It’s only taken seven years for Angry Birds to morph from an unknown mobile app game made by a developer from Finland into a major animated movie from Sony Pictures, opening nationwide May 20th. Take a look…

One of the most popular puzzle games of all time is now an animated film! (© 2016 Sony Pictures Digital Productions Inc. All rights reserved. © 2016 Rovio Animation Ltd. and Rovio Entertainment Ltd. All rights reserved.)

Now what began as a thumb-driven workout has been fleshed out into a full-length film featuring A-list voice actors. The cast includes four past and current members of Saturday Night Live, along with Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage and Josh Gad (Frozen).

Sony is certainly doing its part to promote The Angry Birds Movie as the first in a franchise of films, putting huge advertising muscle behind the movie. The total marketing blitz (including sponsored tie-ins) comes to $400 million, marking the studio’s largest promotional campaign for any animated movie.

A Game Phenomenon Takes Flight

It’s been the biggest rags-to-riches story in mobile app game development. In 2009, Rovio Entertainment released the Angry Birds mobile app. Once it was featured on the UK App Store, it started getting noticed.

Visit the movie’s website and give yourself Red’s oversized eyebrows!

The simple yet rewarding gameplay and colorful, offbeat characters turned a quirky little diversion into the game on everyone’s lips. Soon everyone was playing it and growing completely hooked on it – from TV personalities such as Conan O’Brien to government leaders like British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Then Angry Birds became a massive worldwide phenomenon – sparking some 3.3 billion app downloads. The game was subsequently ported to various platforms. When a version was introduced for Android, more than a million people downloaded the game within 24 hours.

The game’s star characters – a set of puffy round birds with striking plumage and no wings – have proved to be a merchandising bonanza, appearing on everything from T-shirts to backpacks to lunch boxes to…well, you name it.

Chuck (Josh Gad), Red (Jason Sudeikis) and Bomb (Danny McBride) will be waiting for you on Bird Island!

Positively Channeling That Anger

The producers of The Angry Birds Movie had a lot of work to do in bringing the game from smartphone screens to the big screen. For starters, a story had to be created, since the original game was free of backstory, beyond the fact that neighboring pigs have stolen bird eggs and the player’s role is to use a slingshot to fire birds at those pigs. (The goal of the game is to “de-pig” each level.)

In the film, Red (SNL alumnus Jason Sudeikis) is clearly an outsider among the rainbow-colored birds that live on Bird Island. But this ne’er-do-well (and his pals) become the island’s rescuers after an invasion by the game’s notorious green pigs, who arrive in a mechanized clipper ship – one big enough to transport a cargo of stolen bird eggs!

It’s the kind of rousing story that audiences cheer, with an unlikely outsider proving their true heroic nature and saving the day. And it’s the type of tale that Sony is hoping will not only fill movie theaters now but also in years to come, through the magic of sequels.

DMA animation tech camps can show you how to put your imagination into motion!

Animation Nation!

American movie audiences have loved funny and heartwarming animated films since Walt Disney unveiled Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937. And there’s no end in sight. In fact, the demand for animated movies has never been greater! From The Angry Birds Movie to recent classics like Inside Out and Frozen, theatergoers are still enchanted by moving pictures.

Learn how to make cartoon magic happen yourself this summer at Digital Media Academy animation tech camps.

Or maybe you want to learn app development – perhaps designing your own supercool mobile game app? DMA can show you how to do that, too.

[Editor: We wanted to provide some inspiration for all aspiring animators out there. So here’s a collection of thoughts on the subject from a DMA curriculum developer and instructor, who’s also a pro animator with experience working as a character rigger. Check it out!]


By Austin Broder

Animation has provided many moments of genuine awe throughout my life. I remember sitting in front of the TV as a kid, doodling in my sketchbook and watching a video of Walt Disney step through the magic process to create one of the many masterpieces that filled my childhood with joy and wonderment.

I was caught between two thoughts – that animation was all I wanted to do, and that it must be a job reserved for people in some other place with magical powers. Seeing something like the Cave of Wonders roar to life in Aladdin was mind-bending and I felt it must have been crafted in some mystical underworld.

“ROAR!!!” (Aladdin™, The Disney Company)

I’d daydream about working at an animation studio, but didn’t think it was actually a possibility. But it was something I couldn’t pull myself away from.

