Animator Q&A: Ask Now!

Animator Island is very excited to present to you a new series where your questions find professional answers! Josh Taback, Director for Disney TV and long time animator including work on The Simpsons, is rolling up his sleeves to tackle your toughest drawing and animation questions. Read on to find out how to get your inquiry in the next installment!

There may be a burning question in the back of your mind that you’ve always wanted to ask, or you might be in the middle of a particular drawing that just seems to be missing that certain something. Whatever the case, Josh is available to provide valuable feedback in this new set of articles. In case you’re overloaded with questions to ask, here are a few starting points that might help you narrow things down to the perfect question:

  • What is something that you would like to see that you feel most drawing tutorials don’t cover?
  • What part of the body do you find particularly tricky to draw?
  • What are some trouble spots that continue to spring up and you can’t seem to find your way around?
  • What objects or poses do you find particularly tricky to draw?
  • Why doesn’t this look right? Send in your drawing for a chance to have it revised. Find out what’s eluding you to bring it to a higher level!

If you’ve got questions or a drawing to submit, you can send it to QA at animatorisland.com, or leave your request in the comments below as another way to go. Whatever you do, don’t miss this unique opportunity to finally answer the ponderings you’ve been mulling over! Josh will respond to one question at a time, so if yours isn’t answered in the next segment hold tight because there will be future entries in the series as well.

josh draws moe
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Frame from The Simpsons drawn and animated by Josh Taback

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I’m looking forward to digging in and seeing what you guys have to say. For samples of previous “Lessons” check out here:



I received a Character Layout Test for the Simpsons several years ago. Admittedly I lacked the experience and confidence to complete it. Now that I’m finishing design school I fully understand the process and I’ve completed the test several times over. I know the animation staff at Film Roman is a small, elite group but I still want to try. Should I include the completed test when I reapply? Should I at the very least keep the test as a part of my portfolio? What are your recommendations? Thanks so much for your time.

Lee W

What would be the best advice for one day working as an animator or director at Disney, or any major studio?

What’s the best path to take to eventually work in the animation industry?

Did you go to art school? In your view, what are the best schools out there for animation right now?

What advice would you give someone who was preparing their portfolio for college?

Feel free to answer all of them, or none of them.



Nikki D.

Wow thanks! This is super nice of you to do I’m going to go draw something to email in!

Sabina K

When I’m animating, the character gets smaller, even when all the keyframes are the same size, somehow I manage to draw every next inbetween smaller and the result is my character growing and shrinking on screen. Any advice?



Thanks for your question. Are you animating on paper or using software on the computer to draw?

Sabina K

I usually animate using computer software.


Ok. Thanks Sabina. When I post an answer I’ll talk about both techniques of using paper and 2D software.

Sabina K

Thank you very much! Maybe It’ll help me finally solve this problem I’ve had for months!



I’m working on the questions and before I dug into yours it would also help to know:

A.What specific software you are using?

B.When you inbetween, do you usually do so by onion skinning or by “flipping?”

Sabina K

I’m using TV Paint and inbetween by onion skinning.


I always have that trouble with 2D too. That’s why 3D is so much easier, the computer does it for you!



You’re right. Creating something from nothing and breathing life into two dimensional still drawings with your own hands and mind with the aid of talent you were born with honed by the skill you develop does takes a lot longer and is more difficult than if a robot did it for you.


My question is how do you do easier storyboards that show what is happening but don’t take forever to draw. When I try to plan out an animation for 3D I feel like it isn’t worth the effort because it takes me so long to draw it all out and I could just go use the models and get it done faster. How do you draw faster for that? Or should I just do it all in 3D. because thats what I’ve been doing. Thank you in advance.



I see where you’re coming from. Today’s world has a lot more gadgets and gizmos to get to a finished product faster. I hope to make a more in depth post later on, but I’d like to hit a few points that I’ll expand upon then:

1. Using a tool someone else made leaves you dependent on that tool. Being able to think and act independently will make you stronger in anything you take up.

2. In the animation industry the storyboard process usually happens before any CG rigs are even built. The design of a film or show is being worked on at the same time. Or the episode has new elements that have yet to be designed or built virtually. So there aren’t any CG elements to work with. What you are referring to is called PREVIS or pre-visualization. Where you plan out a scene virtually to help out principle photography. Or final animation.

3. CG rigs, background environments and props all cost money to make. Someone who can draw can throw the magic down on to a few panels to get the same thing done.

Hey, if drawing’s not your thing then drawing’s not your thing. There are many great CG artists and PREVIS people out there. What I hope to accomplish with this column is a place to come to for drawing advice. Whether its about the drawing itself or how to help someone use their drawing ability to make a living.

Thanks for your input. I hope to be able to help you out in the future.


