mushroom poster

Some Helpful Art Tips on Submitting Your Demo/Portfolio to an Animation Studio

So last semester I attended a lecture by one of the recruiters from DreamWorks Animation. I recently uncovered my notes on the presentation and figured it might be of use to post them here so others can benefit from this information too.


+There must be a beginning, middle, and end

+Never end your storyboards/shorts with “to be continued” it gives them the impression that you have not finished your idea.

+Including grid planes (sky and ground) are a plus to help the viewer understand the space they are in

+Use a variety of tones to establish space, depth, and mood. Using color to emphasize an important object is also a good strategy.

+Focus on the beats. This is not an animatic, you do not need to pinpoint every minute action. Include the important frames to create a clear visual interpretation of the narrative.

+Demonstrate that you have a good understanding of cinematography and camera movement (i.e. don’t brake the 180 degree rule, make the visual experience interesting)


+Understand Lighting and color
+Good quality digital paintings with impact
+The work should have an element of “charm and appeal”
+Include process work.

“Shape language” is also important. This refers the stylization which reaches across all elements in a particular story/film/ collection. Shape language applies not just to characters, but to objects and scenery. What are the nuances of color and form that define the style?

Character design is generally the most desired position for any artist, but very few artists will actually be selected to work with character design. No one is hired on at entry level for character design, this is something you can only work up to by proving your skills and building a good reputation within the studio. Most visual developers will work on props, vehicles, scenery, etc. So learn to treat your props as characters! Never underestimate the minutiae. Anything from mushrooms, and flowers,  to posters in a character’s bedroom. Also include variations on these props. Don’t do just one mushroom. Make ten mushrooms. Or twenty! You’ll want to get across that you have a good eye for detail. DreamWorks loves detail!

Finally, understand how your work fits into the grand scheme of things. Know that when working on a feature film, game, or any big creative project, departments will have to collaborate to get things done efficiently. Make sure your work is readable and easy to understand. Something the other departments can work with without having to ask questions.


Human moments/Acting/Nuances of movement and expression (reactions shots are a good thing to include; show that there is a thought process)

The quality of your demo is more important than the length
One format they suggested was to include clips from your thesis film (if you have one) and attach the full film at the end of the reel

If you submit a thesis film, especially one you worked on with a partner/partners, clarify which sequences you were responsible for/what components of those sequences you were responsible for. They appreciate it when notes like these are included as subtitles/captions within the film itself, so they do not have to refer to a separate article while watching the short.

Make your demo entertaining.

If you decide to show off your lighting/surfacing skills, modeling food is a good way to get their attention. You know you have a well rendered piece of fruit if you can make the audience hungry.
Lighting translucent objects (flower petals, thin fabric, etc) is a good way to go.

It is also good to include your work process