Insight into Animation Industry from Scott Claus

Insight into Animation Industry from Scott Claus

Scott Claus, a professional animator and a CG Spectrum mentor, talked about the animation industry, its evolvement, standard software, and more.


Hello! I’m Scott Claus, alias “S. Claus” (remember that around Christmas time!) I grew up in a small farming community in Oregon where they had no idea what “animation” was, but I knew it was something I wanted to do. For years I was challenged with the notion that animation wasn’t something viable but never gave up on my desire to create motion graphics. I attended a public university in order to learn to be an adult, packed my bags and moved to Los Angeles, where I got a job as a courier at an editing house. Through a series of remarkable coincidences too ridiculous to go into here, I transitioned into being a courier at an animation studio that was working on the Disney short “Prince and the Pauper” in 1990.  It was a great time for animation and this all eventually led to me becoming a professional animator, and working at Disney, DreamWorks and other studios, where I toiled for over 20 years.  You can find my resume of films here, but some of the standouts are “Pocahontas,” “The Road to El Dorado” and “Life of Pi”.

Changes in the Animation Field

I think 2D animation tech has changed recently, and it’s opening doors right and left. I feel as if animation that in the 1990s was so incredibly successful hit a bit of a ceiling, as all things inevitably do. To some degree, the same thing has happened t the current 3D animated movies. Things have to keep evolving, new generations want new things. It’s unfortunate that there was a notion that 2D movies needed to go away because 3D movies became successful. I’m excited by technology that makes the tools to create animation more accessible and give new pioneers opportunities to come up with new animation ideas. I was blown away by “Into the Spiderverse,” as well as the Disney short “Paperman.” I think that kind of animation and the scrappy”DIY” styles you see being done in the shows and by amateurs are going to be the next wave – a mix of the new, ever-evolving technology and traditions.

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Principles of Animation

Obviously, the 12 Principles remain unchanged. They are still viable and can be transferred to anything that qualifies as motion graphics, not just traditional character animation. Whenever my students try to re-invent the wheel and break the “12 Principles” they inevitably come back to them, which says a lot for how powerful those 12 Principles are.

Programs & Pipeline

As far as I’m aware, the two main software programs people (and studios) gravitate to are Toon Boom Harmony and TV Paint, with no clear “winner” between the two.  Animate CC is still used. Amazingly, I know some people who are using Photoshop’s “Motion” capacity to create traditional, hand-drawn animation, while After Effects can be used for vector-based, rigged character animation.

In terms of workflow, I think the process has remained fairly consistent. Planning is everything, working rough-to-clean and big-to-small… and having an endless capacity of patience and perseverance!

2D vs 3D Animation

Once, an animator told me he embraced 3D animation because “sometimes he just didn’t have it in him to draw on-model.”  It’s one of the reasons I embraced 3D animation personally – I love motion graphics, whatever the medium. 2D animation requires an appreciation of drawing and an ability to draw, too.

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In terms of differences, obviously, the third dimension is something you consider more in 3D animation – making sure your poses work from all angles and that a scene can play from different angles if the directors change their minds. On the other hand, software programs will often do the heavy lifting for you, if you’ve keyed and broken down a scene well. The programs can assist you in fleshing out your scene.

Speaking of 2D and 3D animation, I don’t know which one of the disciplines is more difficult. It’s more a matter of embracing the philosophy of each. Some people are terrified of computers (perhaps, for a good reason!), but men eventually accept that the computer is just another tool and an amazing one, to tell the truth.

Mentoring at CG Spectrum

I found CG Spectrum on the eve of my wish to move away from production and focus more on mentoring and teaching. As if on cue, the opportunity to mentor fell into my lap and I was thrilled that CG Spectrum gave me a chance.  I have had a successful and exciting “second career” as an instructor, passing along all the wonderful things I’ve learned in my career to people who are as excited about motion graphics as I have always been. I have CG Spectrum to thank for giving me the start I needed in the right direction.

2D Animation Course at CG Spectrum

The 2D Animation course is a hands-on guide through the traditional lessons that every animation student since the dawn of the medium has gone through, with mentors who have been at “ground zero,” in the middle of one of the most successful eras of 2D animation in history. Animation is not something you pick up by studying a book or even a video. Though there are many things fans of animation can learn on their own, it has traditionally been something passed from mentor to student. I think this course offers potential students a unique experience of working with mentors from anywhere in the world, and I hope the program not only continues the traditions of the past but encourages the development of new directions and ideas that are coming in the future.

Scott Claus, Animator & Instructor

Interview conducted by Daria Loginova



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