#blacklivesmatter and animation

A little background

As someone who’s worked in the animation industry for over 10 years, I consider myself lucky. All animators are lucky, really. We get to live in a make-believe bubble for most of our working day. We get paid to do a job that many would do for free. Living vicariously through our imaginary characters for 8 hours a day means it’s generally easy to switch off from the outside world. Sure, we have our problems like most humans, and any job can be tough or come with stress, but let’s keep things in perspective right now. It’s not a bad gig. But as an industry, we have a long way to go.

Progress in animation

You see, the thing I’ve noticed (as I’m sure many of you have too) is that there is very little diversity in animation. I can only talk confidently about the U.K and Ireland, as this is where my experience mainly lies, but I do have a strong picture of North America too, and it doesn’t feel much different. The U.K has recognised a problem in female balance in the workplace (read: there are practically no women working in animation, especially higher up in creative roles) and have started to address this with funding, courses and a buzz of support. In just 5 years I’ve noticed more women in animation, so it’s starting to work, although the balance is still a long, long way off equality.

Diversity in animation

The astounding lack of black artists working in animation is embarrassing. I realise that drawing attention to the colour of skin will be uncomfortable for some people reading, but I can’t fathom how, in this day, people still have an issue with something like skin colour. I have clearly never been on the receiving end of racism, but I have studied history at school, I’ve read the news over my life and I cannot believe we are seemingly going backwards in this area.

With the global virus taking a hold of the world, I had high hopes for a coming together of humanity. A united effort to beat the unseen enemy. But history has the answers and it is indeed repeating itself, albeit with heightened media scrutiny. The sad events that have led to a public outcry and support is hopefully just to tip of the iceberg for a big change all through our world.

Floyd Norman at Disney 1956
Floyd Norman in 1956. The first black animator to work at Walt Disney studios. Photo credit: Michael Flore Films/Falco Ink.

What I would like to see

I want us to share. Not just the jobs and the pay and the opportunities, but the stories. The stories we’re missing out on from all walks of life, no matter what your background. Animation is a fantastic vehicle for educating and entertaining. I want to use my white privilege to actively help black artists tell stories that might inspire others to follow in their path.

What I’m offering

If you are a black animation artist and have under 2 years of experience in the animation industry, I want to work with you.

I am offering 2 scholarships for all of my courses, including mentoring and showreel feedback, for free, value £1000+ each.

If you feel like you’re struggling to break into the animation industry and you’d like to learn the most popular 2D animation software, then this could be the stepping stone for you. I can’t teach you to animate from scratch, so please only apply if you’ve already begun training towards an animation career, but are waiting for the career break. If you already work in animation but are early in your career and want to learn the software, this may also be helpful to you. Each of the scholarships will receive:

  • Animation in Toon Boom Harmony – 5 week course
  • Rigging in Toon Boom Harmony – 5 week course
  • Advanced Animation in Toon Boom Harmony – 5 week course
  • All of the above comes with live video tutorials, personalised notes and homework feedback
  • A showreel and portfolio review session – live video call (1 hour)
  • 4 months of mentoring and advice with animation job applications

Applications close Friday 19th June 2020 with the successful applicants announced on Sunday 21st June 2020. This is quite a heavy investment of my own time, so I can only afford 2 free spaces for now, but I intend to offer further scholarships in the future. Subscribe to my mailing list to be the first to hear about them.

Why do this now

Simply put, I’ve been complacent in the past. I’ve seen horrible news of racism and done nothing other than lament the state of the world. It didn’t affect me. It didn’t enter my bubble.

But like much of the world right now, I feel like I can’t be a bystander no longer. It’s not enough to just ‘not be racist’ as it’s clearly not working. So I, like many others, are going to try and actively counteract the years of systemic racism in any way I can. I want to be part of the effort to re-balance the scales.

Animation is just one small facet of society, and you may think ‘this has nothing to do with the wider picture’. You’re right in that I’m not going to solve the issues in the U.S, the U.K or wherever else by doing this. But I can help in my area of expertise. So if I can use the power I have to actively make a change to just one single black life, by opening a door that may otherwise stay closed, then it’s a start.