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Career Coach: The Short and the Long of It

Glen Keane has persisted in animation since 1974, not only garnering an Oscar nomination for his latest short film 'Dear Basketball,' but landing the directing role on a new animated feature film for Netflix.

An unlikely pair, who almost seemed as if they were animated characters themselves -- one towering at 6 foot 6 over the other -- Kobe Bryant and Glen Keane were congenial presenters during the recent Annie Awards and were joyous when they received the Annie Award for best animated short.  They also received an Academy Award nomination for their short, Dear Basketball, an ode to the sport.

The recognitions are a long time in the making.

Glen Keane grew up in a house where pencils and sketch pads were easy to find.  His dad, cartoonist Bill Keane, known for the “Family Circus” comic strip, encouraged his son to draw. “I always wanted to draw ever since I can remember,” Glen noted a while ago.  After attending California Institute of the Arts, Glen joined Disney as an animator when he was 20 years old.  He was tutored by veterans of the industry including Eric Larson, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. One of his early animation projects was Pete’s Dragon.

Glen won an Annie in 1992 for his work on Beauty and the Beast and was nominated in the field of character animation for Tarzan in 1999. He received the prestigious Winsor McCay Award at the Annies in 2008 for Lifetime Contributions to the Field of Animation. 

Glen has persisted in working in animation since 1974, and at long last has received an Oscar nomination for his work. Lucky for us, he continues to draw. Glen Keane believed in himself and his abilities. According to Glen, “I think people are born with a purpose and the innate gifts necessary to realize that purpose.”

Kobe Bryant asked Glen to help him realize his goal of creating the animated short. Keane advises, “If you are offered the opportunity to do something that you don’t know how to do, say ‘Yes,’ dive in and do it anyway.”

Aspiring animators and all of us can learn from Keane -- not only emulating his work ethic, developing strong drawing skills, but also adopting some of his philosophy and positive outlook. “The way to be yourself is to build confidence. That happens slowly,” he says.

Whether or not Dear Basketball and the short’s creators score an Oscar on March 4, Glen’s long 44-year career in animation deserves kudos and acclaim. And we are looking forward to his next adventure -- he will make his feature directorial debut on Over the Moon, a Chinese animated film about a girl who builds a rocket. It’s set to be released in 2020 by Netflix.

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Pamela Kleibrink Thompson is a creative career coach, animation and visual effects recruiter, and speaker at colleges, conventions and festivals. She hasn't worked in animation as long as Glen Keane--but one of her first jobs was on The Universe of Energy in the early 80's, which showed at Disney's Epcot Center for decades.  She was production manager on Brad Bird's Family Dog and The Simpsons. You can reach her for personal career coaching or speaking engagements at PamRecruit87@gmail.com

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