Hey Josh, thanks for posting this question. I think it's on the minds of many young artists throughout the world. I'll do my best to answer these and hopefully can get some other friends of mine to chime in too.
1. Is the debt worth getting into?
- I left Calarts with about a 100k in student loans. That was absolutely insane to me at the time. From what I hear nowadays, some students are getting into 150k+ debt to go to Art School. If you're in this situation I would say NO! I would not do it. Mainly because it's an insane amount of money and because of the internet, online schools/ technology in general gives you more options than what I had when I went, which was 2003-2007. You can go to online animation school for much cheaper. You will also be able to connect with industry pros for one on one coaching from this site, once that section of the site is done being developed. All the networking and resources are available to everyone online now. I would recommend not getting yourself buried in debt right out of the gate especially since there are other options now.
But, if you are someone who can get a lot of financial help from the goverment or from family, then Calarts is totally great. As long as you're not setting yourself way back financially, you'll be OK.
2. How many people actually end up getting steady jobs specifically at Disney or Pixar?
- It varies quite a bit from year to year. I remember from 2003-2006, only one student from the graduating class got the Pixar internship. Everyone else got jobs in TV or some in Dreamworks, or Sony. When I graduated, Disney was heavily recruiting to revamp the entire studio after Lasseter and Catmull took over. As a result, many of my classmates and I made it to the training program. If I had to guess, probably half of the class, on average, sticks around industry related jobs. Others find themselves going on different paths.
3. 3. How many people get steady jobs in general?(could include any animation studio) (I know a few animation people who live on temporary jobs, I.e they are only hired for like one film at a studio and then after that film is done they are let go, and have to find work elsewhere, over and over)
- If you really want to work in the animation business, you might need to embrace a potentially unstable lifestyle/career. This is what I did before going to Calarts. I accepted the possibility that I'd be broke and jobless at times. If you look at the history of the industry, there are always ups and downs. I've ridden an amazing wave the past 10 years at Disney so I've been super lucky. But I never want to assume it'll stay like that forever. Technology has a way of uprooting this industry in interesting ways. So be on the look out and be prepared. As long as you are passionate and work hard, you should be fine adapting to any kind of change in the industry. What we are talking about is a kind of fear that traps people in a job they don't like for a lifetime. So for some people, it's worth taking the risk but you need to be prepared for the high highs and the low lows!
4. 4.how difficult is the animation program? Do many people not end up finishing?
- Honestly, you can coast by the entire four years and nobody is going to yell at you. The character animation program is what you make of it. You need to realize the importance of making the best use of your time, take advantage of it all because it flies by very fast! You don't want to be left feeling like you didn't work hard. So from that standpoint, especially if you have a lot invested in your education, you'll demand so much from yourself that it'll turn out to be a very very challenging curriculum. But if you're lazy, unmotivated, it could be a very relaxed four years.
Making a student film is pretty ambitious so it's not a surprise that some people won't finish a film a year. Most finish at least one out of the four but you really want to shoot for one film a year, ideally. You'll get the most out of it.
5. How much time do you have to work on personal projects? (Personal films, series, etc) Does school take up so much time that it'll be better to hold off big personal projects until after school?
Your big personal project is usually your film! It'll take up your entire life for a while so I wouldn't try loading up more work on top of it. But you're the only one who can know how much you can handle. I would personally get burned out if I had a lot of other things to juggle.
5. I want to start my own animation team haha, So how hard do you think it'll be for me to form a small team of people who are interested in being part of a small startup animation company? So I guess how many people are ambitious for creating a new animation company
- I think something like this will become easier and easier because technology is making things like this possible. Artella.com for example, gives you an opportunity to put a team together for a short film or whatever all online. You can do this much easier now because you won't need all the overhead that was required in the past. A few standard computer, internet, and a few cintiqs are enough to make things happen. I think things will move in that direction in the long run. People will live where they want and work from home doing mostly freelance gigs. Time will tell though who knows!
Hopefully this answers your questions. I'll see if I can get some of my other friends to chime in too. Thanks for posting this as I'm sure it'll benefit many students out there! Welcome to Animatedbuzz!