Turning Your Passion Into Your Profession

Guest Correspondence

Born in 1901, Walter E. Disney was, from his earliest days, a visionary. The young artist was already drawing his first somewhat crude characters at the age of 7. He never stopped. His passion carried him to Hollywood with $40 and an unfinished cartoon in his pocket. By 1923, at the tender age of 22, the Walt Disney empire was born. Today, we cannot imagine a world without Mickey Mouse, the Little Mermaid, the Lion King or hundreds of other beloved characters. The Walt Disney Company has become one of the largest media conglomerates in the world.

Walt’s motto: Dream, Believe, Dare, Do. Those four words served him well and are words the students at Ringling College live by. For, as Disney once said, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”

For many of our students, by the time they arrive on our campus, their passions and dreams are already the guiding force in their life. Ringling College’s role, then, is to educate and mentor, building the skillsets to enable their passions to lead to professional success.

Let’s consider our students enrolled in the Computer Animation, Game Art and Motion Design majors.

You probably know who they are. As they were growing up, they were fascinated by the imaginary worlds of animation and games. They made up characters and environments, and told their own fictional stories through art and, in some cases, movement. According to some parents, they were spending too much time on the computer, playing video games or watching animated films. 

Well, guess what? Those game-playing and movie-watching kids are now competing for jobs in some of the most highly competitive and well-paying entertainment industries today. And Ringling College is making it possible for them to get there. 

Ringling College’s Computer Animation program is currently ranked #1 in the world by The Rookies. These students study every part of a 3D animation from start to finish - from storyboarding to visual development, to texturing, rigging, lighting and finally compositing. With a high-performance render farm available on campus, students’ animations can be rendered out in a matter of hours, a process which otherwise would take days. Think of any recent, successful animated film — Frozen, Moana, Toy Story 4 — and you’ll find Ringling Computer Animation alumni in the credits.

Then there’s the video game industry. It generates hundreds of billions of dollars each year, and Ringling College’s graduates are also at the center of this booming business. At Ringling College, Game Art students are introduced to the strategy and interactivity of games and how they can tell compelling stories in made-up environments specifically created to keep the player engaged and wanting more. 

Likewise, Ringling College’s Motion Design students learn how to push the boundaries of visual communication, developing design in motion for any screen — from computer to tablet to motion picture. Think about how we receive our information in today’s world. Nearly everything is visual — commercials, film and series openings, social media — which makes these students highly adaptable and highly employable. 

Although you may not recognize the names of Ringling College Computer Animation, Game Art and Motion Design students today, tomorrow they may be as familiar as Walt Disney, Tim Burton and Shigeru Miyamoto (Nintendo’s legendary game designer), each of whom in their own way revolutionized their artistic practice by always looking ahead and trying things that had never before been tried.

Many factors set Ringling College apart from its competitors. But in the case of these particular degree programs, the difference comes down to the advanced technology students have available to them, industry connections and the best instruction in the world. 

From day one, our students have access to the latest tech and cutting-edge software programs, enabling them to learn and compete in these ever-evolving and fast-paced industries. We also make sure they are prepared to leave Ringling career-ready. This means helping them create a portfolio will impress the over 100 industry professionals from companies such as Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, EA Games, Nickelodeon and so many more who come to recruit and hire at Ringling College. Together, these are even more crucial steps on the pathway toward turning that creative passion into a profession. 

As Walt Disney himself would remind us, “Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are forever.” And, “it’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” Welcome to Ringling College.

Dr. Larry Thompson is president of Ringling College of Art & Design.

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