Recently we had the opportunity to speak with Aaron Blaise a former Disney animator and Fine Art America member. Aaron Blaise has worked on many memorable Disney movies including, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King among others. He was also nominated for an Academy Award for best animated feature film, Brother Bear. We of course wanted to find out about his experience with Disney and his upcoming projects. Here is what Aaron had to say:
1. What originally got you into digital art/graphic design?
It was the public, really, that got me into digital work. My background is traditional drawing and painting and in animation it’s traditional hand drawn animation. It was when the hand drawn animation medium went away (Because the public wasn’t going to see it any more) that I was forced to start working digitally…because the films we were creating were digital. I started doing all of my character design and concept work in Photoshop. I really got hooked on the medium and let it spill into my personal work. That was 10 years ago. I haven’t looked back since.
2. How did you start working with Disney? Did they reach out to you first?
I went to the Ringling College of Art in Sarasota, Florida. I majored in Illustration. It was my dream to one day be an illustrator for National Geographic Magazine. I then found out in my second year at school that Nat. Geo. freelanced their work. I wanted a studio job. So I started looking at other options. Luck would have it that Disney and Hallmark were coming to Ringling to recruit. Lucky for me, Disney was first. I put together a portfolio and set up an interview hoping to possibly be a background painter. After my interview I was accepted into a 6 week internship where I was trained in animation concepts. I fell in love with the medium. After the 6 weeks were over they liked my work enough to hire me full time after I graduated from school a year later. That was 26 years ago and I’ve never looked back. I never was a background painter.
3. What was your favorite Disney movie that you worked on? And why?
I have several. Beauty and the Beast was a big one for me. I was one of the Beast animators and got to work with my mentor, Glen Keane who was the supervisor of the character. He was very generous with handing out work and he gave me a very juicy acting scene where Beast is getting bandaged by Belle in front of the fireplace. The work I was able to do on that sequence really paved the way for me going into the rest of my career. I became a supervisor after that.
Lion King was huge for me simply because of my love of wildlife and animating animals. I was the supervisor of Young Nala and had a lot of fun animating that little lion cub.
Finally, Brother Bear. This film was my biggest break ever. I was co-director of Brother Bear and it was the biggest challenge of my career up to that point. It took 6 years and I grew an incredible amount not just as an artist but also as a story teller. We were also nominated for an Academy Award for best animated feature film. It was a huge honor for me.
4. Overall what did you learn from working at Disney and how did that translate into your animation company and also your most recent work?
I was with Disney for over 21 years. I started as a 21 year old. I literally spent half my life there. My life as an artist was defined there through my interactions with so many incredible artists and the making of so many great projects over the years. I would say that close to everything that defines me now as an artist was developed there so to answer your question of what I learned at Disney…I’d have to say everything.
What I’m doing now is simply me carrying over all of my life’s experience in the animation and art industries. It’s the next logical step for me.
5. How did you discover Fine Art America?
I discovered Fine Art America simply through the internet. I was at a point in my career where I was ready to start creating and selling prints. I starting going to a local guy to have actual prints made that I would then sell on line…it was old thinking. I didn’t like his quality and I was stuck with prints I didn’t like. So I started researching other options. That’s when I found Fine Art America. The rest is history.
6. What are you currently working on?
I’ve currently got several projects I’m working on. The first being a film that I am developing called “Art Story”. It’s something I’ve been involved with for a couple of years now. It’s a story of a boy and his grandfather that have the ability to actually step through the frame and into the painted world. They get stuck there and must journey together through the world of art in order to find their way out. Over the course of the journey they travel through incredible worlds where they take on the looks of those worlds. They travel through Monet’s, Van Gogh’s, Picasso’s and Dali’s. It’s an incredible journey where the two of them get to know each other on a new level. They come to love each other. We are currently raising funds to further this project.
I’m also working with Warner Brothers Pictures on “Jungle Book: Origins” directed by Andy Serkis. The film will be live action with computer animated animals much in the same way that “The Life of Pi” was created. I’m designing the animals. It’s an incredible amount of fun for me.
I’m always doing my own work as well. My business partner, Nick Burch and myself have created the website: “the Art of Aaron Blaise” the url is: http://creatureartteacher.com/ On this site you can see my latest fine art and also download tutorials in art instruction. Also check out my YouTube channel of the same name where I have a weekly show call “Aaron’s Art Tips” where I give short little lessons on various artistic advice.
7. Do you have any advise for digital artists starting out?
The advice I give to young artists starting out whether they’re digital or traditional is the same. Draw from life!! Do it every day or at least whenever you can. It will build you mental library! Also if you’re a digital artist then do some traditional work. If you’re a traditional artist then learn how to work digitally! We live in an incredible time artistically. All the mediums available to us each can help us grow. My traditional work grew when I started working digitally and I had a head start when I started working digitally because of my years of traditional work. Each informs the other.