Questioning Creatives


This article was written on 05 Apr 2013, and is filled under animators.

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Anthony Hodgson

My name is Anthony Hodgson and I am a 43 year old Animator living in San Francisco. I have a BA in Illustration from Harrow College, and an MA in Animation from the Royal College of Art. I have worked at DreamWorks Animation since 1997.

When did you decide you wanted to be an animator?

About a year into my Illustration degree I realised that my drawings and paintings were not very good. To get around this problem I started making three dimensional illustrations, and then I started animating them in stop-motion. It was fun, but the thing I enjoyed most was writing the scripts. I decided I wanted to be a writer. But it turned out no one wanted to pay me to be a writer, so I became an animator instead.

I never really enjoyed making stop-motion animation. I enjoyed the final results, but the process was physically arduous and too easy to screw up. Computer animation meant I could sit in a comfy chair all day and when I screwed up I could just hit control-z.

For several years after I started at DreamWorks I still hoped to one day be a writer, but I eventually gave up on that idea, and decided to focus all my energy into the job I was being paid to do. I began to properly study the principles of animation – stuff that I had not learned in college. After a while I began to feel less like a fake and more like I knew what I was doing. That’s when it really started to be enjoyable. I suppose I am saying that it was several years into my career as an animator when I decided I wanted to be one.

Would you recommend studying at art school?
Yes. Especially if you are not sure which discipline you want to go into and would like the opportunity to try them all. Also, college is probably where you will meet most of your best friends. Having said that, I think the best way to learn how to animate right now is through one of the online schools like Animation Mentor.


How long was it before animation became your primary form of income?

After college I did a stint at the Museum of the Moving Image as the Resident Animator. I had a couple of commissions to make short films, and did some freelance writing for children’s television. But I was barely making a living, and hated not having a regular income. It was about three years after graduating that DreamWorks saw one of my films at a festival and offered me a job animating on Antz. I’ve worked there ever since.

Could you describe your typical day?

For about 2/3 of the work-day I am in my office with my headphones on, animating. If I am just starting on a scene I might video myself acting it out as reference. The rest of the time I spend in production meetings, or supervising other animators. We have two meetings a day with the Director where we show him the scenes we’ve animated and he gives us notes. Lunch is always very good (and free). And after lunch we go for a nice walk around the bay and past the cement factory. It’s an hour drive to the studio from San Francisco, but the freeway passes through some pretty countryside, and I listen to a lot of audio books.

What do you wish you’d know when you first started out?

The 12 principles of animation.


What’s the best thing about being an animator?
Bringing characters to life. Creating the illusion that they are living, breathing, thinking things. Tricking people into caring about them.
And I have a beer fridge.

What’s the worst thing about being an animator?
Too much sitting down in comfy chairs curves your spine and makes you fat.

If you weren’t an animator, what would you be?
I would like to make comic books, but my drawings are still not very good.

Any other tips you could share?
Remember it’s just a cartoon.



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