I’d find whatever tools were available. My first animations were in homemade “flipbooks,” filling up the corners of my school textbooks!


Then, a huge step forward. I got my own computer and I was thrilled! I found MS Paint and I’d draw and draw and draw. But I needed to make motion so I would draw a character, then save it as “Animation_001.” Then I’d erase the arm and redraw it a little different, and save it as “Animation_002.”

I drew 342 frames this way and found a program that would create an animated GIF. It was so much time but it felt effortless. I was in awe of the magic that I was able to create with what I had.

And this continued as time progressed. I was lucky enough to see more and more powerful programs make themselves available as I was progressing along with them.

From simple beginnings – like working in Paint – great things can develop!


What I’m hoping is that I’ve been able to share with you something that I think is easily overlooked: With animation so ever-present in our lives today (from movies, games, ads and pretty much everything else), we – already saturated with exposure to animation – might sometimes lose the ability to see the magic that animation can create.

So every now and then, remember that one animated movie you watched that really took you by surprise!

But that’s not all. Use that energy to create! Because this, right now, is the Golden Age! And you get to live in it. Unlike my experience with animation, you guys have access to everything! If you didn’t know, now you do.

Autodesk has made ALL of its major programs (e.g., Maya, 3DS Max, Mudbox and AutoCAD) available for free to students. The entire Adobe suite is available to students for only $20 a month. Unity and Unreal Engine is free for independent projects. And more and more is becoming available.

Heck, even Pixar has thrown its hat into the ring, making its rendering software Renderman available for free as well!

On top of this, there’s also a huge wealth of learning materials and tutorials available. Everything from free to inexpensive…from design to drawing…and from modeling to rendering. These kinds of educational opportunities are relatively new to the home user.

“Hmmmph!” says one of the great characters of modern animation. (Up!™, Pixar Studios)

So now that you’re excited (and probably already off on another tab, downloading one of these programs), go forth and create whatever it is you’ve always wanted to see made. Because that mysterious, mystical place where animations come from…has just become your own house.

Austin Broder is a DMA curriculum developer and instructor who’s also a professional animator. He is a rigging/technical animator specialist with expertise in animation, 3D modeling, and rigging, and has worked extensively with programs like Adobe After Effects, Adobe Flash and Autodesk Maya. He has served as a character rigger at General Gau Animation Studio in Boston. Click to learn more about Austin Broder animation and art.

(Editor: We recently asked DMA instructor and professional animator Arturo Miramontes to write about the recent Silicon Valley Comic Con. He did such a fantastic job that we’ve asked him back, to discuss how he’s been able to leverage his opportunities and training into a professional animation career.)


By Arturo Miramontes

When I was a kid into animation, all I ever wanted to do was draw comics and cartoons for a living. While I do this now and continue to practice and gain experience, I have found that embracing multiple skill sets has opened up many new possibilities and options for me.

Arturo’s fun take on Marvel’s beloved Captain America! (Illustration by Arturo Miramontes)

We all have that dream job, that special goal we wish to achieve right out of college or even during our time in school. But the reality is, we should be ready to take on any new challenge or opportunity that comes our way and visualize it as merely a stepping stone – a rung on a ladder that is taking us that much closer to our ultimate goal…whether that be Pixar, Disney, Google or Apple.


While I was in middle school, I began taking piano lessons and then learned guitar. Through summer programs and into college, I was fortunate enough to find work as an art teacher, but eventually found even more opportunities teaching music alongside art.

The point I am trying to make here is we should not limit ourselves when it comes to future jobs/careers/school projects/activities, etc. Coming from an animation background, one thing you learn quickly is that having multiple skill sets and being open and willing to take on new tasks/jobs will only benefit you in the long run.

I cannot tell you how many times I have worked on a project where I ended up doing multiple jobs or a completely different job than the one I was originally assigned.


Disney 3D animator and character designer Bobby Pontillas has worked on some of today’s most popular and beloved animated features – from Tangled and Wreck it Ralph to Big Hero 6 and this year’s Zootopia. But he didn’t begin in animation. Bobby Pontillas started out working on video games.

