Chris Erickson

Getting a job in animation

(If you're studying animation with the goal of starting a new career or changing jobs, then this article is for you.)

Today's student animators compete in the job market with candidates from around the world. To succeed, you'll need experience that will help you stand out from the crowd—and hit the ground running when you get a job.
Of particular interest to employers are students with an understanding of the ins and outs of animation as it’s done in the real world—of workflows and technologies across the animation process, from 3D digital sculpting and texture painting to 3D character animation, and from modeling, simulation, and visual effects to rendering, match moving, and compositing.

Wanted: professional-grade animation experience 

Employers look for candidates who have practical experience with same animation tools required by the job. According to Chris Erickson, a graduate of Academy of Art University who’s now a lighting apprentice at Walt Disney Animation Studios, “Knowing the right software gave me a definite leg up in getting my job.”
Chris Erickson’s first experience with Autodesk software products was when he was in high school and decided to enter an Autodesk contest. Using Autodesk 3ds Max, in just three weeks he went from knowing nothing about animation software to being named regional champion of the Autodesk Animation Competition.
In college, Erickson studied animation and visual effects, and earned additional experience in other aspects of computer graphics (CG) including lighting, shading, and character animation by creating an animated short student film, entirely on his own, using tools such as Maya and Mudbox. He also became an Autodesk Student Expert, and mentored on two winning animated films in the same annual contest that had given him his start using Autodesk products.
After getting his BFA from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, Erickson was highly sought after by employers.
“There were a lot of raised eyebrows from interviewers when I told them I made my student reel by myself,” he says. “It meant that I was versatile, could solve a variety of problems, and understood the full range of workflows and environments I’d be dealing with on the job.”
Erickson’s efforts paid off in a big way. He’s since worked on Big Hero 6 and other exciting feature films. 

The benefits of learning animation with Autodesk

Students using Autodesk animation tools can enter the job market better prepared to be professional animators. From sculpting tools to production tools—all integrated seamlessly—Autodesk offers a range of animation solutions that competitors find difficult to match.
“I like the breadth of Maya’s core tools—the way Maya covers the entire animation pipeline,” says Erickson. “And I like the flexibility it offers, how easy it is to expand on the existing Maya platform.”
Students using Autodesk animation tools also can get a significant leg up when it comes time to impress potential employers.
“We use Autodesk Maya for everything from motion capture data to creating digital doubles to building animated creatures. It’s the software of choice at most visual effects houses,” says Eamonn Butler, animation director at London- and Montreal-based Cinesite, which creates world-class visual effects. “That’s why I tend to look for students with experience in Maya.”

Ready to build your animation skills?

  1. Download Autodesk Maya
  2. Get started with Autodesk Maya (learn the basics)
  3. Start learning animation skills (practice with projects)

Photo credits: all images in this article are courtesy of and copyrighted by Christopher Erickson