Want to Work for Disney? Here's How
Disney’s movies combine masterful storytelling with rich animation—and many people with artistic skills were inspired as children by movies such as The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty and Aladdin to develop an interest in animation. Working for Disney is many artists’ dream career.
But competition is stiff—and you need more than great artistic skills to get a job there. You also need technical skills, the ability to work as a team, and a working knowledge of the many artistic careers available at Disney—and their requirements. Here are a few things you’ll need to do if you want to work for Disney.
Get a college degree
If you want to work for Disney, you’ll need at least an online four-year degree. Degrees that can help you get a foot in the door include online animation degrees, online computer programming, and fine art—but you’ll need to augment a technical degree with artistic samples, and demonstrate technical skill with a fine arts degree.
Cinderella's Castle in Orlando, Florida. With Disney having so many parks around the world, the possibilities are plentiful for working an area that interests you most.
Know what you want
There are many different ways to work for Disney. Many artists want to work for them as animators, but there are many different kinds of animators. Options include storyboard artists, character animators, effects artists, modelers, look development experts, lighting and composition specialists, and visual development artists. Most require an understanding of both the technical aspects of computer animation and traditional artistic skills involving an eye for color and contrast, anatomy and drawing.
Don’t ignore the technical details
Disney expects its animators to have a strong working knowledge of anatomy as well as perspective and composition and how basic physics impacts weight, balance, and movement. Because Disney mainly works in computer animation, you’ll need to have an understanding of interactive computer animation, with an appropriate technical background to be able to hit the ground running with their proprietary software. Some job positions may require knowledge of CGI, Unix, Maya, C/C++, Alias PowerAnimator, RenderMan and Softimage.
Demonstrate artistic ability
In addition to technical ability, Disney looks for candidates with a background in either hand-drawn, stop-motion or Claymation animation. Artists must know how to do sequential drawing, representational life drawing, clothed figure studies, head, hands and feet drawing, and drawings of animals and landscapes. Animation skills that help—although they’re not necessary for an entry-level position—include squash and stretch, anticipation and follow-through, pantomime, overlapping action, and composition.
Make a reel
When considering candidates, Disney asks for a sample of work. This sample can be in one of several formats: a DVD, CD or video, a QuickTime application, or a link to your work online. It should show off your skills and include demonstration of your process as well as finished products. For artists, this might mean sketches and gray scale models; for Claymation animators, this might include wire frames of characters; and so on. Skills demonstrated should include physical movements and gestures and facial animations. An accompanying breakdown list should detail the work you were responsible for in each scene and the software you used to accomplish it.
Be a team player
Disney artists and animators need to be able to work as a team. You will often find yourself developing or adding to other people’s concepts or artwork. To succeed, you’ll need to be adaptable, flexible and able to adjust your artistic style to the requirements of the project. As a house animator, you’ll need to be able to conform your work to create a consistent look—not stand out. Some artists have an easier time doing this than others.
Getting a job at Disney isn’t easy
The company requires rigorous understanding of computer animations as well as artistic ability; successful applicants must have demonstrated CGI and programming experience. In addition, an individualistic artistic temperament won’t work at Disney; everyone works as a team, and artists must be able to conform their own vision and style to the look of the film.
Start by getting a degree that focuses on technology, art, or a combination. Take outside classes or work on a strong portfolio to demonstrate skill in areas where your education is lacking. Research the types of artistic jobs available at Disney, and develop a reel that shows clearly you have the skills needed to succeed in your chosen field. With all of these things accomplished, you’ll have a better chance of landing a dream job at Disney.
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