Wednesday, November 14

Q&A: Disney film animator Chad Sellers talks career, working on ‘Zootopia’


Chad Sellers, an animation supervisor for “Zootopia,” visited a film class at UCLA on Wednesday to give a guest lecture. Sellers said the biggest challenge on "Zootopia" was capturing the movement of many different species, from an elephant to a shrew. (Courtesy of Disney)

Chad Sellers, an animation supervisor for “Zootopia,” visited a film class at UCLA on Wednesday to give a guest lecture. Sellers said the biggest challenge on "Zootopia" was capturing the movement of many different species, from an elephant to a shrew. (Courtesy of Disney)


Chad Sellers makes magic with Disney.

Sellers works at Walt Disney Animation Studios as an animator and has helped craft films like “Tangled,” “Wreck-It Ralph” and “Frozen.” The partially self-taught animator worked for a video game company and Blue Sky Studios, most famous for the “Ice Age” series, before securing a job with Disney. Sellers, who was an animation supervisor for “Zootopia,” releasing March 4, visited a History of the American Motion Picture class at UCLA on Wednesday to give a guest lecture.

The Daily Bruin’s Matthew Fernandez sat down with Sellers to discuss his career and working on “Zootopia.”

Daily Bruin: What led you to work in film animation?

Chad Sellers: I think it was just that computer graphics were fairly new. I remember seeing “Jurassic Park” and “Toy Story” when they came out and I thought it was really cool looking. I kind of wanted to do something fresh and new and I wanted to work on movies. I just thought the level of movie animation was really exciting, so I wanted to pursue that … I worked at one game company on one game, which was “Spy Hunter.” I forget if it was “Spy Hunter 2. “One of the “Spy Hunter” games. But during that time I still wanted to pursue animation in movies and feature film, so I would do little animation tests on my own outside of work while working at the video game company to continue to build my portfolio so I could eventually get a job in film.

DB: What was it like getting the job at Disney?

CS: It was scary, but very exciting. I grew up with Disney musicals, my brother and sister and I would sing all the Disney musicals, you know, “Aladdin,” “Lion King,” “Beauty and the Beast,” all those movies. I grew up in a very musical family, so I always had an interest in music and then knowing that Disney was doing a musical which was Rapunzel at the time, which eventually became “Tangled”… Doing a movie with the guy who animated those movies that I grew up watching and then with the music writers that wrote the music in the movies that I grew up watching … That’s all I wanted. When I finally got hired, it was a dream come true for sure.

DB: For “Zootopia,” you’re an animation supervisor. How does that differ from just being an animator?

CS: An animation supervisor basically supervises a particular character … you kind of specialize in that character. That becomes your character and you oversee the animation in the entire film, which means you give feedback and critique other people’s work. You’re also in charge of a sequence. You’ll get assigned a sequence and you’re in charge of all the animation in that sequence and you’ll have animators that you have to continue to give feedback to and you’re in charge of keeping consistency and keeping all the characters feeling like it’s been animated by one person. So you’re in charge of not only doing animation yourself, but also keeping track of the rest of the film as well.

DB: What was the most difficult part about working on “Zootopia”?

CS: The amount of animals and different species and all having to move differently, from like an elephant to a tiny shrew or a mouse. They all have to move specific to their actual species and different types of personalities. I think that scale and the range of all the different mammals and animals was a challenge in itself and staying true to that specific animal was a big challenge.

DB: Do you prefer being an animator or an animation supervisor?

CS: As long as I can continue to animate as an animation supervisor, I love it. I don’t want to stop animating, I’ll continue to animate for sure, and I also love seeing a character evolve and develop with your input. You’re kind of involved in creating who this character is and influencing the character and helping guide them through the picture consistently and overseeing that.

DB: What’s your favorite part about being involved in animation?

CS: The people would probably be number one, just how passionate and creative they are, it’s amazing. You get blown away every day by something that’s just so good. And of course, the rewarding part of seeing something like “Frozen” become a worldwide phenomenon that everybody knows. Having a part of that is very rewarding.

Compiled by Matthew Fernandez, A&E contributor.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Share on Reddit

Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.