Frozen and Tarzan director Chris Buck remembers the first movie he ever saw: it was Pinocchio when he was around four years old.
“It had a huge impact on me, and I just loved the world - I loved the fantasy of it, I loved the music. Everything spoke to me,” he told Yahoo Finance while speaking to mark Frozen II’s induction to Disney+.
He’s not sure if he was drawing before he saw Pinocchio, but he knows he was drawing after.
“I drew cartoons inspired by the comic strip Peanuts, I was always drawing Charlie Brown and always copying illustrations from Mad Magazine - which I just loved.”
His love of drawing and animation took him to the character animation school at the California Institute of the Arts, sponsored by Disney.
From there, he trained under Disney’s Eric Larson - one of the animators behind Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Bambi, Cinderella, Peter Pan and dozens more.
“Eric was a huge inspiration in my life and he trained a lot of my generation and taught us the Disney sense of entertainment - really getting into the characters and understanding what made them tick.”
How can I get a job at Disney?
The first thing to know is that the requirement will, naturally, differ from department to department, Buck said.
“Artistically, you would have a resume - if it’s in animation you would have some animation on some reel that you would submit.
“They’re always looking for fresh voices and fresh ideas. But really it comes down to the portfolio and your passion and your desire.”
When it comes to getting into animation, Buck always tells people that it’s critical to become a great observer.
“That was one thing that helped me. Early on I would always be observing people, observing animals… I like that more than just studying films. I think films are fantastic but you’re not always getting the real world out there.”
He said it’s great to get the observations from real life, and then those observations will play out in animations in a real way.
“You never know when you’re going to bring them into your own work - even if it’s just your portfolio, you might bring something that’s very special about a situation or a pose - something that you’ve captured from real life and that speaks to people. It’s interesting how you don’t necessarily sometimes know why it does, but it’s something that - because it’s true to you, it becomes true to them.”
Animators won’t talk about doing realism or dealing in realistic worlds, preferring to focus on believability in the characters and the settings.
Getting paid to do what you love
The first time Buck received his pay packet for working as an animator, he couldn’t believe it.
“They’re paying me to draw all day? This is pretty incredible,” he said.
“It’s interesting though - at the time - I should have appreciated it more than I did. I’m sure that as a young kid I was thinking, ‘This is cool,’ but I didn’t realise how amazing it was at the time.
“But I was very excited to actually get paid for what I do - and I was reminded of that constantly by my family. They were saying, ‘You get paid for that?’ And I was saying, ‘Yeah, I do.’”
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