Lipscomb University welcomed Disney animator Aaron Blaise to speak on his career in animation and the difficulties in his line of work.
Blaise is known for his animation work in films like Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Aladdin, Mulan and Brother Bear. Blaise referred to the films that were released in this era as Disney’s second “Golden Age” of animation.
Students and members of the public alike were treated with samples of animation and art from the numerous films he has worked on, as well as ones that were never made.
Blaise discussed the importance of the persistence of his vision throughout his career.
“It’s the persistent vision of wanting to be an artist, “Blaise said. “That’s what has always driven me.”
Blaise grew up in rural Florida in the middle of the Everglades in a trailer. He drew early inspiration for drawing from the animals he saw around his home and in National Geographic magazines. Going into college, his ideal career was to be an illustrator or wildlife artist for National Geographic.
However, Blaise was hired after a second internship with Disney. There he worked under Glen Keane, the creator of characters such as Ariel from The Little Mermaid and Beast from Beauty and the Beast. He credits Keane as an inspiration.
“He’s the reason I’m doing exactly what I’m doing now,” Blaise said.
At the young age of 22, Blaise got what he described to be his first big break. He was assigned to animate a scene for Beast in Beauty and the Beast. From there, his career took off.
“I never had any intention of doing any of this,” Blaise said. “I just wanted to draw animals for the rest of my life.”
After years of animating with Disney, Blaise made his directorial debut with the feature film Brother Bear in 2003, despite saying he never pictured himself in that role.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I was always fascinated with Native American myths and legends. I wanted to create a new myth.”
However, Blaise was able to direct Brother Bear from start to finish.
“As a director you don’t have to have all the answers,” he said. “You just have to steer the ship.”
Blaise highlighted some of the greatest times in his life and career, and he also touched on some of the lowest times in his life.
During the production of a cancelled Pixar film called King of the Elves, Blaise’s wife passed away after battling breast cancer. But through this time of tragedy, he was able to persist.
“I’m happier than I’ve ever been creatively,” Blaise said. “The death of my wife sent me down a dark path that led me to a place where I’ve never been happier. You never know where you’re going to end up. You just have to keep persisting.”
Today, Blaise runs a website where he creates tutorials and lessons on drawing and animating creatures. Readers can also expect an upcoming short film Snow Bear that he is developing independently. It is expected to be done by the end of 2018.
Photo courtesy of Lipscomb’s College of Entertainment and the Arts