Connections are important. They are the supply lines of careers that can often act as a springboard for up-and-coming talent in any profession. In film especially, connections can provide a strong basis on which you can begin a career. The best way to form these when you live in the middle of nowhere is through email, and over the years, that is exactly what I’ve been trying to do. I’ve come across some very valuable advice from a woman who has worked as an animator on The Princess and the Frog and Winnie the Pooh. Just recently, according to iMDb.com, she worked in the visual development of Wreck-it Ralph. This woman is Sarah Airriess whose blog you can find here.
Following the release of The Princess and the Frog, I found Mrs. Airriess’ name listed in the credits as an apprentice animator. Hoping to find how she had made it to this stage in her life, I emailed her a few questions along the lines of “What advice do you have for a kid who wants to do what you do some day?” I also couldn’t resist asking her what parts she animated. The response I received was fantastic, and her advice was surprisingly simple.
First of all, she recommended some materials to learn from, specifically a website this website: The Temple of the Seven Golden Camels . It is a goldmine in terms of explaining various aspects of storytelling. The author(s) has posted articles ranging in subject from costumes to character arcs. Whether you want to better understand movies, or simply add to your writing, this blog will help out invaluably. In addition to this, Mrs. Airriess recommended the practice of “stop-framing,” as she described it. Basically, she explained that by playing back animated classics like Snow White or Tarzan frame by frame, a viewer can study character movements and understand better the idea of what animation should look like in the individual drawings. Through the method of “stop-framing,” you really can get a first-hand look at what animation legends put into their drawings to bring out the life. I’ve even tried it with Looney Tunes cartoons. When “stop-framing” a Looney Tunes cartoon however, if it is directed by Chuck Jones, you will find that every few frames contain one of his own key frames, as he would draw out the keys for many of his cartoons, including all three episodes of The Hunting Trilogy.
I also found that Mrs. Airriess animated in The Princess and the Frog many background and crowd shots, as well as a few scenes with Dr. Facilier. The lesson to be learned from all of this is that a simple email is possibly the most empowering tool for any adolescent looking towards his or her future. The worst that can happen is your contact may decline or forget to respond due to a heavy work schedule. All of this valuable advice has come straight from a professional. It’s safe to say that connections are pretty powerful stuff, and coincidently, they’re in the name of my blog. (I didn’t mean to do that at all).