Andrew Chesworth
BFA in Animation
Co-Founder of Taiko Studios
Burbank, California, USA

Chesworth is a former animator at Walt Disney Animation Studios who has worked on Oscar-winning movies Frozen and Big Hero 6. In 2017, he co-founded Taiko Studios. The company's debut film One Small Step has received several awards and accolades, including an Academy Award nomination.

Where do you work?

I’m an animator over at Walt Disney Animation Studios in California.

How did your path lead to working at Disney?

I first applied to Disney in 2009, and I got a rejection letter. I had sent a reel to Disney and to Pixar’s training program. I didn’t hear back from Pixar, so I just went back to work. I applied again in March 2011, and months went by. And in those months, I was teaching at MCAD, I was doing freelance at Make, and I was getting into the groove working on my own stuff at home too.

Then September 30th rolls around. I’m at work, and I get a phone call at four in the afternoon from Matt at Disney. He asked me, “How would you like to work at Disney Animation?” I was like, “Hold on. Let me step out for a minute.” I stepped out of the office, and then I said, “Yes, I would love to work for Disney. Thank you for calling.” He’s like, “Great. Well, here’s the thing—can you start on October 10th?” I was like, “October 10th! That’s ten days from now!” He said, “Yeah, uh, but we would really like to have you. Can you make it?” I said, “Yes.”

So as soon as I finished and got off the phone, and digested what had just happened, I immediately started making phone calls. So within a day, I had to cancel two of my jobs and sign up for an apartment and start planning my move. Within ten days, I went from working at Make and teaching at MCAD to Disney at my first day at work. So, yeah, my move from Minneapolis to Disney was very sudden and very surprising. It was almost six months earlier that I had applied and not heard anything, and suddenly I get a phone call and picked up everything and left.

What were your first projects at Disney?

My first project was a training assignment. My third week on the job, I got to work on a test with Flynn Rider from Tangled. And by the end of the year, we were moving on to crowds for Wreck-It Ralph, animating the background, like the candy people and people walking around certain scenes.

Then we started getting first shots of the movie. A lot of my shots are with the Vanellope character, voiced by Sarah Silverman. Like the scene with King Candy, who is king of the Sugar Rush World. When we first see him, he’s on top of the podium, and he’s speaking into a microphone, talking to all of the candy people. I did a few of the shots of him addressing his minions.

Then I did some shots of Vanellope when she first learns how to race a car. Oh, I animated one of the last shots of the whole movie, and it’s of a little girl playing video games that Vanellope is in. She’s sitting in an arcade chair, and she’s playing as Vanellope in the game, and I animated that shot.

How has your work changed since you graduated from MCAD?

It’s more refined. It’s hard to put into technical terms, but I think whenever you look back, you always see your shortcomings or things you just didn’t know yet. This year, I worked on Frozen. And they are always emphasizing the breathing, even though the character is not breathing. When I look at everything I did before this movie, I think I have never animated characters breathing. I think I have gotten better at observing. I’m better at taking what I observe and putting it into my animations, instead of just trying to animate by imitating other animations I have seen.

Why did you choose MCAD?

I went to MCAD for the animation program. An admissions counselor told me that graduates had gone on to Blue Sky in New York and a few people went on to work at Pixar. I applied and got offers from some great animation schools, and MCAD was the best deal. And I loved the campus. I mean, it wasn’t just about the money. I visited and loved the feel of the campus, the quad, and the Main Building. Everything seemed very clean, slick, and modern. I liked the people I met on campus. And I liked the culture. It just felt right.

Who was your favorite instructor?

The instructor I was closest to, and still am, is Tom Schroeder. He was my first animation teacher. He has a way of bonding with and understanding his students really quickly. And he’s good at identifying students’ strengths. He could tell from very early on that I liked drawing and animating in the Disney style, and so the instruction he gave me was along that front. He didn’t try to mold me into the type of student he wanted me to be—he just saw who I was and gave the instruction based on that.

What was the biggest takeaway from MCAD?

MCAD is really great at insisting that you find your own voice. Instead of just turning you into a cog in the wheel of a larger machine, MCAD makes you into an artist and teaches you to embrace that. So that’s my biggest takeaway.

Do you have any advice for aspiring artists and designers?

Take notes from other creative people. People become so independent that they become resistant to taking suggestions from others. Even if you disagree, just give it a try. Just think about it. That is how you grow, that is how your art improves, and that is how you become a better person. You become more collaborative and you become more understanding. Your art is going to be better only if you take feedback from the outside world and apply it inward. Work hard, don’t give up, and always appreciate what you have.