Bobby Pontillas worked in the game industry before coming to animation. (Illustration by Bobby Pontillas)

Coming from the video game industry, Bobby found his way to Southern California, and soon was working alongside (as well as learning from) industry legends such as Glen Keane. Keane was a traditional Disney animator who was responsible for many childhood favorites, such as Beauty and the Beast, Tarzan and many more). Bobby also worked with character designer Stephen Silver (Kim Possible and Danny Phantom).

It’s not uncommon for one to switch concentrations within the industry. The important thing is to continue to aim high, be open to new things and never stop creating.


Ben Levin, one of the writers on Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe, started out by attending animation courses. However, he quickly found a passion for writing, which eventually led him to Cartoon Network’s Level Up, a live-action series and soon after that, to one of today’s most popular cartoons, Steven Universe.

Ben Levin started as an animator. Now he’s a writer for Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe!

Although he is primarily a writer, Levin has also created and put various content on Tumblr, including his very own animated web series, Doris & Mary-Anne.

We live in a virtual and digital renaissance of growing technology and entertainment outlets. While we may have our end goals that we should always keep dear to our hearts, we should not be opposed to the incredible paths and opportunities that may spring up throughout our career journeys.


Indie game companies have only increased the number of opportunities for future game designers, programmers and artists. Netflix, Hulu and good old reliable YouTube continue to change the way we watch and create shows.

And dare I mention the number of jobs and opportunities that will continue to flood us due to the influx of blockbuster, tent-pole films? “Star Wars” is back, and DC and Marvel comics have both decided to bless us with live-action adaptations culled from their long and rich histories.

Embrace the new age, my friends. Being open to these new chances will only help you grow as an animation professional. Don’t lose sight of your dreams. Continue creating and stay connected and inspired!

Arturo sharing his love of animation with DMA students!

DMA instructor Arturo Miramontes is a recent graduate of San Jose State University’s Animation/Illustration program. Currently he serves as both a part-time illustrator and full-time 3D animator at the Defense Language Institute in Seaside, Calif. He also works as a freelance illustrator and character designer with experience working on projects for major corporations (like Adobe and United Airlines), as well as illustrating and publishing children’s books.

Check out Arturo’s work:

And visit these personal sites!

For nearly 65 years, children of all ages have treasured the lovable gang featured in the “Peanuts” comic strip. Now, lovable loser Charlie Brown, his wacky dog Snoopy and the rest of the gang are headed to the big screen, thanks to 20th Century Fox Animation. The Peanuts Movie hits theaters on November 6, 2015.

Go to The Peanuts Movie website and you can make a Peanuts character that looks just like you! The author of this article is shown in the above photo of the gang out for Halloween fun.

A Legendary Comic Strip Goes 3D

The film marks the first time the “Peanuts” gang will be showcased in a full-length film as 3D characters created through CGI. Craig Schulz (son of the late Charles M. Schulz, who created and drew the strip for almost 50 full years) is President of Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates and has been working with 20th Century Fox on the movie.

“We finally felt the time was right and the technology is where we need it to be to create this film,” he said. Take a look:


It may be difficult for today’s youth to understand just how much impact “Peanuts” once had on American pop culture. At one time, “Peanuts” was everywhere.

At its peak, the comic strip was read by 355 million daily readers (in 75 countries). Then there were the beloved holiday television specials—especially 1965’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (now celebrating its own 50th anniversary) and 1966’s “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”

Add to that, the popular “Peanuts” Broadway musicals, ice-skating shows and all types of “Peanuts” merchandise, like toys, clothing, calendars, books. “Peanuts” became a billion-dollar marketing empire way before anyone had ever heard of Spongebob Squarepants…and this was back in the days when a billion dollars was still an astronomical amount of money. During the 70s, Schulz was personally earning up to $40 million each year from his “Peanuts” empire.

“Happy 65th Birthday, Charlie Brown”

The gently humorous vision that cartoonist Charles Schulz created has lived on well beyond his death, and shows no signs of going away any time soon. He continues to inspire a new generation of cartoonists and animators and anyone else who wants to learn how draw cartoons.

“Peanuts” remains popular. The comic strip ran until Schulz’ death, without interruption for almost 50 full years, from Oct. 2, 1950 until Feb. 13, 2000. One college professor called that 50-year run, “arguably the longest story ever told by one human being.”

