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Pixar Animator: Andrew Lee Atteberry

Join us as we ask Lupin House mentor Andrew Lee Atteberry, a few golden questions! We are privileged to have Andrew with us at Lupin House, and he's a huge asset to our students.

If you would like to be mentored by Andrew, make sure to apply after reading this interview.

For now, enjoy the read!

What is your process when you first get cast a shot? What is the first thing you like to do?

After discussing what my shots need for the story with the director I take some time to think about the context of how this moment fits into the story and the emotional state the characters are in. I ask all sorts of questions. What is the energy needed in this moment. High or Low, or something in between? What is the subtext of the moment? What is going on around the characters. ie. What's the weather like? Are there any props or environmental elements that might make sense to interact with? Given what I know about the characters, how would they specifically handle this moment in time? My goal is to come up with a specific game plan of action that fits the characters and narrative before I set any keyframes. I'll also do a once-over of the assets in the scene to make sure I have what I need to achieve my goals, and flag anything that might not work correctly and start that conversation early.

What's your favorite thing about being an animator?

My favorite thing about being an animator? Thats a tricky one because there is a lot about animation that I love. A lot of things I don't love as well. The duality of the process is interesting. The collaborative nature of film making combined with individual effort. The difficulty of making something look effortless. But those are kind of a boring answers. My favorite moments are when I do something in my work that makes my colleagues laugh in dailies. I think that's the sweet stuff there.

What do you do when you get stuck or are having difficulties with a shot?

Thats an easy one. Whenever I get stuck I just ask for help. Animation is hard and no single animator will ever have all the answers all the time. So I just go into someones office that might be good at the thing Im trying to do and show them what I have and see what they have to say. Getting an outside perspective usually leads to greater insight of characters or process and a potential solution that maybe I hadn't thought of before.

What is the hardest shot you have ever animated and what is the shot you are most proud of?

The hardest shot I ever had....Haha, they're ALL the hardest shot! I can't think of one that stands out specifically, they all have challenges of different natures. Sometimes its trying to get the physicality right, or trying to get a character to cross a large distance with limited frames. Sometimes there are competing notes from directors/leads and navigating those waters. Sometimes its trying to get appeal from a character that might not have had the time or budget invested into it. The thing that Ive learned over the years is that when starting a shot you're basically wandering into a desert. Whatever happens, just keep walking, you'll find your way out....eventually! The shot Im most proud of? My first run of shots on Toy Story 4 were with Woody and Forky walking around an Antique store. There's not much to them, but that was my first opportunity to work on Woody and the moment was special.

Have you gotten burnt out? if so how do you deal with it?

Burn out happens to everyone at some point. The worst thing you can do is try to push through it as if you aren't. I can remember a few times over the years experiencing some difficult periods of burn out and fatigue. My best advice is to just be honest with yourself about whats going on and then take the necessary steps to mitigate stress as much as possible. Speak with leadership on your projects, if they're worth a damn, they'll work with you to give you a lighter work load or extend your bid days out. Take time off if you have the days available. Take sick days if you need to. At the end of the day, your health is more important than any project or whatever arbitrary deadline the bean counters came up with. If that client or employer disagrees. Leave.

What is your advice for people starting out or at the early stage of their animation careers?

Advice for new folks? Put the time and effort in to learn your craft. Animation is not an easy thing to learn and a couple hours a week of minimal effort isn't going to cut it. Put that time in and make mistakes. Learn from those mistakes. Seek out knowledge from those that know more than you. Don't be afraid to show them your work! Accept that you're going to suck at this for a while and allow yourself to be be vulnerable and open to growth. Don't compare that growth to someone elses. Everyone has their own journey and path. Some paths are longer than others and thats ok. Keep digging for it.

Lastly, everyone's golden question, what advice would you give someone who's goal is to work at Pixar?

Yes! The quickest way to someplace like Pixar is to NOT make Pixar the metric for your success. The truth is, most people get into Pixar, not because of their ability to apply principles to their animation, they get in because they can show the truth of a character in their work. The basic tenet of animation at Pixar is "Specificity" being specific about your acting choices and making sure that those choices are truthful to who that character is and what they are experiencing at the time. To connect a character to the audience in a way they can relate to. Make that your goal! Chase that and the rest will work itself out.

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