HAVE TO BE GOOD. Standing out, in some respect, is a asset.
There's a enormous number of people in the industry that are niche talents--they are good at one or two things.
That limits their options.
The resources and reference material at hand should preclude niche talents because the wealth of material is SO rich today.
When I started in the industry ( 20 years ago) we had maybe 1-5% of the resources there are now--and yet a self-taught guy like myself (and others) could do it.

If you are nervous, then its a sign to bust your ass so you can rely on your skills. Snip out the bullshit in your head and focus on what the industry demands of you--if that's your goal. The thinking that an image is "good enough" to you might not be the paradigm you want to aim for. The idea is not to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with your classmates, but with INDUSTRY work--with your instructors ( if they are any good).
The idea is to bring something better or different with you--not just rehash the same old tired shit everyone has seen before.
I've seen enough ogres, race-cars, mecha, elf princesses and anime crap to choke whole herds of horses--and I stopped paying attention to a lot of it years ago. The ones that took a different spin on that stuff, that showed me something with some artistic maturity , or AT LEAST SOME THOUGHT BEHIND IT, caught my eye. Those folks usually caught the industry's eye as well.

This means more work for you though:
This might mean one more hour (or hours) spent on a image, or a piece of animation, or working on some software.
It means sticking your nose in different magazines than your classmates might be reading, in looking at a movie a bit differently than others around you.
It might mean seeking out key people with answers to your questions, rather than just accepting what a book tells you.
It means not just asking global questions ( like "how do I draw?") but doing the scutwork so all you need to ask is the very specific questions that solve your immediate dilemma ( like:"what direction should hatching lay on a figure to convey a graduated shadow? How do you get those feathered hatching lines on a drawing?" etc.)
It means perserverance and dedication.

Get back to the basics--master them undeniably. Do not BS yourself. If you think something might be an asset, if your gut tells you that you might need painting , drawing, sculpting, writing etc, then take them. Fear of failing those tasks is what keeps people from tackling them, and that is usually what sinks their prospects in the industry.
Do not expect quick results in shorts amount of time-DO expect to spend years honing your abilities. Start NOW.

Oh, yea, you'll get the odd person that will declare that so-and so doesn't draw but they are in the wary of that. The tools maybe different, but ARTISTIC SKILLS are the cachet on this biz--do not shirk either.
Short-cuts are rare--rapid rises equally so--expect a LONG time in the trenches slogging and sweating out shitty jobs and "meaningless" work.
That's the same in any business.

I'm also going to say this: not everyone is cut out for this. In EVERY class I have taught for the past 10 years the average has been that 10% of each graduating class have a future in the biz. That's 1 in 10. Thems is realistic numbers because I have seen those numbers make it.
Want to know the number one reason why people do not make it in the biz?
At some point they see just how mich stuff they don't know versus how much they need to know and they GIVE UP. Giving up GUARANTEES you will never make it--the rest have it at 50/50.

But once you make it--if you REALLY bust your ass.....its a good career to have. You'll do things that people will be in awe of, and that's because they will not understand WHAT you do. At higher levels on the job, you'll be paid as much for your intuition as for your skills and there's a pronounced satisfaction/validation that comes from being rewarded that way.
Some folks can claim some fame or notoriety, though most toil in obscurity, but the creations we work on are anything but obscure.

Not a lot of us working in the biz will say this, but its pretty plain that what we do makes a big difference in people's lives.

There's yer carrot AND yer stick in one post.

I'm sorry, i must protest at this. Yes as true as it is i just get the impression that you dislike your job. You speak as if animation is a chore and from what you have written i am just given the impression that you dont like your job. You seem to point out what is bad within the industry rather then showing a positive view on it. Yes we all appreciate that animation is hard and a very hard to get in to as a career but you could of at least said things like "As much as i love animation i...." or "Animation is fantastic but...." If you speak in the manner in which you have done i believe it will put younger people off from going in to the industry.

If they get put off by that then they probably are saving time and energy by quitting now. One of his whole overall points seems to be the mental and creative endurance necessary.

Personally I like being prepared, and for every 'Ken' telling you what's really up, and how many traps and giant spiked wrecking balls there are on the path, there are 10 to 20 people reinforcing the positive aspects. It seems like a good balance to me if they're more subtle and he's more aggressive. Has to make up lost ground so that positive and negative get an equal share :D