My story is not an uncommon one. I have heard the same from many others among colleagues, and as I begin to hear my own words share my tale, I am confronted with its lack of originality.
I’ve always loved drawing, and always admired the works of Disney. Sound familiar? Even as a very young child, sitting in my family’s coffee shop in Hawaii and entertaining the locals with my crude drawings, I dreamed of someday working for the Mouse.
I had a somewhat questionable education, choosing graphic design as a specialty when attending the University of Hawaii. I was not particularly skilled in this subject, probably due to my lack of real interest in the field. My eyes were focused on that castle that we see before all my favorite childhood films. However, all that design business did give me some basis for my artistic development.
As soon as I graduated, I set sail for the Promised Land, in this case, Southern California, said home of the Mouse himself. There are always a lot of obstacles when one decides on such an unsteady career. But youth was on my side as only the young are foolish enough to consider risking such an attempt. It actually was something my mother said that made me brave enough to journey on. She always told me to never look back on your life and regret. You don’t want to one day wonder…what if? My mom said a lot of things to me that day but being a young kid, that’s the only one I heard. And so, the adventure began.
After floundering for 5 years, I was unbelievably fortunate to have landed a position in character design at Hanna-Barbera. Hanna-Barbera, what’s that? Yes, they don’t exist anymore but they once were the great masters of TV animation. I learned all I could while I was there. After all, I didn’t know anything yet. I had a lot to catch up on. Unfortunately, my education was too brief and it was time to move on only after a year.
I worked very hard on trying to improve my portfolio while showing my progress to other studios. Someone told me they never saw someone work so hard while out of a job. It is difficult to count how many rejections I’ve had through this trial. But my passion drove me. If I were to fail, at least I gave it my all. I could return home with some satisfaction of knowing that I did my best. It may not have been good enough to make it, but best was all I had.
My efforts were not in vain, as I did gain a temporary position at DIC Enterprises. Yes, they’re gone too. But it was fun while it lasted and again, I was able to soak up whatever I could from artists around me. Then again, an incredible ray of fortune fell across my path and I found myself at Disney Publishing, surrounded by very talented mentors and a great atmosphere of creativity. I was in a frenzy to work hard and learn quickly, before anyone figured out that I couldn’t draw and realized they had made a terrible mistake. But with such generous and patient people, I was able to last some time without drawing suspicion and continued to learn all I could while there and soon even became artist manager with a small team under my supervision. I had many opportunities to work with talents, not only in my own department, but also at Feature Animation, Pixar and Disney Toon Studios as well. They provided a wealth of knowledge, experience, and inspiration through my years there. I was fortunate enough to begin training other artists as well, for the best way to learn is always when one is teaching.
Ten years passed before my departure as my life took a slight turn, bringing me half way across the world to beautiful Italy. Although I am many miles away from what I knew, I am continuing my freelance work with Disney and enjoying my on-going education in the field.