// Rad Gal, Rad Gig: Animator

Hey! I'm Angel Szafranko and I'm an animator. I've been working in the industry for almost three years now and loving it! What's an animator? What do I actually do? No I'm not a voice actor... but that would be cool. I help bring the characters on cartoons to life. I make them move. I animate them.

Growing up I always really enjoyed arts and crafts, I was obsessed with Disney and shows like; Sailor Moon, Pokemon, Gundam Wing, Escaflowne... but it never occurred to me that animation could be a job. (I always thought I'd be one of those starving gallery artists or an art teacher.) That all changed once I hit high school. I got educated in the different types of 'art' jobs out there and realized that animation was totally for me. I ended up going to a school a couple hours from home, where I studied both 2D and 3D animation for three years. Those years in school, learning and practicing animation were probably some of the most fun I've had. Being surrounded by other people who love art and animation was really great.

After school I moved out to Toronto during a time where not many studios were hiring, (especially someone with almost no work experience.) After my saved funds ran out I had to suck it up and get a joe-job (any job to pay the bills) I was stuck at a sad call centre job for a little over a year until I got my first animation job. I was so excited and nervous for that first job. After getting my foot in the door I started noticing that studios were emailing me back more and more. I got other job offers and things just kept rolling along. Currently I'm working on a (toddler) show called Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. If you have kids or babysit then you've probably seen or heard of it. Some other (more teen - adult) shows I've worked on; Ugly Americans, Brickleberry, Sidekicks, Grojband and Total Drama Island.

One of my biggest successes was actually getting that first job. I had help, and there is nothing wrong with that! But that first job was just what I needed at the right time. (because I was about to give up) I needed to see what a studio was like. I needed to see what it was like to actually work and get paid for what I went to school for. It was amazing. I also love seeing my name in the end credits. It's something I always look forward to, even though I know not a lot of people watch credits... I still really like looking. In a lot of shows now I can find the names of people I've worked with before. And that is pretty cool too.

One of the obstacles I had to over come were other peoples criticism. Telling me that I'll never get hired because I'm not good enough, that animation isn't a 'real' job and I should go back to school. I'm not kidding, people told me this. I had a huge loan from going to school for three years and people were telling me to go back. That is crazy! A couple months after I graduated even my parents started asking me when I was going back to school. Luckily I didn't listen to them (Ha!) and I had support from my boyfriend (who is also an animator) and a bunch of good friends. They got me through those tough times. And in the end it worked out. My parents in their own way apologized and are happy (for now) that I am happy and working.

A typical day as an animator is different from job to job. Some jobs I get to work from home, so my day starts off with me being lazy and spending half the day in my pajamas. Working from home comes with its pros and cons like; I can do stuff during the day (banking or appointments) and make it up later. But you miss interacting with people face to face, and sometimes you get a little crazy never leaving your house. Haha. Other jobs require that you come into a studio to work. Sometimes you get a desk, sometimes it's a cubical. Every place is different. Right now I work in a studio. I come into work for 9 - 5, I get in. Check what shots need to be done and get to work. Some days I have to do revisions, like maybe something moves too fast and I have to slow it down or the boss wants me to change something in the shot. No matter how good you are you will always get revisions. Some weeks I will need to do a week's worth of work while doing last week's revisions. This is normal. 
Also an animators job is never steady. Sometimes you can go weeks or months between jobs. You can get contracted anywhere from a week to two years. I've had a couple jobs where my contract was only a few months. It's fun but also stressful sometimes. Its exciting to be working on a new job but then after a few weeks you start stressing about trying to find the next job. It's not always fun. Personally I like the jobs where I am contracted for about a year. That way I can get settled in, get comfortable with what I'm doing and maybe even save some money!

Are you interested in animation? Maybe animator isn't for you but you love cartoons... well, did you know there are a lot of other job titles that help make a cartoon? Maybe you'd be interested in being a; storyboard artist, character designer, background painter, layout artist or effects artist? Those are just a few that I could think of, off the top of my head. That doesn't include 3D cartoons. 3D cartoons also need; modellers, riggers, texture artists, lighting artists, scripters etc. There are a lot of jobs within animation that are still very unknown to the general public but it's getting better!

If you're in high school and are interested in animation I suggest you talk to your guidance counselor and/or art teachers to get more information on the subject. If you are thinking of applying to an animation school they can help you make up a portfolio. Almost all animation schools, classes, courses will require you to submit a portfolio to get accepted. From what I remember, my portfolio had; some character designs, character rotations, character pose sheet, a couple of perspective drawings, some life drawings, hand and feet studies and some personal art. They shouldn't be asking you to submit any animation since that's what you're going to school for. But they will want to see your drawing ability. Even if you're going to specialize in 3D animation they still want to see some drawings from you.

If you're just interested in learning more on your own, (because you don't need to go to school to get a job in animation. I actually know a few people who never finished and got hired in their 2nd year in school.) and if you want more information I highly suggest getting the 'The Animator's Survival Kit' by Richard Williams. It's an amazing book that teaches you all about the basic principals of animation. It has all the lessons I learned in my first year too. This is a great book for animators of any level, I still look back at this book and take something away from it every time I open it up.

Some resources to check out: behind the scenes of Grojband - see how we work! // my final 2D film - my 3D film was so bad... no one will ever see it again! // a very cool site/blog with lots of pencil test animations, character sheets, etc. // a great blog that talks about some of the first animators and working for Disney // section of my blog where I post about each job with extra info and photos // and some of my older 2D assignments from when I first started my blog.

Rad Gal, Rad Gig is a new feature on The Clueless Girl's Guide where I invite really neat gals to share their really cool stories. Whether your gig is a full-time job or just a hobby, I want to hear from you! If you think you'd be perfect for Rad Gal, Rad Gig, feel free to get in touch or view the information on the Submissions page! Just submit a short description of what you do and why you think it's rad!


  1. Working in animation is my #1 biggest dream, actually, so this was such a great read for me! I've wanted to be a storyboard artist since middle school (I am 25 now) and it just seemed so unattainable. It's still always in the back of my mind, as I haven't gone to school yet, and everyone keeps saying "go for it, go for it!" I feel like this post is inspiring me even more, haha!

    Thanks for the great post! Rad Gal, Rad Gig is quickly becoming my favorite feature!

    Elyse @ Cuddly as a Cactus

  2. Loved reading about Angel! If I was more artsy I definitely would've went into animation, but instead I'm trying to do something else involving children's media that plays to my strengths. I'm envious of people who can draw and animate. Such a cool career!

  3. Aw! I love Angel! This was super rad to read all about her!


HEY! Thanks for dropping by. xo KB