John Lasseter is Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios and Principal Creative Advisor, Walt Disney Imagineering. He's a two-time Academy Award-winning director and today oversees all Pixar and Disney films. Not bad for a guy who first learned how to entertain an audience by working part-time as a skipper on the Jungle Cruise ride at Disneyland during his college days. A few years ago the Disney Pixar Facebook page asked fans to submit questions for Lasseter. The answer here in this two-minute video reply by Lasseter to the question "Any advice for aspiring animation students?" is simple and wise and is relevant for just about any creative person.
Two-minutes of great advice from the master
In the clip below Lasseter shares his advice. Using our imagination just a little, it's not too hard to see how the spirit and even the letter of what he says is relevant for those outside animation as well.
"Do not forget to study the basics," Lasseter says. A list of some of the basics:
• Basic drawing (figure drawing, perspective drawing, etc.)
• Basic design (visual grammar, design process, etc.)
• Fundamentals of animation (principles of animation, movement, etc.).
• Film grammar (e.g., learning from staging in live action, etc.)
• Story/storytelling. Three-act story structure. Creative writing, etc.
As for "design" what Lasseter means to have have a sold level of visual literacy in general and also a real understanding of the myriad visual design principles such as line, shape, space, balance, value, color theory, scale and proportion, focal point, and many, many more fundamentals.
It's like eating your vegetables
"You've got to learn all these basics," Lasseter says, "it's kind of like eating vegetables." Most people, he says, do not want to spend the energy learning the fundamentals and "just want to get on to the more flashy stuff of using all the latest software." The problem is, Lasseter says, the software is ephemeral. "Throughout your career the software will change. It will always evolve and get better." So Lasseter says what is important is to remember this: "Software never makes a movie entertaining. It's what you do with the software that matters." And what you end up doing with software, Lasseter says, you get from drawing upon the knowledge and insights you have obtained by having a solid base in the fundamentals.
"I rely on the basic fundamentals of art, and design, and filmmaking, and animation, and storytelling every single day of my career. It's something that is just a part of you, It's the foundation in which you work, and without those...you won't go anywhere."
Forget the technology
In this piece below, Lasseter says that the technology is amazing and it is getting better all the time. The tools are remarkable. "But!" says Lasseter, "the most important thing is, as you are deciding to learn about computer animation, forget the technology! The technology never entertains an audience—it's what you do with the technology. Therefore, the most important thing to learn is learn the basics...learn the fundamentals...of art...of drawing....color theory....principles of animation..."
Yes indeed. Technology never made a bad story good and no amount of technology will make an ineffective presentation an effective one.