Monday, August 12, 2013

How to draw for a living: First Job Profile of a former Disney animator

This summer I connected with some amazing professionals who were willing to share their wisdom. Each profile features how their first job out of college led to their amazing careers today, as well as their advice to help you do the same.

I'll never forget my first trip to Disney World and those little cubes that showed animators desks. Coloring for a living?! Yes please! 

Unfortunately I realized pretty early in life that I did not have the talent nor the patience to draw well. But I've never stopped admiring animators and designers.

I recently met an incredible designer who loves his work and has a deep passion for life. 

Oh, and if you've seen a little movie called The Lion King, then you have seen some of his work:


Cars Paitoon designed
First Job Profile: Paitoon Ratan, Freelance Designer

1) What was your first job out of college and how did you get it?

My first job out of college, in 1993, was as a Visual Effects Artist/animator for Walt Disney Animation Studio Florida at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

In 1990, I won the prestigious Disney Feature animation internship while I was a Junior in college (Columbus College of Art and Design, Columbus, Ohio). I came to Florida and trained with the legendary Disney animators for a semester. 

At the end of the internship, I was offered a job to work on Beauty and The Beast but I decided to go back to Ohio and finish my degree in Industrial design. 

I graduated with a BFA In Industrial Design along with The Outstanding Senior in Industrial Design Award in 1992. 

Thankfully in late 1992, while I was back in Thailand with my family, Disney called me and asked if I would like to come back to work on the film, The Lion King. I said yes and that was the beginning of a decade of working for the Walt Disney Company as a full time cast member.

2) What was the most important thing you learned from your first job?

When I first arrived at the Disney studios in 1990 as an intern, everywhere I turned, I saw someone who is more talented and more skilled than me as an artist/designer. 

It was a humbling experience to say the least to walk down the Disney animation building knowing that I was surrounded by the very best in the world.

Once I actually became a Disney cast member, one of the most valuable lessons I learned was to figure out what kind of a designer I wanted to become and what types of projects I would like to be a part of during the rest of my career as a designer. Ever since then I have spent my entire career trying to become that designer.

3) What did you do to leverage your first job to help you get where you are today?

I stayed at my first job for a decade doing what I loved to do and got to be a part of so many special films. I'm so incredibly grateful for that; it was an amazing time period to get to be a 2D animator for a studio such as Walt Disney and to have that as part of my life journey. 

It also gave me the confidence that I was capable of doing 'more' than just design and animation. In 2002, after I finished work on Brother Bear, I decided it was time for me to go out on my own and give myself a chance at fulfilling some of my other dreams and passions as a designer.

My independent design consultant career took off from the day I left Disney Animation into the direction I had imagined. 

Because my first job at Disney was animation, my transition into the toy and consumer goods, theme park and VDO Game industry was almost seamless. I started to design toys for Disney Consumer Products and DC Comics very quickly after I left Disney Animation. 

As a young Industrial design student, I dreamt that someday I would have "a product" that I designed out in the market. While I was working at feature animation, I set goals to someday be designing theme parks, toys, movies, TV, VDO games etc. and I have been so fortunate to have achieved and done many of those things I set out to do. 

I continue to be a part of some really cool projects working with some really amazingly talented groups of people as an independent designer.

4) What advice do you have for a recent graduate who is struggling to find their first job after college?

In my humble opinion, I think the real question is not so much about the advice on finding 'the first job' but it should be 'finding the job that you feel 'passionate' about.

 I think all of us should have this question answered long before we all go to college. 'What is your passion?' It should be a High school's graduating requirement. :) 

Once you are in college, you should know exactly what you need to do while you are there in order for you to graduate and get a job that helps you become who you want to become. I think if you don't know what your passion is, finding your 'first job, second job or third job ' is not going to matter much as I don't think you will be happy working at your job.

So I'd say go out there and look for the job that you love. But in order to do that, you need to know what it is that you love doing. So you need to figured out what your 'passion' is. 

Then spend the rest of your life going after it because spending 40-60 hrs a week on a job that you don't like is a long time to be miserable every week (even if that job pays amazingly well).

I will end this with a quote from one of my all time favorite authors who spent her entire professional life studying terminally ill patients:

"It is very important that you only do what you love to do. You may be poor, you may go hungry, you may lose your car, you may have to move into a shabby place to live, but you will totally live. 

"And at the end of your days you will bless your life because you have done what you came here to do. Otherwise, you will live your life as a prostitute, you will do things only for a reason, to please other people, and you will never have lived. And you will not have a pleasant death.” — Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross

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