Many professional animators decide to pursue their careers after being inspired early in their lives by video games and movies. For Computer Animation grad Andrew Atteberry, the spark came instead from tattoos.
“I really enjoyed that empathetic connection you make through artwork,” he says. “When you connect that artwork with a story and there’s meaning to it… I kind of latched on to that.”
Over the course of a few years, Andrew found himself going from tattooing, to comic books and sequential artwork, which led to dabbling in animation. “I saw The Incredibles, and that had a huge impact on me. I thought wow, that’s really cool; I wish I could do something like that. And then it clicked and I thought oh, people do that for a living!” Shortly thereafter, he enrolled at Full Sail.
“I’ve always wanted to be able to support myself and my family with my artistic ability, and so far for 10 years I’ve been able to do that. Even if I ended up back at a small studio working on car commercials, as long as I could pay the bills I would still be living my dream. The luxury of having a simple dream like that is everything that happens beyond it is just icing on the cake,” he says.
Andrew’s resume includes work on properties such as Sesame Street, Peanuts, and Frozen.
Upon graduating in 2005 he was hired at Magnetic Dreams, a smaller studio located in his hometown of Nashville. Andrew describes his time there as a great learning experience, as it gave him the opportunity to wear many different hats. He spent time directing, modeling, texturing, and rigging.
“The other great thing about working for a small studio is the luxury to make mistakes and not have to fear for your job. A lot of the big studios don’t offer that. I highly encourage everyone to shoot for the moon, but if you get the opportunity to work for a small studio you should do it.”
Andrew’s biggest takeaway from Magnetic Dreams, though, was his Emmy for his work on Sesame Street. He worked on a project called “Elmo the Musical,” and was on a team that created the character “Velvet,” a curtain who played off of Elmo.
After expanding his skill set, Andrew set out to create a short film with the help of his friends. “I created this film with while working a full-time job and had a family of a wife and two kids. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the knowledge that I gained from Full Sail.”
As Andrew’s portfolio grew, he looked to pursue new opportunities; one of which was Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Talent Development Program. For six months he was mentored by senior animators to learn how to animate in the Disney style.
“It turns out that was a very hard thing to figure out. It’s not cartoon-y and it’s not realistic; it’s this beautiful thing in between,” he says. “There were quite a few of the 2D guys who were still around, like Mark Henn and Ruben Aquino, and while I was in training I got the chance to spend time with them, even have them look at my work and give me critiques. The first time one of them looked at me and said ‘You’re going to be an all right animator!’ it was such a validating feeling, and to this day, the highlight of my career.”
After his training period ended, Andrew was brought on to the team for Frozen and was able to work on every character in the film. His biggest projects were crowd sequences with the trolls, and a scene where one of the characters, Kristoff, falls off of a cliff.
“I remember when we first saw the animatic for ‘Let It Go’ and heard the song. I got the chills; I knew at that point it was going to be really, really special.”
After Andrew’s work on Frozen ended, Disney’s studio was facing a lull in production and layoffs were a result of that.
“My number was called,” Andrew says. “Losing your dream job hurts. I went home, I watched Rocky, and I went in the next day with a good attitude and finished out my last two months doing the best job that I could. I didn’t let my emotions get the best of me, and it allowed me to establish myself as somebody who can deal with high pressure situations and not fall apart; attitude is everything.”
Andrew is both philosophical and optimistic about his his current career path, as he notes that one of the most important things about the animation industry is that it’s constantly in flux, and it’s important to always be prepared for change. “Update your reels constantly with new material, reach out to friends and colleagues on a regular basis,” he advises, noting that he’s already laid the groundwork for his next professional role. “You always have to make sure you have yourself covered.”