I just finish a 3D General formation and within all the branches I had try, I choose animation because it is for me the most life-giving part of all this art. Sometimes I anger against rig because they won’t always do what i want them to. I want to try 2D animation cause it will improve my drawing skill and animation skill at once. I am often drawing but i felt like it takes more time than other student to improve.

Do we have to have a strong drawing skill to animate in 2D ?
Is there any ressources in the internet to be initiated to 2D Animation?

Thanks a lot !


Thank you a lot for providing individuals with a very wonderful chance to ask questions. Here is mine.

Why is it that there is such a big gap between movies like Aladdin and Aladdin 2 and 3? The movies that are right to DVD look so much worse and I was trying to figure out why because it seems like it is all the same characters and backgrounds and models and both made by Disney and stuff right? Why does one look so bad and one look so good? Is it a different frame rate or smth? I don’t get it.


Charles Freeman

How do you draw good life drawing from models?


Whats the best program to draw in


I’m gonna try and come up with questions but in the mean time I am excited to hear the answers to the ones above! Is this going to be like an on going thing? Or did I miss the chance?


I’m hoping for this to be an on going column. I’ve been working on answering some questions. I would like the first post to have a few. If I can do it often enough one at a time will probably suffice. So please, go ahead and leave your question here or email it in.


I would also like to know about the life drawing question. Because everyone tells me it is very important to know how to do.


How do you draw in the Disney movies style? I try to draw the princesses but they look bad! ^.^

Dana C.

Wow these are great questions I can’t wait to hear the answers!


i have a few questions.

1. next year i start high school where they don’t have a good art program. I doubt i will grow as an artist there, should i take after school classes?

2. by the time I’m graduate high school (2018) and go to college, will there be careers in 2D animation?

3. is it a really low chance that i will, one, get into a great animation college, and two, get a high paying job in animation. (preferably disney?)


Ryne Gessel


I think it’s very cool that you are answering such a variety of questions. I have a more 2d-oriented question to ask regarding the infamous sweat box. Being a student and somebody that works on my own personal projects I don’t get as much feedback/constructive criticism/unsatisfiable people telling me what I should do better. I want to know what sort of things people have been asked/told/(yelled at?) in the sweat box and what sort of things have you been asked to do better? Ultimately, I would like to know what criticism professionals get from other professionals.


Questions for Animators
Hello my name is Devon Nicholson; I live in Vancouver, British Colombia, Canada. I am in grade 7 and I’m in middle school. I am doing a Genius Hour Project (Passion Project) in my class this year. And what I picked to learn about was animation. I have always loved animation and know quite a bit about it, but I was hoping you could answer some questions and give me some tips on animation.

1. What is your name?
2. What animation studio do you work at? How long have you been working there?
3. What is it like being an animator? What is your daily routine?
4. What are your wages? Do you get long vacations?
5. Do you get benefits? Do you have sick days/ get paid for sick days?
6. Did you have to get an animation degree? How long did you have to go to animation school?
7. What animation school did you go to? Was it hard to get into to?
8. Did you always want to be an animator? When did you start thinking about doing animation?
9. What kind of animation do you do (2D, 3D, Claymation, etc.)?
10. When I’m older is it possible for me to become an animator like you?

Thank you for taking your time to fill out these questions, I think these will help me with my project.

Do you have any tips?

Thank you so much,
Devon Nicholson


hi !
thank you for your time
right now im righting a script for a cartoon serious
im fimilier with chadacter modeling and storyboarding
and im using photoshop for those 2
my question is when i start the animation process what kind of softwares u recommend me to use ?
my cartoon isnt too simple like south park nither like disney traditional movies its in between
the drawings wont be to detailed
and if you have any more tips that can help me on making the cartoon on those 3 stages it would be great ..
and thank you

Jack McG


I’m Jack McGuinness and I was wondering what types of math problems animators have to solve each day. If you could, can I have a step by step example? That would be very nice and so I can see what I will be getting myself into. Thank you so much!

Alfred Kumwenda


I’m an animation student studying in Sounth Africa.

And I was wondering

What would an animator expect when it comes to work?

Ferdinand Engländer

Hey Alfred,

Thanks for your question, but I am not quite sure I fully understand what you would like to know. Do you mean career-wise? Or what kind of skills and work are expected from you? Please specify your question, so it’s easier to give you the answer that you are looking for.

All the best to you 🙂


Hey I need a good animator who wants a bunch of likes on YouTube! I have a good idea I would like to convey.

Wadsworth (alias)

I want to know, I am a high school student looking to find a career after high school in animation (I do plan on going to college for animation, for reference) and I am fairly decent at life drawing, yet I find it hard to make original characters (I want to be a character animator) sometimes, I haven’t produced much stuff that isnt a representation of a real person, place, or a copy of a work (not traced of course), I also find it hard sometimes to create ideas for stories. Any high school classes you would recommend I take to prepare for animation, and is this all of this normal for a high school sophomore?


