Walt Disney Television Animation is adding a new chapter to the recent industry trend of luring and training new talent to keep up with growing studio workloads. The company announced this week that it will start what is believed to be the first formal training program for animation timing directors. The program, called the Animation Directors Workshop, is specifically aimed at increasing the studio’s number of skilled timing directors, and will offer qualified candidates a 10-month salaried position to train in the discipline, with top performers earning jobs at Disney TV.

Timing directors, in essence, act as liaisons between a show’s director and its hands-on animators (who are usually located at overseas shops), breaking down action frame-by-frame as a guide for animators to follow. Tom Ruzicka, Disney’s senior VP of production, says the program was needed because currently, on-the-job mentoring is the only training timing directors get.

“The only way people have ever actually learned this skill is through mentorships or having been trained by senior animation directors,” Ruzicka says. “Nobody is formally trained to do it, and the schools don’t offer it. It’s a function that is unique for doing television animation the way most studios do it now, which is to have it animated overseas. Now in the ’90s, all the people who would normally do that function are being sucked back into actual animating because of the growing demand for product. So the only way we are going to build the next generation of timing directors is to start this training program.”

Ruzicka adds that the program is in keeping with Disney’s successful storyboard training workshop, and he expects the studio to start other similar programs as studio needs require it.

“It’s not just this particular function of timing directors,” he says. “There is a shortage of talent in every aspect of animation right now. Animation talent is not something you crank out in six months. It takes a long time to perfect it. It’s very important that we get the message out that there are career opportunities in this industry. So we expect we’ll start other things like this down the road.”

Prospective participants need to have three to five years of animation experience, including knowledge of basic animation, storyboarding, layout, editing and camera moves. Applicants should submit a resume and reel to Disney officials. Those who are accepted will get a salary from Disney for 10 months, and then receive job offers if they pass studio evaluations. The program is expected to get under way in late April or early May, with 10 animators chosen for the first group of participants. For information, call (818) 754-7261.

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