Digital Media Academy

young man drawing

Student Portfolio Highlight: 2D Animation Career Track

Meet 13-year-old Crosby, an aspiring 2D animator inspired by Studio Ghibli!

Have you ever found yourself transported to another place and time by an animated film? Do the works of Hayao Miyazaki or Junji Ito give you goosebumps? You might have something in common with Crosby – one of Digital Media Academy’s talented 2D Animation Tech Accelerator students.

Digital Media Academy Tech Accelerators are 10-week-long Bootcamp-style after-school programs that enable young learners to develop their skills using industry-standard programs, complete projects based on real-world scenarios and create portfolio-worthy pieces to show future schools or employers, all with the guidance and support of an industry-leading professional.

The 2D Animation Tech Accelerator has eight different levels, from Digital Drawing & Design with Adobe Photoshop, which covers the basics of composition and storyboarding to Professional Animation Portfolio with Toon Boom Harmony & Adobe Creative Cloud, which uses portfolio, project and interview workshops to help learners prepare for art school or animation job applications.

The Beginning: Animated Films and Other Inspirations

Crosby began his Digital Media Academy journey in Level 3, having already learned the basics on his own. “I have been interested in animation since I was about 10,” Crosby explains. “As a kid I watched a bunch of animated shows, like Avatar, The Last Airbender, with really interesting animation styles, and I just really wanted to know what was behind it – how they do it.”

Another inspiration for Crosby is Studio Ghibli: “When I was younger I would watch Studio Ghibli films like Howl’s Moving Castle, Castle in the Sky and Spirited Away. And those were my favourite movies,” he explains. “I’m really inspired by Hayao Miyazaki who is the mind behind all of those films. I love how lush the backgrounds are and how wonderful the clothing looks, and just how magical all of the movies are. They have such a special place in my heart.”

The animation that Crosby created as part of the Tech Accelerator reflects the style of the films he loved so much as a young child. “Ghibli kind of has its own style,” he says. “It’s very simple line art and they don’t use a lot of frames, but they get the motion across quite well. So I used that as a frame of reference for how my character’s face looks.” Beyond Studio Ghibli, Crosby’s piece contains a broad range of influences, including Anime shows like Attack of the Titan and the mid-century modern aesthetic that Crosby favours. “There’s a very heavy aesthetic to the animation that I made,” he says. “I love the film grain effect; and the filters that I used on the animation have a dreamy, glowy feel, which I really like the look of.”

Where else does Crosby find inspiration? “I watch a lot of films,” he says. “I also love scrolling through Pinterest for reference pictures and developing my aesthetic around other artists that I see on the internet, because the internet is a great tool.”

Learning With Digital Media Academy

Realizing that Crosby had both a deep interest in animation and a desire to take his skills to the next level, he and his mom began their search for the right educational program. “I was looking for someone to teach me more,” Crosby explains. “My mom is very supportive and she wanted to help me find a program I could do over the summer. We found DMA, which has multiple levels and we thought that would be great for a personalized learning experience. So that really drew me in.”

Crosby signed up for the 2D Animation Tech Accelerator, Level 3, where he learned about Toon Boom – an industry-standard animation program. “I really enjoyed learning how to use that,” he recalls. “This was the first time I’d made a full animation, with shading and coloring and background. Just learning how to layer that all together and create a cohesive work was a great experience.”

Crosby also received support and industry insider knowledge from his instructor, Michael Falk: “I really enjoyed how flexible Michael was with me, and he met me where I was,” says Crosby. “That was something I was worried about – that it would be too fast-paced for me since I was self-taught. But he made sure I understood the concept fully before he moved on, and was just really concerned about my comfort level.”

Michael also answered Crosby’s questions about the animation industry and what it’s like to work as an animator. “He talked to me about what the reality of the industry was. That was really good to learn about, and I think that’s not an opportunity that a lot of kids get.”

What Does the Future Hold?

While Crosby admits that he’s keeping his options open in terms of a future career – he is only 13 after all – he hopes to pursue visual arts in some capacity, and has his eye on art school in California when he finishes high school. “Animation is one of my favorite mediums right now,” he says. “And I think I’m just focused on learning as much as I can about it for my future. I’m glad I’ve gotten the chance this young to develop my knowledge about the industry.”

Crosby feels grateful for what he describes as a privilege – the ability to dive deeply into a potential career path, to learn the ins and outs of it before committing to a job or a college, and to create work he is proud to show off.

“When I go into college or a job setting, my goal is that I’m not just saying I would like to do this in the future – I want to have work that I can present to them and say this is how I am doing this and this is how I can succeed at this.”