Animation Mentor Graduation and CTN 2014 Recap

Whew! What a busy couple of months it has been! I have not been able to get as much content on the blog lately as I would have liked but all for good reasons. One being that I have been very busy animating away for work and the other being that I was traveling to Burbank, California for the Animation Mentor graduation ceremonies and CTN Animation Conference.

This post is going to be a recap of the events and exciting things that I did while out in LA. First off, let me say this, CTN is one of the most inspiring, fun, exciting, educational things I have ever attended. I cannot put in to accurate words how amazing the experience was. Getting to be surround by other people all with the same love and passion for animation that I have was just awesome. On top of that, getting to hang out with, discuss, and attend lectures with many of my animation heroes was incredible. I likely will not be able to hit on everything I did, but I wanted to at least touch on some of the most memorable and impactful things that took place in the four days I was at the conference.

Day 1:
Walt Disney Animation Studios Tour and Q&A with AM Alumni
The first thing I did after checking into the hotel was to head over to Walt Disney Animation studios and was lucky enough to participate in a special tour for AM alumni. We got to tour the animation studio and see a ton of top-secret behind the scenes stuff. We also got to see the various film stages and back lots of the studio where many of the movies and television shows you see are filmed. After the tour we then got to sit in the famous on-studio theatre and have a Q&A session and hear the stories from some fellow AM alumni who have all gone on to become Animators at Disney! It was a truly inspiring experience and something I will never forget. The Disney Animation Studios is a pretty magical place.



Animation Mentor Graduation!
I finished the Animation Mentor program back in March of 2014, but the official graduation ceremonies for the graduates did not take place until just this month. AM wanted to hold them at the same time and venue as the CTN conference (awesome idea). The graduation ceremony was not your typical sit in a giant theatre and walk across a stage in some dorky outfit (been there, done that) instead, it was an informal party with an excellent speech by all three of the founders of the school (Bobby Beck, Shawn Kelly and Carlos Baena).


Signed Diploma by Bobby Beck and Shawn Kelly!

Signed Diploma by Bobby Beck and Shawn Kelly!

Then, to top it all off they managed to get the legendary GLEN KEANE to be our commencement speaker! Let me say that again, GLEN KEAN – the man who is know for animating some of the most iconic disney characters of my generation (Ariel and The Beast to name a couple). Glen is truly one of the greats, he is so sincere with both his animation and his talks. It was really an amazing experience. I managed to snap a picture of him while he gave his commencement speech.

After the speeches, it was time to party! I was able to mingle and have drinks with so many of my friends from school who up until that night I had only ever talked to online! It was amazing to meet everyone in real life. I got to meet friends from school who came all the way from the other side of the world including, Brazil, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Vienna and so many other places!

Day 2:
This was the first official day of the conference and it was a packed day for sure. It started off with a keynote speech by Glen Keane and he showed off his beautiful short film he created called ‘Duet’. If you not seen it, go to youtube right now and watch it! It is a beautiful piece of art. He also gave an awesome behind-the-scenes look at the making of it.

After the keynote, I had to head to my first demo reel critique session I had scheduled. I was paired with Ruben Aquino – who is a retired 2D Disney Animator, he played a big part in the animation of Ursula on the little mermaid! I was nervous to show him my work, but he was such a nice, and genuine person! He really enjoyed my demo reel and gave me some excellent feedback and notes.

Later that day, I happened to run into Bobby Beck, Shawn Kelly and Carlos Baena just sitting outside and offering to critique people’s demo reels. I immediately got in line and was able to have Shawn look at my reel! It was a great feeling to see him watch my reel and actually laugh out loud at one of my more comedic shots! It’s truly a pretty awesome experience to see your artwork evoke an emotion in someone else; especially, when they are a Supervising Animator at ILM! Shawn also had a lot of really positive things to say about my work and gave me some really great advice on how to improve and what to add to it!

That night I got a chance to meet up with a bunch of my friends and fellow alumni from Purdue who have since moved out to LA and are all working at various major studios around town. It was awesome getting to reunite with a lot of good friends whom I haven’t seen since graduating college back in 2012! It’s also awesome to see that so many of my friends have gone on to do work on some really awesome video games and films!

Day 3:

I started off Day 3 with another demo reel critique from Disney. This time it was with one of their CG animators. This critique session was part of their booth in the exhibition hall. I got a chance to get some really great feedback from a current CG animator at Disney. After that, I headed to one of my favorite workshops of the whole conference. It was a very small workshop with Freelance Animator – Ken Fountain.

Ken is a veteran DreamWorks animator who has since gone out on his own as a freelancer and he gave a super informative and inspiring talk about life as a freelancer and independent animator. It was some excellent information for me and super relevant to a lot of the stuff I have had to learn over the past 9 months starting my career as a freelancer. After his presentation I got a chance to hang out and talk to him in the hallway for a bit and we bonded over both being originally from Chicago, in-fact he grew up about 20min from where I did and we had a lot of stuff in common. I was able to get him my business card and really hope to stay in touch with him and seek his advice when I can!

That night, I attended a wonderful talk by Andreas Deja, who is another legendary animator like Glen Keane. Andreas worked on films like Roger Rabbit, and then onto be the lead animator for many famous disney villians, such as Jaffar, Scar and more! After the talk, I ended up staying up until 2am just hanging out at the hotel bar and the outside lounge just talking and meeting other AM and CTN attendees. One of the coolest experiences was hanging out with some fellow AM students and having Bobby Beck and Shawn Kelly wonder over to us and just sit down at the fire pits and hang out with us and we all just geeked out about animation, drank and stayed up talking late into the night! It was a really memorable night!

Day 4
The final day of CTN was filled with more workshops and critiques. I got another walk-up critique by a DreamWorks animator Mike Safianoff which was awesome, and really helpful. I also ran into some of my mentors from AM just walking around the conference, Nicole Herr (class 5), Aaron Hartline (class 1) and Sean Sexton (class 6) were there!

Finally, I ended the night back at Walt Disney Animation Studios with a special on the lot screening of Big Hero 6. Afterwards there was a special Q&A with the Head of Story for BH6 – Paul Briggs and the Director of the short film ‘Feast’ – Patrick Osbourne. It was a fantastic film and made even more special by watching it at the studio where it was all created!

Here is a pretty awesome vine video from the screening that Darrin Butters (Disney Animator and moderator of the Q&A) took.

Now that it is all over, I have returned home and to work, even more inspired and excited to be apart of this truly amazing industry. I learned so much, met so many great people and cannot wait to attend CTN again in the future!

2 thoughts on “Animation Mentor Graduation and CTN 2014 Recap

  1. Hey Matt!
    This is awesome! I just finished my program at AM, and am attending te graduation/CTN events next week. Your post is getting me pumped! I am just curious.. What CTN pass did you get? I am debating between the $85 basic package and the $250 one that includes all workshops etc. do you have any suggestions?

    • Hey Spencer!

      Glad you enjoyed the post and congrats on finishing AM it is such a great school and program.

      The CTN passes have changed a little bit since I went last year. They actually are a little better now in my opinion. As for the pass I chose it was the VIP pass. I think it was totally worth it especially for a first timer who wants to get the most out of the conference and do a lot of stuff. It is a bit pricey but I thought it was worth the money especially since I wasn’t sure how many CTNs I would get to attend.

      Hope that helps, enjoy graduation and CTN, it’s such a great time. Be sure to meet up with all your AM friends and mentors and don’t be shy, everyone is so friendly and fun.

      Take care!

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