We’d like to reintroduce AnimSchool Graduate Mark Tan!

Mark Tan was a star student we’ve interviewed in the past. Since graduating from AnimSchool, Mark has went on to work at Blue Sky Studios on the Peanuts movie. We got a chance to catch up with him to ask some brief experience about his journey so far!

Can you describe your experience at Blue Sky so far.

Blue Sky Studios is my first animated feature studio experience.  I have previously
worked on television shows and video games, but never at a place that housed so many 
animators.  There are currently over a hundred artists in the animation department creating performances that are seen by millions of people. 
The initial impression was intimidating, but the friendly environment was a good counter balance.  All of my Animschool instructors except for one (Matt Doble, Melvin Tan, Steve Vanseth, Trevor Young) are currently working at Blue Sky along with fellow classmates (James Kim and Jilmar Altamirano).  It was interesting meeting everyone in person for the first time. 

Animating here is both extremely challenging and rewarding.  Peanuts had a 2 week program (Van Pelt University) that involved being immersed in the unique style. The training program was followed by a test which involved creating a shot with Charlie Brown.  After the test was approved, we were moved into production.  I tried to put as much effort and time as possible to every shot I was given, regardless of the length or character.  Most the work I was assigned involved marketing promotional shots or background character animation in the movie.  I did get a small Snoopy/Woodstock shot and Red Haired girl shot, which I am very grateful for.  Currently we are crunching on Ice Age 5.  I have never animated quadrupeds professionally, so getting thrown into a show with 10+ main characters who are all creatures is forcing me to adapt and learn.  My skills have grown significantly since I first stepped foot in Blue Sky.

What’s your typical day at blue sky like?
A typical day at Blue Sky can involve different things.  Before starting you attend a kick off, which usually involves the directors showing you the layout or storyboard sequence and telling you what they want.  

 After getting kicked off, I plan either with reference or sketches and move into blocking my shots.  When the shot is blocked out (enough to get the feeling and point across), I show my lead, address the notes, then show the supervisors, and address their notes as well.  After it looks good to them, then you send off your shot to sweatbox, which is where the directors look at your shot again. 

 This process continues in a cycle until your shot is approved.  Sometimes I could get a shot with a lot of characters and the task gets split to two or three animators.  We communicate and try to keep each other up to date on our progress as we all  move through the process. 

How has AnimSchool prepared you for this role?
The obvious answer would be that four of my mentors currently work here.  Animschool gave me the closest thing to a first hand experience of what is expected of me as a professional animator.  The quality and sense have to always be present for every shot you get.  Also I understand a lot clearer what the directors/supervisors want when I get notes, so I finish each task promptly without confusion.

What advice would you give to current students?

My main advice would be to look at the work of the pros and not your fellow classmates.  The demo reels you see of people actually working in the field set the bar that you have to hit to be employed.  Be critical of your work, but don’t discourage yourself.  Learn to enjoy the process of being challenged so you are always improving.

Thank you, Mark!

Mark’s Demo Reel