ep: journey

How I Got Into Animation

I feel like sharing my journey in animation especially in times like these when job opportunities come by and I get lots of messages about it. Here it goes (it’s a bit long):
I got into TV animation in Manila without any art degree in 1990 as an inbetweener trainee for Hannah Barbera. It was a job application I waited for almost a year just to get into the program. When I first sent an overseas application to Disney, Dreamworks, and Warner Brothers in 1994, I was already supervising the layout dept for Marvel TV Production in Manila and just started a family. With a heart focused on getting into feature animation, the portfolio guidelines the studios sent me gave me a reality check - my skills were not there yet. So I decided I’ll keep moving towards the goal and sharpen my skills to their standard. After migrating to the US in ‘96 through a small game studio, the first thing I did was take a summer program at Associates in Art under a couple of Disney artists. I remember depriving myself of sleep for 13 weeks while building a new portfolio. After the program, I brought my portfolios to the same studios. DW wasn’t sure and wanted to give me a test. WB flatly told me I don’t have it. Disney, on the other hand, immediately hired me to work as full time key layout artist on Mulan. And that was the start of another life journey.
I always tell my students to keep the 4 P’s going in them: 1. Passion - keep it burning and having a growth mindset to never stop learning to do something new; 2. Practice - practice, practice, and tons of practice; 3. Perseverance - takes an act of will to keep pressing on; and lastly, 4. Prayers - we need lots of it. At any point, don’t ever, ever think that you’ve arrived. All the best to all who are on the same creative journey.

Sometimes life takes time

As a kid, I wanted to be one of two things: either a paleontologist or an astronaut. I dreamed of going to Space Camp. I loved dinosaurs and books about the La Brea Tar Pits. I was certifiably obsessed with both space and Earth’s history. As I went through school it was obvious that I was adept at both art and science. 

I was encouraged to pursue the art end of things by my mom; my dad supported me no matter what I did. I struggled a little with math near my senior year, though I was hardly failing and got As and Bs in all my classes, including precalc and physics. Still, I decided to pursue art.

I went to college out of high school on a full scholarship and attended SUNY Oswego for graphic design. I still had to take out some loans but I got my BFA. I took one freelance job and realized: I hated it. Art was fun and I was good at it but… I hated freelance work. 

My mom suggested I try becoming a teacher, so I did that. I got my teaching degree from Indian River Community College in Florida, which is a 7-week program because Florida is really desperate for teachers. I worked as a teaching assistant for a few years but… I was bored. Really bored. 

I went to Florida State University for one semester (again using loans), deciding I was going to become an oceanographer. But I failed college algebra and decided I was too stupid for science. 

Feeling like absolute shit about myself, I joined the Navy. I studied for the ASVAB and got a 97, almost the highest score possible even though that test has math on it. I ended up in a fairly technical job, repairing the electrical systems on F18s. I had to learn some math and some science for my job and noticed I was… actually pretty good at it. 

I spent 4 years in the Navy and got out, deciding I’d go back to school to become a teacher (again) but only as a backup, and my goal would be getting a Master’s and Doctorate in planetary geology. I came to Central Michigan University. I had to take college algebra again… and I aced it. Nearly got a 100%. I was floored. I took algebra II and also aced it. 

It was halfway through that second semester I decided to throw caution to the wind: fuck it all, I was going to become a scientist. So I dropped the teaching major and joined the Geology major. I proceeded to pass algebra II and  trigonometry with As. 

I’m now entering my fourth semester here at CMU. 

I’m taking calculus 1 this semester, calc II in the spring. I’m going to be picking up math as a minor beneath my geology major. I’m looking at grad schools and already planning where I want to go (University of Washington, I’m looking at you!). 

Life isn’t always linear. I’m 32 years old and halfway through a new bachelor’s degree, with at least 6 more years of school ahead of me before I’ll land my dream job of planetary geology, although I could still potentially switch to Earth-based geology (I do still love the ocean, don’t get me started on mid-ocean ridges). I’m keeping my options open at this point because I know that things may not turn out how I’ve planned them. Yes, I have some college debt but I’m ok with that. Yeah, I literally have -$300 in my bank account but I’m okay with that, this is my dream and it’s worth it. 

Do not feel like a loser if you’re 24 and not in your dream job. Don’t lose hope if you’re struggling, if your situation seems boring and endless. Don’t be afraid of student loan debt; I know some people are terrified of it for some reason but you really don’t have to be. Go out there and DO IT, if you can. If you’re in a place where you have to wait, then knuckle down and bear it out. I had to wait out 4 years in the Navy to get where I am. I had to get an entire degree that’s basically worthless to get where I am. I’ve literally lived three different lifetimes to get where I am: artist, teacher, military. 

I’m 32 and my life is just barely beginning.