I am an American sophomore looking to get into animation after taking a college animation course. I am fairly decent at life drawing, and have done some light animation work (the bouncing ball, a head turn, head turn with anticipation) but I find it hard to make characters that aren’t representations of myself and friends, life drawings, or copies of other works (not traced, of course :D). While I am sure I am a little step ahead of others with my 3-4 light animation works, I fear its bad I am not creating characters and stories right off the top of my head. Also, speaking with a few other animators, they have very worried me because they make it sound like I should be drawing, animating, and making up stories constantly and I feel any time I don’t have a project I am working on I am somehow wasting time, even if I don’t feel like drawing that day and I just want to play a game with my friends or by myself, any advice or words of comfort?

Marilynne Clark

My daughter has been accepted to the following schools for animation:
UT Dallas (ATEC) – cost of attendance: $17,500
SCAD – cost of attendance: $42,500
Woodbury: $34,500

I am shocked at how much these schools cost, and I really don’t know what to recommend. Is the extra investment in SCAD really worth it? Which is the best value?

Ferdinand Engländer

Hello Marilynne,

Sorry it took me so long to get back to you. I actually wanted to make a video about that exact topic, but I didn’t have time for it yet. I figured before I let this go unanswered even longer, I just write down what comes to my mind.

I don’t really know the schools, so I can only give you some general advice:
– Research the list of professors (as well as regular guest speakers) and their work. Look if they are connected to Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, Nickelodeon or worked on other movies, games and series that you daughter likes. There are good independent animators as well that you might have never heard of, but they do amazing things.
– Look at the focus and if that lines up with your daughter’s interests (VFX or 2D characters or 3D characters). Many schools offer all three, but there is always a main focus. Does the school show films at festivals? Have student films won awards? Also, a lot of animation students realize after a while that they are more interested in another area of the film-making process like storyboarding, texturing or modeling. So ideally the school would cover these as well.
– Go there, have a look at the equipment and talk to the students. Do they have rooms to do their projects in? Do they have good computers and software (Maya, Toon Boom, Adobe)? Can they request equipment and software? And is it actually being used? I once taught at a school with great equipment, but the staff never set it up correctly. Does the IT support have reliable opening hours (and not just Wednesdays from 10:30 – 11:00)? Do they have a render farm (or provide the money for outsourcing that)?
This is completely independent from how nice the school looks! Don’t let large glass windows, colorful walls or a campus park fool you, they do not guarantee that the school puts money into equipment.
Well, and then of course generally ask students what they like and dislike.

– In my experiences there are three types of schools:
1 A school that offers animation and art, but is mostly known for other fields. Usually, the animation courses at these schools are okay, but they won’t invite any big names as guest professors. However, it does make sense to go there if you are interested in that other field as well. E.g. if you want to make games you can go there for programming and animation. If you are interested in more abstract films you can go to a school known for traditional painting.
2 Schools that have a very structured approach. Here you have a tight timetable with a few hours of color studies, then acting class, then nude drawing, then project management and so on. People who like disciplined, systematic learning can be very happy here, but you need to be quite patient to succeed. Most online schools are like this too.
3 Schools that have a Do-It-Yourself approach. Here you make one project after the other. They do have classes and mentors, but you meet not as frequent as in type 2. People who like freedom to try and learn on their own, can be really happy here. You can learn a lot here, but only if you are willing to take the initiative to ask for help or look into things on your own.

If you talk to students you will realize that type 2 students are frustrated being on type 3 schools (“We never have class, they just leave us alone”) and vice versa (“I wish they would just let me do my ideas”).

I had great luck with that. The school I went to was type 3 and it turned out this was the best way for me to learn. Being thrown into cold water over and over again allowed me to build a hunger for challenges and problem solving that helps me a lot today. True, I missed some strategic learning, but I am catching up with that on my own account (this is actually one of the reasons why this website exists).
So make sure you pick the correct type to avoid unnecessary frustration.

But the school itself is not the only thing that decides if spending that much money is worth it: The effort you are willing to put into building your skills and the willingness to grow and learn makes all the difference.
An expensive school can help (also to meet friends and future business partners), but passion will always find its way – even if you have to compromise on the tuition. And again if the cheaper school happens to line up with her learn type that’s better than a fancy looking more expensive school of the wrong type.

And just so you know, there is also the possibility to study abroad. France and Germany both have excellent schools and tuition fees are tiny compared to what you pay in the US. And that whole scary thing about being exposed to a foreign language and culture can never hurt to grow as a person.

I hope you and your daughter find a good solution. Animation is a wonderful profession. Career paths and possibilities are just as diverse as the people who work in the industry.

All the best,

Windy Scriven

For a beginner, whats the best way to go about starting an animation? Tracing tablet? Etc.? What all will I need? I don’t want to overload myself and quit in frustration because I might start at a place that’s too advanced for me.


What are animator responsibilities