Monday, October 7, 2019

Todd Bright

Pam Schwartz and I went to AIGA Orlando's October Community Meeting at Credo Conduit (1001 N Orange Ave Orlando, FL.) The invitation was open to everyone, AIGA members, non-members, designers, non-designers, and beyond. Merritt Andrews, a former co-worker at Disney Feature Animation, put the invitation up on Facebook and the evening featured another former Disney Animator Todd Bright.

Todd's career in animation began at the Disney Animation Studios working on such films as The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mulan, Tarzan, Lilo and Stitch, Brother Bear, and Curious George. His experience and approach to storytelling, character development, and personality animation has brought to life projects for clients such as Walt Disney Imagineering, Warner Brothers, Universal Studios, Disney Parks and Resorts, Disney Junior, ESPN, Purina, EA Sports, Royal Caribbean Cruises, and Big Idea.

It was fascinating hearing Todd's story of how hard he needed to work to get into the Disney Feature Animation Studio. After several years of Art School, his parents hit hard times and he was on his own. That didn't stop his dream. He took drawing classes obsessively and got better at his craft. Applying to be an intern at Disney was its own story of setbacks and perseverance. He drew in public catching the little stories that happen every day around us if we only pay attention. When he referred to himself as the creepy guy in the corner sketching I had to chuckle. Besides commercial jobs he has taken to painting on location as well, fueling the inner artist. A playful animation he did of his pet pug wallowing in his food dish ended up getting him freelance work from Tom Bancroft another Former Disney Animator.

When Todd talked about the closing of the Florida Disney Feature Animation studio, he said it was like watching a family get torn apart. He thinks there is easily a feature film in that studios story. He talked about the chance he took when he entered the office of top animator Andreas Deja. He asked him for a shot at doing his rough in-betweens and after a test he was working with this top flight talent. As the studio was closing Todd was invited to the animators California home and at that party several of the 9 old men, legends of the early Disney animated feature years, were there. Ollie Johnson and Frank Thomas were there and another animator was playing piano. My heart hurt as I listened to the end of an era and the legends of the industry who are only known by those who know the hardship and struggle of mastering animation.

This was the most highly attended of AIGA's meetings this year. Local students from UCF and other community colleges filled the quaint community space filled with quirky bungalows. There is clearly a hunger from this new generation of future animators for insights about the traditional days of hand drawn animation. Digital might be bright and shiny but traditional has depth and heart. On scene, "Bedtime Story" was cut from the final Lilo and Stitch Film. It demonstrated the heart that can be found in hand drawn animation. It hurt to discover it ended up on the editing room floor.

Todd did a great job inspiring these young new artists. He stressed the importance of feeding the artist soul while persevering in an industry that is small and demanding. Animation is challenging and can break your heart, but when a scene is working there is magic in the moment.

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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