Saturday, November 10, 2007
Posted by Bobby Beck at 10:56 AM
“Do you miss animating or leaving Pixar?”

I wanted to take a few moments to write about something I get asked quite often and that is, “Do you miss animating,” “Do you regret leaving Pixar?” or “Do you plan to go back to Pixar?”

Leaving Pixar was not a tough decision for me. I was there for 7 years and worked on 5 amazing feature films. I saw the company go from a relatively small shop to a large, well establish animation studio. I have been and always will be impressed with the way they keep the company so alive and so exciting. I’ve done my best to infuse Animation Mentor with the qualities that I liked most about Pixar; namely the atmosphere being fun, nobody looking over your shoulder, allowing people to make mistakes and not being too hard when they make them, as well as a philosophy that I’ve come to call “inspired people create inspired results.”

It’s a fantastic feeling to see your name in the credits of a film and know that this will be there forever. It’s even cooler to work with an amazing team on something you believe in and know will be enjoyed by millions of people around the world.

However, my Pixar experience was not all smiles and monkey’s in the hallways. It has its clicks and difficult people to deal with. By-and-large I feel proud of the work I did there and wouldn’t change much about my overall experience.

On Finding Nemo I knew I was getting antsy and wanted to grow, but there were so many amazing people in line in front of me for the “high-level” positions, so I was trying to take a different route. I asked my animation supervisor if it would be okay for me to make a video documentary of what it was really like to be an animator at Pixar to be released with the Nemo DVD. This came about because Monster’s Inc. was such a special film to work on but the DVD extras didn’t have much about animation at all. In fact it had a monkey running around the studio, which I guess was good for kids. Many of us were upset because we wanted it to be something more.

I wanted to be able to help give back some nuggets of animation knowledge to the world. I even explained that I did not necessarily want to be in the video, but rather just be in charge of shooting and editing it together and that I would do it on my own time and for free. I was denied as Leslie Iwerk’s was doing a documentary about Pixar at the time. I’m happy to see that she did a great job with the Mark Walsh piece on the Nemo DVD. I was happy to see that there was something on that DVD that would be able to inspire people to want to become animators and a little about the magic and struggle behind it all.

Instead of getting frustrated and stopping my pursuit I decided to direct my energies towards teaching. Around that time Shawn Kelly asked me to co-teach with him at AAU. In doing it I found my calling. My calling is a marriage between animation and education. I love them both so much and seeing someone learn and “get it” is huge. No joke. It’s more magical to me that creating a great shot or having my name in the credits. It’s not that I do not love animation; it’s just that I feel so much life in seeing someone’s dreams come true and seeing their life changed forever.

Almost every single day I get an email thanking us for creating Animation Mentor. A school who really does care very much about quality in what we are doing. It is not perfect, nor will it ever be, but we are constantly doing what we can to make it truly an amazing place to learn and fulfill dreams and spread animation knowledge around the world.

It does shock people, but I do not animate anymore and for that reason I have decided that I do not feel comfortable giving outside talks about animation. I don’t want to be false in this way as I’m not as in touch with it as people who do it regularly. I feel that I’d rather leave the teaching up to our amazing mentors and co-founders who animate at their jobs day-in-and-day-out. They are much more in touch with it and will be better equip to teach people what they really need to know right now.

My job as the CEO of Animation Mentor is truly to make it an industry school and make it the best school for animators in the world. To make sure that what we are teaching is relevant to what the industry needs and that our graduates are coming out with solid skills and an inspired attitude. This is an art in and of itself. I pride myself now more on learning how people learn, the tools they need to learn, the environment they need to learn in and that it all makes sense and is rewarding to them all; mentors, students and our staff. We have a long way to go, but we will continue to push forward and will never get comfortable as we always want to keep it fresh and exciting.

Animation Mentor is a different kind of company and it’s something that challenges me on many levels. I am truly AWE inspired by the team of people behind Animation Mentor who put so much passion and energy into it; and leading them is an honor for me. For this reason I do not ever question leaving Pixar, nor do I have any plans to go back. Starting Animation Mentor and marrying my wife are the two things in life I have no regrets about at all. Life is awesome and I’m so proud of the choices I’ve made.

I hope this make sense and gives some of you an understanding about how I feel on this subject.

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