Theresa Adolph is one of our Jr. Animators here at Blue Sky Studios who has worked on Ice Age 4, Epic and now Rio 2. Discover her background, inspiration and how she kicked some serious butt to get here!
Hi Theresa! What is your role here at Blue Sky Studios?
I am currently working as a Jr. Animator. As a junior, I work directly with the animation supervisors and character leads on a wide variety of shots. I mainly animate background characters and cycles that are used throughout the film, but I also work on primary animation which include both dialog and action shots.
What is the earliest memory you have of drawing?
In pre-school. All the other kids went outside to play and I stayed inside to color. Growing up I would pause Disney movies and draw the frame. I would also copy the artwork on the covers. I still remember the moment I realized that every frame of an animated film was hand drawn and that it was someone’s job to draw all day long.
What were some of the setbacks you experienced before landing the role you have now?
After graduating from Animation Mentor, I did not land a job for a very long time. Even being the headstrong and determined person I am, it was very discouraging to apply time after time and never hear a word back. There were times I questioned if I would even make it as an animator, but I kept working on my demo reel and applying to every studio. Breaking into the industry isn’t for the weak of heart.
How did you start your journey as an animator? What were some of your first jobs like?
It took about 2 years before I landed my first gig in animation. I worked as an Animation Intern at LAIKA/House in Portland, OR. During my internship I animated on a series of 10 animated commercials for Toys R’ Us as well as a few M&M’s spots that appeared on Entertainment Tonight. It was my foot in the door and really the launching point of my career.
About a month later I was contacted by Sony Picture Image Works to work as a Temp Animator on Green Lantern in Albuquerque, NM. Again, it was for 4 months (which ended up being 6) and another extended stay away from my family. It was a tremendous experience and my very first feature film.
A month later, I moved back to California and this time I got to live and work in the same state as my husband. However, much like the previous two jobs I had, it was short lived. Electronic Arts in Redwood City, CA hired me as a Temp Animator on The Sims Pet Expansion Pack for about 4-6 months. When they offered to extend my contract I turned them down. I had already been offered a job a Blue Sky Studios as a Temp Animator on Ice Age 4! I was so excited!
So how did you eventually land a full time role here at Blue Sky?
Eventually Blue Sky hired me as a full-time Jr. Animator. I had never been so excited in my life. The job and dream I worked so hard for was finally offered to me. I wouldn’t have to work temp or move from state to state anymore! It was truly a dream come true.
What is your favorite part about working at BSS and what makes it unique from other studios?
Since the first day I walked into the building I have felt at home. There is something about Blue Skythat is hard to put into words. Even though most of my family lives 3,000 miles away, I have a family that lives right here. They are my friends, my co-workers and my mentors. They are the people who make me laugh, challenge me to become a better animator and who constantly inspire and encourage me.
What inspires you the most about animation?
I am most inspired when I see a shot and think to myself, how did they do that? It inspires me to figure out how another animator did it, which then makes me break it down and try for myself. Thankfully I work at Blue Sky and such great animators surround me. So I guess the thing that inspires me about animation is… the animators.
Do you still get nervous when you go into sweatbox?
Every time! It’s always nerve wracking to have your work critiqued by a director in front of a large group.
What was your most difficult shot and how did you overcome it?
There is a fight sequence in Epic where Ronin is attacked by Boggans. It was the sheer volume of characters attacking that seemed impossible to handle. For most fight sequences we rely heavily on Crowds to take existing cycles that Animation has created and populate the shots. This shot was one in which Crowds could only do so much. It was up to Animation to handle most of the hand-to-hand combat, and so we did! It took five animators to complete this shot as well as the assistance of Crowds to help fill in the gaps and make this shot feel creepy-crawly. One of the reasons this shot was so difficult was because it was the last shot to be animated on Epic, so there was pressure to finish it and finish it strong. The end result was something I am very proud to have been a part of and something I will always remember.
What advice do you have to give to someone who wants to become an animator one day?
Animation is hard. If it were easy, everyone would do it. If you want to become an animator, you are going to have to work hard and give it everything you’ve got, and when you think you have nothing left to give, you’ve gotta keep on pushing because that’s how you’re going to grow and become better! Be inspired. Look at animation and break it down. Discover what other animators have done and apply it to your own work. And most importantly, never give up!