Why I Didn’t Get to Work on ‘The Lion King’


As I wrote in my ‘about me‘ page, I used to be a graphic designer. I had always loved animation but there wasn’t much available instruction back then in Montreal. And there were hardly any animation studios, so I hadn’t pursued it. But I was always a big fan of Warner Brothers and Disney animation.

It was the early nineties and the big re-boom of animation was happening. One day in our local paper there was a big, full page ad from Disney Feature Animation. They were looking everywhere for animation artists and needed people to work on their upcoming features ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Pocahontas’.


How cool was that? They had a list of jobs they were looking to fill and one was for ‘layout artist’. Well, I do layouts in graphic design, right? How different could it be? I went to college and studied Illustration and Design. I was a professional. This could be a my big break to work in animation and at Disney.

So I called the number.

The first thing the woman asked was, “Are you an animator?”. I said, “Well, no but I…”. “Thank you!” and she hung up.

Wasn’t that a slap in the face. I realized I would never work in animation because I wasn’t trained as an animator. Back to graphic designing…ho hum.

A year or so later that mysterious movie in the ad was in the theaters. So I went to see ‘The Lion King’. Well, they ‘had me’ from, “Naaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh…”. That was the moment I knew I wanted to do this for a living. Plus, I really love lions (with a tattoo to prove it).

I missed out on the possibility of working on that movie. Yes, it would have been a total long shot anyway, but without being trained in animation, it was nearly impossible. And that was the difference. If I really wanted this, I would have to go back to school. Keep in mind, I didn’t know I was going to end up a storyboard artist. I wanted to animate animals! But it still stands.

So I went to school…bla bla bla…long story short…and here I am. I can write about that in another post entitled ‘How to Survive Hanging Out With Guys Ten Years Your Junior for a Whole Year’. I did…and loved it.

Knowing what I know now, I don’t blame the Disney lady for hanging up without hearing me out. I see how it’s a waste of time for a studio to look at someone that doesn’t know the industry. That’s why proper training is important if you want to work in animation. You may have more luck storyboarding in film or advertising (with some art & film background), but for animation, you need to know your stuff.

Now, there’s probably plenty of people working in the industry that didn’t go to ‘animation school’. But I bet a lot of them had some form of art training. So don’t think I’m telling you to run out next week and spend thousands on school. Just do your research if you’re serious about this.

I’ve seen many people sign up and go to school who weren’t serious and wasted their (or probably their parent’s) money. They think it’ll be ‘fun’ then figure out it’s work. Lots of work. This is not a career to join ‘on a whim’. It’s tough.

The forum at AWN has a very long thread listing and commenting on many animation and art schools at this link. Lots more information there than I could ever give in a blog article. I’m also going to discuss training further as part of my next series of posts ‘Getting the J-O-B: Five Key Things You Need to Storyboard Professionally’.

Stay tuned.

P.S.: You think the Disney folks with come after me for that photo? It’s my Simba figure and my photo…hmm…could be the controversy that skyrockets this blog! : )

8 thoughts on “Why I Didn’t Get to Work on ‘The Lion King’

  1. Debi

    I wanna hear about the “How to Survive Hanging Out With Guys Ten Years Your Junior for a Whole Year”!
    Sounds like a sitcom.

  2. KJL

    Oh, it was…one big long sitcom.

    Let’s just say, by the end, I had perfected my Star Wars ‘Sand People’ call.
    On second thought…don’t ask.
    -K : )

  3. Mustaali


    haha thats amazing. The lion king is the reason why I want to work in the animation industry as well. haha nice

  4. Mustaali

    yea i know! Its amazing.

    Hey just another question, ive bin trying to get my hands on the “Art of the lion king” for so long. Just cant manage to find it. Even when I tried ordering it online from amazon…

    any ideas where to look?


  5. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Well I found the whole book online here believe it or not. Don’t know how legal that is, even with the copyright notice. Hmm.

    And I did find some new and used copies at Amazon.ca. It’s the full size version. There are others for sale out there but they are the small version (mini book). It’s almost as good. Just smaller (I have both!).

    Keep Googling and you might find it. Good luck!

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