Believe it or not, it's been just over seven years since we opened our virtual doors to our very first class of students. Time flies, huh? Technologically, everything about Animation Mentor was different back then. We launched with a radically different website, a different physical headquarters, and a somewhat different curriculum. Even the entire platform the school runs on was completely different. Over the years, we have completely reprogrammed the entire school, refining and broadening the experience of our students with the never-ending quest of providing the best educational experience possible.
Some things, though, haven't changed in the slightest. Right from day one, we launched with an incredible roster of mentors, a talented and dedicated school staff, and a group of students with enough excitement and passion to match them all. I don't think any of us were quite prepared for the level of enthusiasm we saw in our students! Anyone who has ever been to an Animation Mentor gathering or event knows exactly what I'm talking about. Pretty much right from the time we announced the school, I realized that I would probably never find anything quite as inspiring as hanging out with our students and graduates. They come from every imaginable background, culture, and corner of the world, but they are truly a family. They look out for one another, help one another, and together form the most inspired and inspiring group of people I've ever met!
And while our focus as a school has always been to teach the ART and CRAFT of animation, it's equally been our mission from day one to share our love of that art and craft with our students. As animators ourselves, we know full well that you just cannot make it in this business if you don't love it. We all need the passion to continue to learn and grow as artists every single day. We need the enthusiasm to get right back up on that horse when it bucks us off, and to dive right back into our shots when directors change their minds or hate our ideas. We need the dedication to embrace and learn from our failures, because without that, we will never be the artists we have the potential to be.
Above all, we need each other. We need extra sets of eyes to advise us on our work. We need hands to high-five us when we knock one out of the park. When the fear or frustration set in and we're in a rut with our work, we need shoulders to cry on and hands to hold. Ears to listen and strong animation backs to carry us when we're tired.
Sometimes people ask me what sets Animation Mentor apart. Why is the enthusiasm and excitement of our incoming students only more passionate when they graduate at the end of such a challenging program? The answer is in the people.
We now have students, graduates, staff, and mentors all over the world — and that means that at any moment of any day, there is a hand somewhere out there, ready to reach out to them. Ready to high-give, ready to help, ready to teach, or ready to just be a friend. Our alumni have formed a bond that transcends school, and they all know without any doubt that there is this safety net of hands out there at a moment's notice, not just as they go through our program, but for the rest of their lives.
If you ask me what I find most inspiring about our program, I'd be hard pressed to come up with something more powerful than that, and I'm humbled and honored to get to be just a tiny part of it.
P.S. For you longtime readers who might miss our extensive chats about the wonders of fried chicken, have no fear: my love of fried chicken is still deep (deep-fried?), and while friedchickenmentor.com does not yet exist, it will always exist in my heart. :)