The most recent contribution to the Animator Letters Project is this incredibly inspiring letter written by supervising animator at Walt Disney Animation Studios, Dale Baer. He has animated on films such as Robin Hood, The Rescuers, The Lion King, Tarzan and just finished working on the new Winnie the Pooh, to name a few. It is a huge honor to have his letter as a part of this project! Thank you Mr. Baer, I know people around the world are going to be inspired by your letter.
Listen to Dale on the Animation Podcast.
Who is going to be the next animator to contribute a letter to this project? Please don’t feel you have to recieve a personal request from me for you to contribute- although I wish I could mail a letter to every animator in the industry, I can’t- so please write your letter today and mail it to me! Aspiring animators around the world will thank you for it, and it will benifit a great cause. As you know, once I get enough letters to put into a book, all the proceeds from the sell of the book will be donated to start a scholarship to help put an aspiring animator through school, that can’t afford it.
To All Aspiring Animators-
Personally I have wanted to be an animator, specifically for Disney, since I was 8 years old. I never got any encouragement from my family, so it was just a dream I had tucked away. I tried to do all the things that would make them happy as far as my future was concerned but my heart was never in it. When I was sixteen years old my father passed away. He had left me some V.A. money which sat in the bank till I got out of high school. And during that time my grandmother also passed away leaving me with another small inheritance.
So when I got out of high school I decided to try and go to art school, Chouinard to be exact. That was a struggle. Mainly because I wasn’t as good as I wished I was, but I got in just the same. Drawing has always been a bit of a struggle for me, but animation has always been my first love. And I wanted it bad enough to get over most hurdles . Which is true about anything you want bad enough.
Even after finally getting into the business, you always find people that are better than you in certain ways, but that’s good because it pushes you to try harder. This is something that will never go away. And the more popular this medium gets, the more people will be coming in, and the more competition you’ll be up against. You need to take advantage of that situation and learn from these people to better yourself. There will be some projects where you’ll shine, and others where they’ll shine. But bottom line if you work hard, keep a good and positive attitude and produce the amount of work that will make the bookkeepers happy, then you’ll do just fine.
The bottom line is to learn as much as you can. Keep up with changing technology, be enthusiastic and be the kind of person people want to work with. Be flexible. Take on challenges. Don’t complain about doing things three or four different ways, it’s all about the process and fine tuning.
There’s always going to be ups and downs in his business. It’s all a matter of riding those waves the best you can. Sometimes it’s a good idea to venture out and away from one studio and go to another to learn a different approach to doing things, be it time schedules, drawing styles, computer software and working with new people. It all oils down to your attitude and your desire to do this. No big secrets.
One of the things that always worked for me was to just say “yes” to what ever came along. You may or may not succeed at everything, but you don’t know till you try. Plus some of those things you say “yes” to may lead to something even greater than you could have ever imagined.
I’ve been doing this now for 41 years come this August, and it’s been the greatest adventure. From Saturday morning cartoons, TV specials, commercials, featurettes to features. And I haven’t gotten tired of it yet.
Dale L. Baer
Supervising Animator at Walt Disney Animation