I am a 24 year old, full-time animator at DreamWorks Animation. I recently worked on the Oscar-nominated Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, and am currently working on an unannounced movie at DreamWorks. My previous job also consisted of work for
Horizon Forbidden West and
Mortal Kombat — but that's not where my journey started.
Born and raised in Belgium and Switzerland, I only watched three VHS movies growing up: Spirit,
The Lion King and
Road to El Dorado. Two of those turned out to be DreamWorks movies.
My animation path started when I had to leave my family and comfort zone behind upon deciding to move away to pursue Computer Animation at Ringling College of Art and Design, in Florida. The college offered a very broad view of the pipeline of movie directing and creating. We were taught how to build characters and write stories, how to handle 3D cameras and compositional elements, all the way to animating, texturing and editing. The program is mainly structured towards finishing your senior year with a thesis film.
I had also attended an additional online summer class for animation that was run by a Disney animator, now Netflix director. Websites, like Animation Mentor, give that opportunity to passionate animators, even as a cheaper substitute to college programs. Whilst reminding myself animation was my main focus in college, I reached out to animators in the industry and recent successful alumni from the college I attended, such as my at-the-time-mentor at Disney. With them I frequently went back and forth with notes, tips and draw-overs on top of my college and personal animations.
Connections are a huge part of receiving (and losing) jobs in this industry. From these last few sentences, you can see how my connections were slowly forming and growing after college. I stayed in touch with a visiting artist, Liron Topaz, now director at DreamWorks, who came to my college to review the student's thesis films, and later assisted me in getting a job at DreamWorks two years later. I applied twice with a very similar demo reel and portfolio, after getting rejected the first time a year before. It is not always about your work, but timing, perseverance and a helping hand from people you've had a positive impact on. I am very thankful to Liron and my mentors who helped me get to where I am.
My most important advice would be to build yourself up with everyone else around you, even if it's your college peers. They're not your competition, they're the friends and connections you have made that might help you in the future. It is a small industry!
You can watch Maarten’s award-winning short film