Here’s a fun little anecdote about my art-education past (or lack thereof). The funny thing is that, even though this incident affected me fairly strongly, I had forgotten about it for a long time.

Back in my first term at my freshman year of university (waaaaayy back in ’98), when I was all wide-eyed and hopeful about my future at the freshly-turned age of eighteen, I spent one evening doing some research and found the contact information for a legitimate Pixar artist. For a few years I’d been convinced that what I wanted to do was be a digital animator. I had done some animation in high school and my teacher insisted I had potential, and I believed him. But no one could help me figure out what I needed to do to become one.

So I had entered university with a major in Computer Science, which is where everyone pushed me, insisting it was where I needed to be.

But I knew something was not right. So I found this Pixar animator and decided to email him. I don’t remember his name, and I don’t remember exactly what I wrote and what he responded, but I remember the gist of it. I told him who I was, and why I was writing. My greatest dream was to work for Pixar, or at least something similar, and I needed to know what my path should be to make that a real possibility. I needed to know what I needed to focus on and study, and if there were any other suggestions he had.

I didn’t entirely expect him to respond to me. But he did. I was very excited when I heard that “You’ve Got Mail” and saw that email reply in my AOL inbox a few days later. Like I said before, I don’t remember exactly what he said, but the message he gave me was loud and clear.

Give up. Don’t do it. You won’t succeed.

At eighteen (or maybe seventeen just about to turn eighteen), that crushed me. I took it to heart. I shouldn’t have, but I did. I didn’t have any guidance or support from anyone else on what I should be doing. I just had a lot of people telling me what I should be doing “for my own good.” And here was a real-life Pixar artist telling me I’d never reach my goal, and I’d just waste me time. And this was one of the last nails in the coffin of my dreams.

I had one person who truly believed in me. My animation teacher, George Chase. He’d have been my guide if I’d let him. But I didn’t. My head was too clouded with all the stuff that was “for my own good.” I was so confused at that time, and so afraid to disappoint everyone. But what I didn’t see then was that HE was the ONLY person who TRULY saw my potential. HE KNEW. No one else who wanted to “guide” me knew. Especially not the guy at Pixar. Mr. Chase knew. But I believed everyone else more than him. Especially some bitter, angry Pixar artist who didn’t know me at all.

I see that now. Almost fifteen years later.