Joe Cool is just one of Snoopy’s many alter egos. Here he shows off his moves at the Winter Dance.

Inspiring the Artist in You

Today, the world of cartooning and animation is light years ahead of what Charles M. Schulz may have envisioned. Kids and teens that want to learn animation or cartooning can attend fantastic animation camps.

At Digital Media Academy tech camps, our animation students learn with industry-standard tools like Maya and Toon Boom Studio. Making a cartoon or learning to become an animator has never been easier. At DMA, we can show you how.

Disney fans are descending on the D23 Convention in Anaheim, California for the annual Official Disney Fan Convention. With news from Marvel, “Star Wars” and Disney, fans have a lot to take in.

Pixar, Walt Disney Animation Studios and DisneyToon Studios Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter also holds the title of Principal Creative Advisor for Walt Disney Imagineering. (Image: Disney)

During John Lasseter’s animation presentation Friday afternoon, he revealed some info about several hotly anticipated Disney/Pixar Films – and fans were treated to the teaser posters in the exhibit hall, too.

We love Disney/Pixar films – they know how to create computer generated animation to bring fantastic characters to life…and we can’t wait for this new slate of Pixar films.

Here’s a first look at the posters and what we know about the movies so far:

Toy Story 4 will be a love story centered around Woody and Bo Peep. (Image: Disney)

Toy Story 4
“It will be a love story,” said Pixar animation studio president Jim Morris. “A romantic comedy. The story will center around Woody and Bop Peep, and not focus as much on other characters and children.” Lasseter will direct while Josh Cooley will occupy the co-director chair. Will McCormack and Rashida Jones will develop the script, which is based on a story created by the Pixar “brain trust.”

Tim Allen and Tom Hanks are already on board, and Don Rickles will also return as Mr. Potato Head. Toy Story 4 is set for June 16, 2017.

Cars 3
While Lasseter directed the first two films, it’s unknown (mainly because of his work on Toy Story 4) if he’ll return for Cars 3. He’s certainly going to be involved with story development as the “Cars” franchise is very close to his heart.

Insiders say Cars 3 will arrive in 2018.

Brad Bird will return to direct The Incredibles 2. (Image: Disney)

The Incredibles 2
Brad Bird directed and wrote the original 2004 blockbuster and is set to return to the world of superheroes. This is Bird’s next film.

The Incredibles 2 may land in theaters in 2017.

Finding Dory
The sequel to the mega-hit Finding Nemo, Finding Dory is swimming to theaters. The film returns Ellen DeGeneres to the role she voiced in the original and will focus on Dory finding her own family.

This is the first official image from Finding Dory.

Finding Dory is set for release June 17, 2016.

Computer animation has already replaced a good bit of traditional hand-drawn animation and aspiring animators are eager to get in.

Digital Media Academy offers animation camps that go behind the scenes and show kids and teens how to create characters and environments with Autodesk® Maya®, the same software used by Pixar and DreamWorks.

It’s a great year for Pixar fans. Inside Out is being acclaimed as one of Pixar’s best and fans will get another Pixar movie before the year is out: The Good Dinosaur.

The Good Dinosaur considers what would have happened if dinosaurs hadn’t gone extinct.

Directed by Peter Sohn, who also directed the Pixar short film Partly Cloudly, Pixar Animation Studios’ The Good Dinosaur follows the adventures of an Apatosaurus named Arlo and his newfound human friend. The movie explores the mysterious Jurassic age as Arlo learns to confront his fears and discovers what he’s capable of.

While The Good Dinosaur has experienced some hurdles getting to the big screen…including a re-written storyline (the dinosaurs were originally farmers), a change in directors and shifting release dates that affected the sequel to Finding Nemo, Finding Dory…it looks like another heartwarming Pixar hit is on the way. Just take a look at the official trailer:

Animating a Hit
The amazing 3D modeled nature environments are photo-realistic and while Arlo and other dinosaurs take on cartoony features, their movements look real.

Pixar’s 3D Modeling and Animation team can bring practically anything to life – including dinosaurs that have been extinct for hundreds of millions of years. We can’t wait to see The Good Dinosaur when it hits theaters this Thanksgiving.

