By: Elyse                Categories: AnimationInterviews

By Tony Bancroft

Be confident.

This is probably the polar opposite of what you feel when you pick up a pencil to create.  I know it was for me when I was as a young artist.  Feeling confident in your drawing, animating, sculpting, painting or anything artistic can be the difference between success and failure in your work.  For me, I usually judge a drawing as successful if it communicates my intent to myself or others around me.  When I was young, my audience was my Mother.  When she came home, I would hold up a drawing and ask, “Look Ma, what do you think?”.  She would always lavish praise upon my scribbles.  In your professional animation career, success will be judged by an invisible audience who turns on the TV, buys a ticket to the movie or plays your video game.  For this reason, an artist must be able to muster his own confidence as well.

The noticeable effect that confidence could have on my daily work didn’t fully hit me until I worked at Disney with animator Glen Keane.  For those that don’t know, Glen Keane is the “leading man” of Disney Animation creating main characters like Aladdin, Beast and Pocahontas.  Keane learned his animation craft from Ollie Johnston (one of the famous Nine old Men of Disney) who taught him the importance of confidence in his work.  To illustrate, Johnston used to tell a story about his mentor, the legendary Freddie Moore.  Freddie created the popular version of Mickey Mouse that we know and love today.  He, like most artists, struggled with his own demons of not being good enough or talented enough for the challenges before him.  In fact, he was known to have a routine to boost his confidence before starting a big scene.  He would go outside of his office and ask his friends how much they liked his work.  As if on cue, he would hear them call out in unison, “Freddie, you’re the best!  Freddie, your scenes are the stuff of legend!  No one can animate Mickey better than you!” and so on.  Freddie’s chest would puff up and he would swagger back into his office and attack his scene with renewed verve and vigor.  Whether false or not, once he was filled with confidence Freddie Moore created some of the best animation of all time.  He relied on that confidence to wage war on his doubts and clear the way to a place of connection between himself and his work that created magic.  When Glen Keane would talk about confidence it was specific to knowing your character.  What it was doing, thinking, or feeling.  Glen was investing himself into his work with the confidence of knowing what he was GOING to create before it came out of his pencil.  He once gave me a drawing of Ariel and instead of some humorous pun like “I’m glad to be A Part of Your World–Glen Keane” he signed it, “Make those drawings LIVE!”  The only way to imbue life into your animation is to put your WHOLE self into your work.  The only way to truly do that is to erase timidity out of your mind and to replace it with CONFIDENCE!  This advice comes by way of Freddie Moore to Ollie Johnston to Glen Keane to me and now–to YOU.  Be confident.

Author of Focal Press’s Directing for Animation. Click here for more information on the book!

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