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Tony White p1

READERSVOICE.COM aims to collect a few interesting reading tips. Animator Tony White, from Drawassic studio, is trying to revive and adapt the Disney-style apprenticeship system in animation. He has a lot of experience in cartoons, and learned the craft from some of the greats. He founded the 2D or Not 2D animation festival, and has written many books on animation, like Tony White’s Animator's Notebook. This book teaches how to animate the traditional way. It’s a very good beginner’s guide, covering all the basics. In this interview he gives some excellent animation-related reading tips.

The apprenticeship system of learning animation was one of the great things about Walt Disney’s studio. It is still found in Miyazaki’s studio, but it would be a good thing for the long-term future of animation if this system was the norm. No matter how talented and experienced some animation teachers are, it would be hard to beat learning in an animation studio, starting out in-betweening, before moving on to key poses perhaps, and character design, as well as learning the rest of the cartoon business. I asked Tony White about his belief in the apprenticeship system. Also he gives some great animation-related reading tips.

READERSVOICE.COM: Do you think YouTube tutorials that people post might also become a major source of the apprenticeship experience, or is the human interaction a vital part of an apprenticeship?

TONY WHITE: I think the finest way to learn and gain experience in animation is to sit at the shoulders of a master of the art and experience how it’s done. The biggest tragedy of all is that we’ve long lost the old ‘apprenticeship’ system, which I and many others of my generation (and before) learned from. Beyond that there are books and schools of animation, although there are many such sources out there that are grossly misleading and should be avoided like the plague.
YouTube and similar online distribution providers offer many possibilities of bridging the gap between academic study and hands-on apprenticeship. But again there are cautions here as many who offer tutorials are not as expert, experienced or as knowledgeable as they might be… or others claim them to be!
The big advantage of the old-school apprenticeship system is that you can actually see what a professional teacher is capable of doing first-hand, so that when you assist them in their work you will be learning good process and habits that are revealed and proven in front of you.
I was lucky enough to sit at the shoulders and assist some of the best that there have ever been… such as Richard Williams (three times Oscar winner and author of The Animator’s Survival Kit), Ken Harris (the great Bugs Bunny and Roadrunner animator from Warner Brothers) and Art Babbit (the 10th old man of Disney animation, and animator on such amazing movies as Pinocchio, Fantasia and Bambi).
The big problem with a school education is that students invariably have to trust that the instructors teaching them are good at what they do. Invariably they are not. They invariably have a degree in the subject but are just not good enough to get a job in the industry… that is why they teach! Of course some instructors are both knowledgeable and capable of teaching students the right things. But many others should just not be where they are! With the apprenticeship system the instructor has to demonstrate they can do what they’re teaching… as if they wouldn’t have a job in the industry in the first place.

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-copyright Simon Sandall.