Sam Elliot plays one of the fearsome T-Rex Cowboys in The Good Dinosaur.

Take the two hottest things in the movie business: super heroes and Pixar (In case you missed it, Inside Out had the biggest opening ever for a non-franchise film), and put them together. Now what have you got?

Sanjay and his super team will be coming to theaters this Thanksgiving.

Sanjay’s Super Team is the latest short film from Pixar. The animated short will precede Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur in theaters on November 25, 2015.

…a kind of ancient, Hindu version of The Avengers, with the gods appearing like superheroes.
– Sanjay Patel, Director

This is one in a long line of Pixar Animation Studios short films. The film premiered on June 15, 2015 at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in France and has animation fans excited.

Directed by Sanjay Patel, whose childhood inspired Sanjay’s Super Team, the movie follows a young Indian boy who struggles with life at home. Patel sees it as, “a kind of ancient, Hindu version of The Avengers, with the gods appearing like superheroes.”

The setting of the film is inspired by the Lido Motel, an old Route 66 motel his parents bought and Patel worked at when he was a young boy.

Moviemakers use Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling as a guide for animated moviemaking. Patel is a supervising animator and storyboard artist at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. He pitched the idea for the short to Pixar execs in summer 2012.

Pixar knows how to create 3D computer animation and it shows in the wide range of subjects that Pixar brings to life. The company’s animation styles are also highly influential.

Patel is making a name for himself outside of Pixar as a very busy artist and designer. Sanjay Patel’s website hosts some amazing projects, like the children’s book Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth.

Pixar’s Inside Out continues to wow summer audiences. So far the movie has made more than $250 million at the box office, throwing some real competition at other summer blockbusters. Inside Out even ruled the box office during the July 4th holiday weekend, narrowly besting Jurassic World.

Joy (center) may be the leading emotion in Inside Out, but the film makes the point that all of the emotions have important roles to play.

But there’s much more to Inside Out than just a clever animated romp for the family. Because of its unique storyline – which deals expressly with emotions – Inside Out provides parents with many teachable moments. Here are some of the best:

  • LESSON: Sadness is Often a Good Thing.
    Just as there are times in the movie when Joy, the “lead” emotion, must trust Sadness to save the day, the film makes the broader point that sadness is often a good thing. Sometimes sadness helps us clarify how we feel about things. Often when humans deal with loss, we must first sail through patches of sadness before we can reach some state of mental acceptance about what we’ve lost.
  • LESSON: Even Mom and Dad Have to Deal with Emotions.
    At certain points in the movie, something happens and we first see how it is interpreted by Riley’s emotions. Then we go inside the mind of Riley’s mother, and we see that she also has a “panel” of emotions governing her feelings. Then we see inside the mind of Riley’s father, and guess what? He’s got emotions to deal with, too. This lesson can remind kids that their parents may be older and wiser, but they’re still people who are influenced by their emotions.
  • LESSON: All of Our Memories Are Stored Safely for Us.
    Inside Out offers a basic but accurate picture of how the human mind deals with memories and how some core memories linger most powerfully in our subconscious mind. For kids who may have lost a beloved family pet and may be concerned about their memories of that pet fading in time, it may be comforting to hear that those precious memories are indeed safeguarded in their minds.
  • LESSON: Anger is Okay, But We Need to Channel It Properly.
    The movie does a good job of showing that even negative feelings can have a positive aspect; it all depends on how we process those emotions and how we choose to act upon them. As the most negative of the emotions, anger can have a positive aspect, in making us stand up for ourselves or helping us call out situations that are unfair. Parents can and should reinforce this message and define what is an acceptable release of anger.

  • LESSON: Emotions Are Not Always Working Against Us.
    The producers consulted with leading psychologists who wanted the film to convey the idea that our emotions are not always working against us, but are there, in fact, to help guide us along and make better life choices. These psychologists suggest that there is no need for us to feel naturally at odds with our emotions, but rather that we should try to learn from our emotions as best we can. That’s a contagious idea…and one that’s at the heart of Pixar’s latest hit.

The voice cast of the Inside Out emotions: Phyllis Smith (Sadness), Lewis Black (Anger), Amy Poehler (Joy), Bill Hader (Fear), Mindy Kaling (Disgust).

