Thursday, July 24, 2014

Elite Animation Academy Keeps the Tradition of Hand Drawn Animation Alive

Elite Animation Academy (8933 Conroy Windermere Rd, Orlando, FL) is located only a few blocks away from my home. I've been asked to step in and substitute teach a couple of times and had a blast doing it. I was issued a black polo shirt with the Elite logo that made me feel like a member of the team from the start. The pay is actually better than what I make at Full Sail University so I was happy to step up to the plate.

The first day I interviewed there with Gladys West, I decided to stay and see another instructor, Chi Wang, at work. He was teaching a class on comic book character design. His laptop was open and connected to a large screen TV. Sketches of multiple comic book character heads filled the screen. Three students sketched diligently trying to emulate the heads. Basic proportions were covered and then the students sketched for the rest of the class. As the students worked, Chi, stood at the white board and cranked out an amazing sketch of a Transformer. Students were so involved in their own sketches that they didn't glance up. I am always fascinated and inspired watching another artist work.

The first class I taught was on perspective. I covered the basics of 1 point, 2 point and 3 point perspective and I got the students involved in studying the perspective in the room around them. The room has vintage Disney Feature Animation Desks circling the central work area. Computers are found in a separate area. I had the students draw a single desk using the 3 principles of animation. Then I had them imagine the desk as a giant skyscraper in a city. I helped as we created intricate city blocks.

The second time I stopped in, I had just finished a huge rushed storyboard assignment, so I showed them the scripts, thumbnails and final storyboards I had created. It was a solid real world crash coarse on what it is like to be a professional artist. I then pitched them a simple story idea and they began doing thumbnails to built their story. I just had three students, but they impressed me with their ideas and execution. We batted around ideas and laughed at the possibilities. One student was working on his own story and I asked him to pitch the story to me. Once I knew what direction he was taking, I made suggestions on how he could make each character unique by giving them a shape that separated and defined them. I suggested he try to draw the male protagonist with nothing but straight lines and then I had him draw the female lead with nothing but curves. His work took an immediate leap.

At Full Sail there are 30 to 40 new students every month that take 10 classes and then move on.  There just isn't enough time to turn so many students into animators. At Elite it was such a luxury to have a few students that were hungry to learn. Gladys is very aware of my daily sketch routine, and I appreciate that she considers me a valuable asset because of that. With the few classes I taught, I felt that I could truly inspire and  start these kids towards a lifetime of learning and sharing. That is what art is all about.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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