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Tiara Little is a freshly minted animator with companies like Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network already on her resume. Find out how this recent college graduate broke into the industry and began the career of her dreams.
Name: Tiara Little
Age: (Don’t have to answer) 22
Location: Burbank, CA
Profession: Digital Production Assistant at Cartoon Network Studios
How did you get started? What were three of the key steps you took?
I first fell in love with animation in middle school when I realized I could make an actual career out of it. I did everything I could to learn more about it – buying books, taking classes, and drawing whenever I could. It was like I was hooked! Then I attended the Rhode Island School of Design where I graduated in animation and then went on to intern and work at Nickelodeon Studios right afterward. And now I’ve been working in the industry for almost a year now and every moment of it has been great!
The three most important steps I took to get to where I am today were staying focused, staying determined, and staying passionate. When I set my mind to something I always plan to see it through even if it takes a bit longer than expected. I always like to think in terms of when things will happen as opposed to if they will happen.I always like to think in terms of when things will happen as opposed to if they will happen. Click To Tweet
What steps did you take to get your first job?
I’m pretty strategic in my planning, so from the moment I realized working in animation was where I wanted to be, I started planning out the steps it would take to get there. First, I did my research and found all of the colleges that were known for having strong animation programs. After that, I focused on my artwork at school and started applying to internships when I felt confident in my work. I did a few small internships during the fall and summer at school and finally landed my first major internship at Nickelodeon right before I was set to graduate. Once I got to Nickelodeon I just told myself I was going to be the best intern I could be and really tried to cultivate those connections while I was there since I knew this would set the tone for the rest of my career. Luckily, that hard work paid off and two weeks after I finished interning there I got a call from my Production Manager, who was managing the crew I worked on as an intern, and she offered me a full-time position on the crew.
What’s an average day like?
An average day for me is coming in and prepping the animation designs for reviews with our animation supervisors, directors, and creator. I also work with our in-house animation team to make sure they know which design assignments they should be working on and I track what’s been approved and what’s still in progress. My day consists of a lot of communicating with members of my crew and also paying close attention to detail so I’m able to answer questions as they come up. Basically, I’m going non-stop from when I walk in the door.
Why do you do it?
For the simple fact that I just straight up love it! I remember hearing someone tell me that if you do what you love then the money will follow and I just took that to heart. I made my passion for animation my ultimate goal before anything else, including money and I just got lucky that it worked out. Of course, I put a lot of effort into it to make my situation happen but I always knew where I wanted to be and I was ready to do whatever it takes to make that happen.
Ups and downs you sometimes face on the job:
Working in animation production is like a roller coaster – sometimes everything is riding along smoothly and other times the cart is on fire and half the track is missing. You never know what to expect when you walk in but with that being said, the positives definitely outweigh the negatives. I get to be surrounded by brilliantly, talented people and artists and I get to see an amazing amount of artwork each day. Not to mention, I’m getting paid to make cartoons and it doesn’t get any better than that.
Biggest challenge so far?
My biggest challenge so far has been adjusting to a new studio. I originally started off working at Nickelodeon and it was such an amazing place to be that I knew it would be hard for another studio to match it. However, I’m fortunate enough that my new crew at Cartoon Network is just as amazing as the last and they’ve helped to make my transition a lot smoother. I still make mistakes every now and then but they help me learn from them so I can become a stronger member of the team in the long run.
Your greatest achievement so far?
My greatest achievement has been breaking into the industry so quickly after graduating. I honestly thought that this moment wouldn’t come for months or years but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The moment I got the phone call from Nickelodeon I was so overfilled with joy that I forgot how to breathe for a second. Also the resulting phone call to mom telling her the news was even better because she was even more excited than me and that was already hard to top!
How should an aspiring animator go about looking for a school where he/she can learn the skill? Are there any you’d recommend? Might there even be free tutorials online for those who can’t afford a traditional course?
I’d tell an aspiring animator to do their research on the different programs that are out there and to really pick one that resonates with them. It’s not necessary to go to school for animation but it definitely doesn’t hurt either. At the end of the day, there are TONS of available resources online and in your local bookstores and libraries and it’s all about what you do with that information. People tend to get hung up on the name of the school when honestly you can be just as good as the students at another school as long as you work just as hard. It’s not just about the program you go to but what you do with the information and resources that are put before you. There are plenty of people in the industry who didn’t go to an animation program and kick butt just as hard as ones who did.
What is one thing an aspiring animator can do today to get started in animation?
Start animating! Don’t overthink every step you’re about to make and just let your artwork take you where you need to be. It’s easy to get caught up with buying books and other materials but really all you need is some paper and a pencil and can you get started right away.
What might be next for you?
I have a lot of big goals for the future, but I’d say the next thing I’d like to accomplish is to become a producer. I’ll always be a creative at heart and I’m working on some personal projects now that I’d love to see become a series one day. But for now, my focus is learning more about the different animation processes and seeing how I can keep making an impact on the industry and help other people make their dreams come true.
What are your go-to hair tips?
- Twist-outs all day everyday. I don’t have a lot of time to spend on my hair each week, so a nice stretched style like that really saves me time.
- Also, a spray bottle with a little bit of Aussie moist conditioner is great at refreshing and keeping my hair moisturized in between styling.
- I keep my styling simple so I’m not touching my hair too much.
- I detangle my hair in the shower under running water. My tangle teezer has been a lifesaver for when my hair gets really dry and tangled, so pairing that with my conditioner just makes the knots slide out easily.
Fun Fact: A fun fact of mine is that I actually ended up in production because of a cartoon I watched during my senior year of college. For a while I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do in the animation industry and then one day this show called Shirobaka came on and it was about this group of high school girls all wanting to work in the animation industry. Some of them wanted to become animators or writers but there was one girl who didn’t know what she wanted to do and ended up working as a PA by chance. Well, as I watched her run around and get into crazy situations I realized I would be perfect at that since it was pretty much my life then anyways. And now I’m doing exactly just that which has been just as chaotic and exciting as they portrayed it on the show!