Making Moving Pictures
Audiences are connecting with Inside Out in a big way because Pixar understands how to make 3D computer animated films that have as much heart as they do fun.

There’s never been a better time to get involved with animation. The average Pixar film earns well over $600 million…and who knows how much Inside Out will make?

This summer could be your chance to really discover animation, by attending a Digital Media Academy animation camp, where kids and teens can learn from established animators and discover how to put today’s super-powerful animation software to work on creating the next great family animated film!

It’s the long-awaited sequel to Pixar’s 2003 blockbuster Finding Nemo. And it’s got animation fans buzzing: Finding Dory will hit theaters June 17, 2016.

Nemo’s big blue friend, Dory, will star in her own animated film in 2016. (Image: Pixar)

Although the film’s release is still a ways away, the voice-talent work is apparently finished — with comedian/talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres returning to movie screens as the voice of the scatterbrained Dory.

The Best-Selling DVD – Ever!
Expectations are already high for Finding Dory. After all, Finding Nemo won the 2003 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

Nemo earned a whopping $921 million at the box office, making it the second highest-grossing film of that year and the biggest opening weekend for any animated film’s U.S. release (May 30, 2003).

Then Nemo became the best-selling DVD release ever, selling more than 40 million copies. It was also the highest-grossing G-rated movie of all time, until Pixar’s Toy Story 3 overtook it.

Finding Nemo became the fifth film in Pixar’s long line of hits and was released when the company (three years before being acquired by Disney) was really showing its domination as an animation company.

Re-Finding Dory
With all of Finding Nemo’s‘s success, why has it taken so long to spawn a sequel? One was in the works, but Pixar creative efforts instead went into The Incredibles (2004), Cars 2006, Wall-E (2008), Up (2009) and Toy Story 3 (2010).

DeGeneres was originally cast as Dory when the director was watching her TV talk show and saw her “change the subject five times before finishing one sentence.” Her ‘A’ list co-stars for the sequel include Albert Brooks, Eugene Levy, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton and Willem Dafoe.

Ellen DeGeneres will return to movie screens as the voice of Dory.

The script is fantastic. And it has everything I loved about the first one: It’s got a lot of heart, it’s really funny and the best part is…it’s got a lot more Dory.

– Ellen DeGeneres

DeGeneres has a long history with the Walt Disney Company. She and Bill Nye host the Universe of Energy attraction at EPCOT at Walt Disney World. (Which, coincidentally, also is the home to The Seas with Nemo and Friends attraction.)

It’s exciting to think we’ll be visiting Nemo‘s computer-animated ocean again. Pixar paints an exotic undersea kingdom.

The idea for Finding Nemo came from Stanton, who saw a photo of two clownfish nestled in an anemone and playfully peeking out.

“I had no idea what kind of fish they were,” Stanton remembers. “But I couldn’t take my eyes off them. And as an entertainer, the fact that they were called clownfish — it was perfect. There’s almost nothing more appealing than these little fish that want to play peekaboo with you.”

The Story on Dory
While there haven’t been a lot of details released yet about the storyline for Finding Dory, insiders have been able to confirm these details with the studio and Finding Dory director Andrew Stanton (who co-wrote and directed the first movie):

  • The Plot: Why was Dory all alone in the ocean on the day she met Marlin in Finding Nemo? We’ll find out in Finding Dory. She will be reunited with her loved ones, learning about the meaning of family along the way.
  • The Director: Andrew Stanton provided the story idea for Nemo. He also directed Wall-E.
  • Returning Guest Stars: Expect many of the characters from the first film in the sequel: Crush, Nemo himself, Marlin and the “Tank Gang.” John Ratzenberger, who has had parts in every Pixar feature film, will return to voice the moonfish.
  • Release Date: June 17, 2016

An Affair with Animation
Since hand-drawn animation first wowed audiences on the silent screen, we’ve had a love affair with animation. Animation has transcended into other media like television and video games, and animation takes us to new worlds and places.

And now, learning animation can take kids and teens to creative new worlds. Computer animation is now the most common form of animation, replacing some areas of traditional hand-drawn animation completely.

Character animators start with a model sheet, like this one for Dory.

