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■ ■ ■ ■ Education Living the Animation Former Animation Mentor student wins an Annie By Barbara Robertson Could anything top a career in which you are doing exactly what you dreamed about when you were a child? A career, say, that puts you inside a feature animation studio after growing up with such beloved fi lms as Aladdin, Lion King, Toy Story, and then Shrek. Winning an Annie Award might be better. Just ask Animation Mentor alumnus Philip To. Earlier in the year, the 27-year-old ani- mator received an Annie for the best character animation in a televi- sion production for his work on DreamWorks’ Monsters vs. Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space, which aired last fall. “I was fl abbergasted,” To says. “I’m still dumbfounded.” It’s defi nitely been a quick trip to the winner’s circle for someone T at fi rst job was creating cinematics for a game company. At his second job, To did animation for another game company. “It wasn’t for me,” he says, “too mechanical and not enough perfor- mance.” Even so, a lead animator there, Tim Goldsby-Smith, saw To’s potential. When Goldsby-Smith moved on to T e LaB Sydney, a postproduction house, he paved the way for To. “Tim managed to get me on board without going through a hir- ing process,” To says, “which is lucky, because I probably wouldn’t have got- ten the job.” And, in fact, To was way over his head. He joined a group of approxi- mately 25 animators producing the Erky Perky children’s television series. “I had to hit the ground running,” he says. “We were doing 11-minute episodes, all performance-based stuff , which I had never done. So, I strug- gled. I worked a lot of late nights try- ing to keep up. It was a tough slog.” T at was in 2004. When Animation Mentor intro- While Philip To’s (inset) dream was to do feature animation, his work on the TV special Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space earned him an Annie Award. who didn’t know he wanted to be an animator until, well, he was. “In early high school, I took art and drawing classes,” To says. “But, later, I concentrated on math and science. When it was time to choose a major to go on to university, and my friends were picking accounting and computer science, I just couldn’t see myself doing that. So, I picked something by chance and hoped it would work out.” T e course To chose at the University of New South Wales–College of Fine Arts in Sydney, Australia, resulted in a bachelor’s degree in digital media. T ere, he studied photography, sculpture, Web design, and a little animation. “I learned enough to get a job,” he notes. 42 October 2010 duced its program in 2005, To jumped at the opportu- nity. “I was stoked,” he says. “I could learn from people in the biggest studios in the world.” T e fi rst Animation Mentor class exceeded his expec- tations. “It was a huge stepping-stone,” To says. “T at class alone pushed my work from moderate to good. I’d never understood what spacing was, or tracking arcs, isolating body parts, fi guring out body motion, or analyzing poses. I thought, ‘Oh, I fi nally really get it.’ ” To’s animation director at T e LaB, Murray Debus, also helped. “He came from a 2D background,” To notes. “T e way he talked about things made me think of animation more in a 2D fashion, and that pushed my work forward, as well.” So did his sister Vivienne To, now a concept artist at Animal Logic. “We pushed each other creatively,” To says. In Animation Mentor’s Class Four, To studied acting for the fi rst time. “T at class made me think about performance,”

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