Back in the days when I was a graphic design instructor at Pittsburgh Technical Institute, I had a student who was dying to be a Disney animator—Pete Mekis. Pete lived and breathed Walt Disney. PTI was designed to turn out graduates ready for entry positions in graphic design, not necessarily for animation careers. Pete was dead-set on animation, though, so I told him he’d need 2 portfolios when he graduated: one for graphic design and one for animation.
One way I was able to help Pete was through a lucky circumstance. I had a friend from art school days, Will Finn. Will and I had attended Art Institute of Pittsburgh ‘way back when and like Pete, Will was into animation. After graduation Will headed out west where the animation studios are. Will always was a fantastic drawer and he got a job with Disney. If you saw Aladdin, you’ve seen Will’s work on the parrot Iago.
Anyway, after I got in touch with Will, he generously took Pete under his wing, doling out plenty of constructive criticism and advice. Will gave Pete a tour of Disney Studios when he flew out there. The crit & advice were given through typewritten letters. Each one contained enough material for a drawing teacher to work up several lesson plans (which you can bet I did!). Here’s a sample:
So here’s a fine example of why I love the art business. There’s a tradition of older experienced guys helping out the newcomers for no other reason than it’s a nice thing to do. Will continues to be generous with his wisdom over at Small Room.
And Pete wound up animating Dora the Explorer, among other projects. Life doesn’t always go exactly as planned, but if we’re lucky we find ourselves doing what we love.