I hope it won't seem too egotistical to say that I get a fair amount of correspondence from artists, young and sometimes not so young, who struggle with their work and come to me for advice. The queries, while flattering can also be exhausting to answer. Questions like, "If you have a few minutes, could you give me some secrets on how to become a successful illustrator?"or "I really love character design, can you tell me the quickest way to do that?" are virtually impossible to answer. While I truly do understand the desire for tips and shortcuts and secret recipes, they simply don't exist. And though I have struggled to answer many a letter like this, there are many more that I simply didn't have the time for. Below is a typewritten note (written on a typewriter!) by the great Ward Kimball, legendary Disney animator, to an aspiring young animator named Will Finn. It is the perfect, no-nonsense reply to anyone seeking advice, inspiration and a well needed kick in the ass. The fact that it was written forty years ago does not diminish it's message to us in the least. Every line of it is the honest unvarnished truth about becoming an animator or illustrator and to some extent, a well rounded human being. For me it is a welcome splash in the face with a cold bucket of reality. A reminder that success in what you do doesn't just happen to you.
You make it happen.
And in case you were wondering, Will Finn, the recipient of this letter, went on to become a great Disney animator himself.