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Why Do You Animate?

The decision to be a professional artist is unlike any other. There is no single well-trod path to success and, anyway, how is success measured when it comes to an art? Is it a dollar amount? Is an animator who worked on, say, “Up” more successful than one who worked on, say, “Waltz with Bashir” or “Triplets of Belleville” or the game “Fable II”?Or perhaps you consider animation to be a craft more than an art? Why do you animate?

WHY DO YOU ANIMATE? When a person wants to join my stage-acting class, I ask him why he wants to act.  The answer to that question is very revealing, and the amazing thing to me is the number of people who have not enunciated why they are doing what they are doing. Here is a few of the responses I hear:

“Everybody tells me that I really ought to be an actor.”“I think I have what it takes to be a star.”“I have always wanted to act on a soap opera.”“I don’t know, it’s just something I have always wanted to do.”

Often, a newcomer will tell me right away that she has zero interest in acting on stage, that she only wants to be in the movies. None of these answers are very considered or introspective.  It is devilishly difficult to make a career in any art, and that includes animation.  A newcomer needs to have more fire in her belly than, “It’s just something I have always wanted to do.”   A new animator is almost definitely going to face more rejection than employment offers.  There are more applicants than there are jobs in all of the arts, an upside-down balance between supply and demand.  In pure economic terms, if you have more applicants than jobs, that drives down salaries and benefits, and it causes those who already have a job to feel insecure about it.  An imbalance in supply and demand deals all four Aces to the employers.  An artist must have something to sustain herself during the bad times, the days when she is sitting at home looking at a computer screen and …wishing.  Nobody needs help or courage to select among the many job offers.  When Pixar, Disney and DreamWorks are trying to outbid one another for the privilege of having you on staff, you’ll know what to do and how to respond. The decision to become an artist is sort of like finding God.  You wake up one morning and realize that this is something that you cannot not do.  You will be an incomplete person if you do not give it a go.  And how about this: Suppose you knew up front that you would never make more than a sustenance income from animation.  Would you still do it?  If you knew that this career does not come with commercial success, would you still do it?  Why?  Why not? And so I ask you what is the nature of the happiness that you get from animating, from being an artist?  Can you think of other activities that give you a similar feeling?   Life is not a dress rehearsal, so why are you doing what you are doing?  Why do you animate?  What would you like your life to be seven years from now?