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What New Talent Need to Know with Dave Pruiksma Animator and Teacher

Title: What Talent Need to Know
Sponsored by The Creative Talent Network
Length 20min

If you want a career in this business join Master Disney Animator and Animation instructor in this rare opportunity to see and hear about “What New Talent Need to Know” and join him for Shop Talk directly after the session.

Master Animator and Instructor David Pruiksma: “The King of Cute” is what David Pruiksma was dubbed by his peers at CalArts. And, though other students before him held this title, the reign was Pruiksma’s during his stint in the Character Animation Program from 1979 to 1981. Today, the title seems particularly appropriate in that from 1981-2001 Pruiksma was cast on some of the cuter characters to come out of the Disney menagerie.

Upon graduating from High School, Pruiksma was accepted into the prestigious Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y. where he received a very solid formal Art and Film training for two years. He was also fortunate enough to get his introduction to classical animation techniques by veteran puppet animator Lou Bunin.

Transferring to Cal-Arts for the remainder of his animation education, Pruiksma applied the foundation he had learned at Pratt to Disney style character animation under the instruction of renowned Disney artists T. Hee, Jack Hannah, Elmer Plummer and Ken O’Connor. From 1979 to 1981 he produced two short animated films, learning everything about animated film production from design to sound mixing.

Hired by Walt Disney Studios as an animation trainee in the summer of 1981, Dave was privileged to study animation under Eric Larson and other of Disney’s hand-picked “Nine Old Men”, learning the foundations of classical Disney style animation that these artists had developed and honed to perfection during their long careers in the medium. It was on production at the Disney studios that Pruiksma gained his most practical applications of the principles of full character animation on productions such as “Mickey’s Christmas Carol”, “The Black Cauldron” and “The Great Mouse Detective” as well as numerous shorts for the soon to opened Epcot Center and some assistant work on an experimental computer project based on “Where the Wild Things Are” animated by Glen Keane and directed by a young upstart named John Lassiter. It was also at Disney studios that Dave was fortunate enough to be paired as an assistant animator with top animators Ed Gombert and Mark Henn, both of whose superb instruction and tremendous patience added the finishing touches on the young animator’s training.

Promoted, in 1985, to full-fledged animator on “The Great Mouse Detective”, Pruiksma worked in this capacity or as a Directing/Supervising Animator on nearly everything produced at Disney Feature Animation Burbank including “Oliver and Company, The Little Mermaid, The Rescuers Down Under, Cranium Command (a short for Epcot) Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, “Kingdom of the Sun (later re-worked into The Emperor’s New Groove) and Atlantis, not to mention providing animation on various Disney shorts and television projects and developing and instituting various training programs at the studio while mentoring, when they were just starting out, a number of the top animators in the field today. Pruiksma performed all these duties until 2001, when he retired from Disney Feature Animation to pursue other interests.

Over the years, Pruiksma also worked on projects beyond the walls of Disney including 1987’s animated feature “The Great Chipmunk Adventure”, Paula Abdul’s combination live-action animation music video, “Opposites Attract” and a number of animated television commercials and shows. He has also consulted on a number of animated computer games and other projects, lectured on animation around the world, storyboarded and directed television animation, designed for famous artist Paul Frank and animated under the skilled direction of the great animator/director, Eric Goldberg.

Today, Pruiksma continues writing essays and articles and doing interviews regarding his thoughts on current trends in character animation and his views on the changes in the industry in general. He is also an Associate Professor at the Laguna College of Art and Design in Laguna Beach, California where he teaches the time tested principles of classical character animation (taught to him by the great animators of the past and applied to his work in animation for over 3 decades), to a new generation of animators studying both traditional and computer animation.

This teaching and consulting seems to agree with Mr. Pruiksma as he states, “I like the idea of keeping my hand in the animation pool, but just out of reach of the sharks that always seem to infest those waters. I am proud and thankful for my years of work in animation during it’s second Golden Age, which enabled me to bring to life many memorable characters such as Flounder, Mrs. Potts and Chip, The Sultan, Flit, Victor and Hugo the gargoyles, Harcourt, Packard and others. I have been privileged to work with the best of the best and was facilitated in helping to create some of the highest quality animation that this generation of artists was capable of producing, creating characters that will surely stand the test of time. In the end, I am happy and proud to be a contributor to this most lively of arts.”

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