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How do I get a job at a company like Pixar?

3D Question asked by Lizzy

Hello Roman, I came across your email on the Pixar Canada Now Hiring news article. My name is Lizzy. I am a graphic designer, looking to go back to school for animation. My whole life i have wanted to be an animator. I am a cartoonist and an artist by nature and I am now trained in graphic design. During my one year graphic design course I realized my heart was in animation and cartooning. So I'd like to go back to school. I thought maybe by writing to you and showing you a few pieces of my work you might be able to give me some advise on what the best direction or next step would be, to get involved in a company like Pixar. What sort of programs or courses would i need to qualify for a position, or do you offer any in house training or apprenticeships?

Hey Lizzy,

I think the best direction for you to get involved with a company like Pixar in 3D Animation would be, well you actually have two options. You can go to school for 3D Animation or you can study on your own and use the money that you would otherwise pay for tuition on a high end 3D Animation package like Maya or 3D Studio Max or Motion Builder which is specifically meant for 3D Animation and training DVDs from Gnomon. You could also buy a high end computer too. There are also hundreds of free tutorials available for free that many websites provide and a high end animation package called Blender which is also free that you can use to produce your 3D Animation demo reel with. But before you even think about purchasing an expensive piece of software you need to really think this over because it takes a very serious and dedicated individual to be able to teach themselves by reading books and manuals at home, not something that everyone can do. What I could suggest is that you could try learning on your own for a couple of weeks and see how you progress and go from there.

You need 30 seconds of very good character animation preferably with speech and lip syncing, that is not including intros, titles or credits. I rather see 30 seconds of animation that will blow me away than 3 minutes of not so great animation where I can spot a lot of mistakes. So in the end your entire demo reel should not be longer than 1 minute. On the other hand if you were an experienced artist working in the industry you could make your demo reel as long as you wanted.

I think by going back to school for 3D Animation since you have a graphic design training and experience would really make you stand out from the crowd especially when presenting your completed projects in a professional manner where you would apply your graphic design skills.

It all depends on what type of individual you are, if you need someone to explain to you things verbally then you should go to school but if you can learn on your own through reading manuals and tutorials which is something you would still have to do even you completed a diploma then I recommend that you learn at your own pace at home and to make it not so boring you could use discussion forums to talk with other artists and where you could post your work in progress so others could critique it. CGTalk is a great forum for instance with many experienced artists that are willing to share their knowledge and experience. Remember that a training certificate or a diploma in animation will not guarantee you a job, 80%+ of students after graduation do not get jobs right away and most get jobs in different fields. Perhaps a diploma in video game design would guarantee you a job but when it comes to art, companies mainly look for quality and do not really care if you have a 4.0 GPA as long as you can get the job done according to the companies desired quality specifications then you do not need a degree, just a darn good demo reel, 30 seconds max. It all gets down to experience and the experience will show in your work. If you had a classical degree in animation and another degree in computer animation then companies would definitely in most cases look at your application first because they can see that you are very serious about this career. Next they would look at your demo reel. If the quality of the demo reel matches the time you spent training in school then you will most likely be called for an interview. But here is the thing, let say that you and some other person applied for the same position at some company. You hold a diploma in graphic design and another diploma in 3D Animation and you have a good demo reel. The other person does not have a diploma and no training in 3D Animation but does have a much better demo reel than yours which she created by studding on her own. Who do you think most likely will be called in for an interview first? Probably the other person with out the animation diploma and with the better demo reel.

Pixar does not offer inside courses and if you are looking for apprenticeship you could email your resume and in your cover letter state that you are interested in an partnership program if one ever becomes available at the company.

In conclusion I think you should go back to school and take a course in 3D Animation or 3D Character Animation. It will be much more fun this way than studying alone at home. You could also go for Classical Animation first and then go for 3D Animation, this way you would gain plenty of knowledge and experience and many companies would love to hire you. Since you want to be an Animator I assume, make sure that you put most of your attention and focus towards it and not so much on modeling or texturing because that is another job some other artist can do.

Lizzy I hope this does answer your question.

Roman Bart, 3DjOBS Answers
May 8, 2010