We get many emails from eager budding animators and film makers. It’s great to see passionate and often young people wanting to get into animation, however there isn’t always the time to email everyone back individually. We really wish we could! So here are a bunch of questions we frequently get asked.
How can I get started in animation?
Just start animating! Get a notebook and a pencil. Congratulations! You are now in possession of an animation studio! Do a drawing in the corner of page 1. Do a slightly different drawing in the corner of page 2. Keep going until you have filled the notebook. Now flip the pages and BOOM! You’ve started in animation!!
If you’re looking to explore animation digitally, then there are loads of free tools out there. A quick search of “free animation software” will give you plenty to choose from.
Don’t let “not having the right stuff” ever get in your way. One of our lead animator Dan’s first animations was with his brother’s Spider-Man toys. He went on his Dad’s computer, put the photos in Microsoft PowerPoint and pressed “next slide” as fast as he could! If you’ve got a passion for animation, then you’ll find a way to make stuff move.
Also, draw things that you like. Do you like robots? Draw robots! Do you like wizards? Draw wizards! Do you like fat pandas that have accidentally become kung fu masters? Draw that! Draw draw draw!
Do you need to draw to be an animator?
Animation software and the ability to slot in to a larger pipeline on a big project means that as an animator, you could do a whole job without having to do a single drawing. Having said that, a basic level of drawing skill is a necessity in animation (even in 3D). You’ll find it a lot easier to communicate your ideas if you can sketch it out. And as clever as the character designers are, they can’t account for every hand shape a character will need. Anything on top of that basic level of drawing will make you more flexible, more useful to a studio and make your work that much better!
How do you create an animation?
We’ve got a whole blog post outlining our production process here.
being a student
Do you need a degree to be an animator?
Nope. Not at all. When hiring artists we have not once asked to see any fancy piece of paper to prove their artistic abilities. Having said this, the majority of us here have a degree in animation. So, you know, it helps!
What should I focus on at uni?
We suggest you get a broad range of skills and specialise in one. Key skills useful to animation graduates are animation, character design, layout, storyboarding. Having a broad range of skills make you more useful in a small studio environment (which makes up most of the animation industry in Bristol where we’re based) and therefore handy to have around.
As a graduate, you are most likely going to be hired as an animator first. So make sure you come out of uni with some strong animation skills. This will then be your ticket to move into the area you are most interested in.
We’ve written a whole blog post right here!
Can you critique my showreel?
Sure. We love critiquing animation. In fact, we’re not sure a day goes by where we don’t critique some animation somewhere (usually a British gas advert). Send your showreel in and we might be able to fit in a critique around all our Sun & Mooning. Also, it’s handy if you specifically ask us what you want feedback on. Do you want feedback on acting? Body mechanics? Weight? Would we cut anything from the showreel? Is there anything missing?
the industry and jobs
What are the skills you look for in an animator?
The key skill required is good timing and an understanding of animation principles. This is about knowing where you put your drawings for entertaining and believable animation. Another key skill is staging. This is about knowing what the purpose of a scene is and how to get the idea across to the audience. It’s about knowing when to have a character move and when they should stay still. Having creative ideas is also a key skill for an animator. A character can pick up a box in an infinite number of ways. It is up to the animator to come up with an entertaining and characterful way of doing it.
How do I break into the UK animation industry?
At whatever point you are in your animated walk of life you can start engaging in the industry.
Location location location. There are 4 major animation hubs across the UK: London, Manchester, Bristol and Cardiff. Being in or near one of these cities will really boost your opportunities in the animation industry. Have you ever heard the phrase “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”? Of course you have. You’ve been told it 7 times this week already! Well, the thing is, it’s (partly) true. Now I know you don’t want to hear that but the lesser spotted human is a social animal you see. And in these animation hubs there are animation meet ups, drawing groups and film festivals where the animators can be seen in the wild! Go along to one and join the community.
Start applying for work experience as soon as you’ve put together your first portfolio and showreel.
How do I get a job with you guys?!?!?!?!?
Keep an eye on our jobs page and follow us on social media to be updated when we have openings. You can also email us to say hi! We may not have time to reply but don’t let this stop you. Email us again in 3 months time. Keep the conversation going.
Practice makes slightly better.
What programs do you use?
3ds Max: for 3D CGI animation
Toon Boom Harmony and Adobe Animate: for 2D animation
Spine (by esoteric software): for 2D game animation
Photoshop: for concept art, backgrounds etc.
After Effects: for post-production and compositing. We also use After Effects for motion graphics.
Premiere: for editing
Illustrator: for vector illustration
Audition: for sound editing
If you are just starting in animation, forget the list you have just read. None of these programs will make you a better animator or artist. In fact, if anything, they’ll make you worse. Studying animation isn’t about learning a program. It’s about learning a craft. Every animator at Sun & Moon started on ye olde paper and pencil.
Can you recommend any books?
If you just get one book about animation make it this one: The Animator’s Survival Kit by Richard Williams. It takes you all the way from taking your first steps to kicking you out the house with super clear and concise instruction. If it is lacking anything then it’d be effects animation and the section on quadrupeds is quite minimal. But, you know, this book is awesome!! So we can forgive it.
Beyond The Animator’s Survival Kit, books are down to your own tastes and interests. Here’s the team’s favourite books:
Dyl: Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels by Scott McCloud
“This is gold. The title says comics but it all relates to storyboarding animation. If telling stories with pictures is your thing, then this is your book.”
Louis: The Art of (insert favourite animated film here)
“Behind every great film is a gorgeous Art of book. Loads of amazing designs don’t make the final movie, and loads of amazing designs do! And therefore, you get books chock-full of amazing designs!”
Lindsay: The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston
“If you want to learn about animation then you might as well go straight to the source. Written by animation royalty that practically made what animation is today. What’s not to love?”
Dan: Force: Dynamic Life Drawing for Animators by Mike Mattesi.
“This book helps loads with approaching life drawing as an animator. The sketches inside are a joy to look at and a masterclass in line of action.”
Sam: Cartoon Modern by Amid Amidi.
“It’s my go to book for anything to do with my favourite animation era and its origins. Never fails to inspire me.”
Owen: The Animator’s Survival Kit by Richard Williams
“Just buy it.”