The Story of Animation Mentor: How 3 Studio Animators Changed the Animation Industry

15 years ago, 3 studio animators set out to create the online learning platform of the future. Most other online schools still haven’t caught up.

In 2005, best friends and professional animators Bobby Beck, Shawn Kelly and Carlos Baena saw a talent problem in the animation industry.

While working on some of the most memorable animated movies at Pixar and Industrial Light & Magic — they mentored new animators — and they realized that there was a huge disconnect between the skills required by the animation industry, and the knowledge that film and animation schools were providing to up-and-coming animators.

While traditional art schools focused on building traditional art skills and grounding students in history and theory, they taught only basic animation concepts. They neglected the nuts and bolts of how to animate 3D characters.

Like any true entrepreneurs, Beck, Kelly and Baena, decided to solve this problem. They created a state-of-the-art online animation school filled with top talent from major studios and named it Animation Mentor. They wanted working animators to help them teach the principles and techniques that would help their students become great 3D character animators with the skills necessary to step into jobs in the industry.

shot by Kevin Shiau

The premise of Animation Mentor was simple: It would be the first online animation school with a world-class curriculum focused specifically around the talent needs of the animation industry.

Animation is a collaborative endeavor where artists work in teams to create and refine great animation. The founders knew they wanted to have an online school so people from all around the world could attend, but they also wanted everyone to be able to collaborate, share ideas, make new friends, and learn from each other. Building an online campus and community that supported that networking and communication was key to how they constructed their school.

Today, most students are discovering that traditional schools that are suddenly forced to go online do not have a platform that supports the social life, communication, and collaboration that is so important to a student’s development and learning. Most of our competitors have a “learn at your own pace” format where students are essentially downloading lessons and doing assignments on their own, while occasionally attending a virtual lecture.

The sense of community that most students get on other campuses is definitely lacking. This is especially problematic for the arts, where drawing inspiration from your peers is a key part of the learning process.

Animation Mentor works differently. Each student attends a weekly class led by a professional animator, who serves as an instructor and mentor to a small number of students. Mentors deliver the training live, giving demonstrations and feedback to students in real time. This makes the online classroom feel much closer to a traditional one, and since people from all over the world are participating together, students get the opportunity to see completely different cultures and viewpoints.

Shot by Ricky Robinson

While many online educational programs simply deliver the learning materials to students at the beginning and an assessment test at the end, they are not able to give intensive, individualized feedback to each and every student. This is also true in large, live classrooms.

Animation Mentor ensures that every single student gets individual attention geared specifically to their needs, goals, and projects. Each week, they hand in their artwork and get a recorded critique from their instructor. Animation Mentor developed a tool that enables mentors to draw over students’ animation, showing them exactly how to improve their work.

In addition, an animation production pipeline is part of the online learning platform. Similar to the pipeline that animation studios use to coordinate projects and keep track of files, this pipeline makes project management a breeze. Not only does it help students stay organized, it teaches them the production workflow process so they can easily adapt to studio pipelines in future.

Shot by Alice Smith

Animation Mentor has graduated thousands of students from around the world, many of whom work at the top animation studios. We’ve proven that our curriculum and platform work and that our graduates have mastered professional, studio-level skills.


So how did the COVID-19 pandemic affect Animation Mentor? We are glad to say that the company remains strong in these troubling times and that we continue to educate and graduate 3D character animators.


Our program is helping students stay connected and avoid the isolation and loneliness that many people are facing at this time. In fact, we are seeing many new students who have decided to take a break from their traditional art schools in order to learn new animation skills!


What started out as an unusual idea 15 years ago is now a successful online animation school that is helping the next generation of animators succeed.


Source:Animation Mentor

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