Aspiring animators can break into the animation field. It’s simple: take a 3D modeling or animation course at Digital Media Academy animation camp locations this summer.

DMA offers numerous animation courses, depending on your specific interests. Students in DMA animation camp will go behind the scenes and discover how to create 3D modeling of characters and environments with Autodesk® Maya®, the same software used by Pixar and Dreamworks.

Learn how the professionals working on Finding Dory do it, with hands-on instruction from industry experts.

Pixar’s back on top of the box office with its latest release, Inside Out. Critics are glowing about the film, citing Inside Out’s unique take on emotions and clever story.

The average Pixar film earns more than $600 million worldwide. Inside Out scored $91 million during its opening weekend. (Image: Pixar)

It’s the latest in a long line of impressive Pixar masterpieces. Consider this: For the 15 Pixar feature films made between 1995 and 2015, more than half of them carry a Rotten Tomatoes approval score of 95 percent or higher.

Plus, Pixar is no stranger to the Academy Awards, having won seven Best Animated Feature Oscars. The studio has even captured Best Picture nominations along the way (for 2009’s Up and 2010’s Toy Story 3).

Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling
Former Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats revealed in a 2011 Tweet Pixar’s internal list of storytelling tips. These 22 vital aspects of story creation are key to creating not just a good Pixar story, but a good story in general. And studying these concepts can help anyone who wants to learn to become an animator:

1. You admire a character for trying more than for their successes. (Remember how Dory kept trying to find Nemo?)

Beautiful animation attracted audiences, but outstanding storytelling made Finding Nemo a family favorite and modern classic. (Image: Pixar)

2. Keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience member, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different things.

3. Trying to achieve a theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about until you’re at the end of it. Once you’re there, you should rewrite it.

4. See if your story can be summarized through this format: Once upon a time there was _____. Every day, _____. One day, _____. Because of that, _____. Because of that, _____. Until finally, _____.

5. Simplify & Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff, but it sets you free.

6. What is your character good at? What is the character comfortable with? Throw opposing forces at them to challenge the character. How do they deal with it?

Carl, the old man from Up, faced numerous challenges (from balloons, animals and pesky neighbor kids) that took him out of his comfort zone. (Image: Pixar)

7. Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Endings are hard; start developing yours up front.

8. Finish your story. Let it go, even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world, it would be perfect, but at some point you must move on. Try to do better next time.

9. When you’re stuck, make a list of what definitely would not happen next. Lots of times, the material to get you unstuck will show up right when you need it.

10. Pull apart stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you. You’ve got to recognize those parts in order to use them in your own work.

11. Putting your idea down on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head as a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone else.

12. Discount the first thing that comes to mind. And the second, third, fourth and fifth things, too. Get the obvious ideas out of the way. Then surprise yourself with what you can create.

13. Give your characters opinions. Creating a passive or moldable character might seem enjoyable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.

14. Ask yourself, why must you tell this particular story? What’s the personal belief burning deep within you that fuels the narrative?

As screen characters, we admire The Incredibles for trying to stay heroic…if not trim. (Image: Pixar)

15. If you were your character, how would you feel in this situation? Honesty lends credibility to otherwise unbelievable situations.

16. Give the audience a reason to root for the character. What’s at stake? Have you made that clear to the audience? What happens if the character doesn’t succeed? Stack the odds against them.

17. If an idea isn’t working, let it go and move on. Trust that it’ll come back around and prove useful later.

18. You have to know your own limits – and the difference between doing your best and endlessly fussing over material. Remember that story is testing, not refining.

19. Coincidences that get characters into trouble are great. But using coincidences to get characters out of trouble is considered cheating.

20. As an exercise, think about the “building blocks” of a movie that you dislike. How would you rearrange those blocks into a movie that you would like?

21. Identify with your situation/characters. What would make you act the way your characters do?

22. What’s the essence of the story you’re trying to tell? What’s the most economical way to tell that story? If you know that, build it out from there.

Characters need opinions, and few Pixar characters have more opinions than Buzz Lightyear. (Image: Pixar)

Learn Animation From the Inside Out
The pros at Pixar have mastered the animated film and regularly take the art form to whole new places.

Are you ready to tell your own stories through animation? If so, consider attending a Digital Media Academy animation camp this summer.