5. And now for a real question. hehe. Everyone has advice as to what an aspiring animator should study or what kind of exercises one should do to improve. I've read an inteview where you talk about this, but just want to see if you can add to it. -->
What type of excercises do you reccomend for an intermediate level animator that wants to get to a Pixar level of animation? What should one study?
I think studying computers is really the last thing you want to do. Animation is art. It is not software. There is an ART in this stuff that becomes more apparent with every thing we see in CG. Animation is the study of movement and acting. It is creating believeable performances through our characters. It is always at its core, ENTERTAINMENT.
So what should you study to become a better animator. Well, first off you should be studying what is contemporary. What is Entertaining NOW. Things like Seinfeld to Six Feet Under. What makes this stuff entertaining? It is the believability of the characters and the sincerity of their actions.
In the beginning, animation is movement and it is fundamental to understand HOW things move. If you do not have this you will have a tough time in this field. So, one should ALWAYS have a clear understanding of the Basics. Ask JOHN LEE. When I started mentoring him I had him go back to the bouncing ball and I could clearly identify where his problems were at. After that he learned and he has progressed a ton.
Animation stays in the "MOVEMENT" phase for a long time. Once you have this you will always be refining it. But once you have this pretty clear in your mind you Move to the next level.
ANIMATION IS ACTING AND ENTERTAINMENT:
You start to not just do those "acting" tests anymore for movement sake. You begin to really THINK about WHY the heck you would want to animate a single line of dialogue? Where is the context? Where did this character come from? Where is it going? These things begin to compell you. Ask Keith Lango Mr. Short film maniac and I'm sure he would tell you the best way to Step to the next level is to do your own short film. You will probably fall on your face the first time, but that's what animation is... A series of falling on your face and picking yourself back up and learning from your mistakes. It's great stuff, although my face is a little bruised from all the falling.
This is not to say do not animate single lines of dialogue. I think it's great training for the MOVEMENT and begining Acting for an animator, but unless that line has some kind of contast in it is literally a series of movement and I think pushing yourself to the next level requires thinking about more than ONE shot. You have to look at the big picture.