The US artist reveals how he achieved his childhood goal of working at Disney
Todd Bright reveals how he achieved his childhood dream of working for Disney.
Where did you grow up and how has this influenced your art?
I was raised in a small town called Berea, Ohio. My father had his own design firm, so I grew up looking at his books, taking in illustrators like NC Wyeth and Norman Rockwell. My dad is a Disney fan, so there was plenty of that early influence there as well. I remember copying and drawing things around the studio, learning from art instructional books, and my dad enrolled me in a life-drawing class at the Cleveland Institute of Art one summer.
As a teenager, we moved to Florida. An artist working for my dad told me that one of his friends who attended Ringling School of Art and Design was recruited by Disney for an internship. My mind was made up: I was going to Ringling, learn to draw and work at Disney.
What was your next step in art?
Growing up, I always knew I’d be an artist. I cruised through high school and focused on surfing, relationships, having fun – all the while thinking I could draw. However, going to art school was a huge wake-up call and a complete personal crisis. I was surrounded by some amazing fellow students, and I quickly realised that I had a lot to learn. It was time to grow up and start working hard.
Does one person stand out as being helpful during your early years?
The early years, my dad – of course!
What was your first paid commission, and does it stand as a representation of your talent?
I think it was an editorial illustration for a publication in Nashville. It was an ink and watercolour humorous illustration of Moses reading a book or something, I remember I painted his robe this Todd Bright crazy orange colour – why did I do that?
Does it stand as a representation of my talent? Well, that’s a hard one to answer about a drawing I did over 20 years ago! However, I was in Nashville because a group of Ringling friends and alumni offered to take me under their wing: specifically one illustrator, Travis Foster, and an ex-Disney artist, Davy Liu. They taught me how to freelance when I was unable to return to school. I learned a lot, and ended up doing well that summer. So that first commission represents quite a lot to me. I have much to be thankful for.
What’s the last piece you finished, and how do the two differ?
It was an animated commercial for Universal Studios. Certainly the mediums differ, and I hired a small crew of my old Disney friends to join in the project.
Is your art evolving?
Yes. I started out doing illustration freelance, then when I changed gears to pursue my dream of Disney Animation, I focused on drawing and learning to animate. After nine years of working on films at Disney, it shut down our Orlando studio. I went freelance again, but focused on digital mediums and did a lot of advertising illustration and animation for Disney and other commercial work. About five or six years ago, I began pursuing my passions of café sketching, oil painting and teaching workshops. I’m also creating stories: one is a children’s book and the other is a short film.
How has the animation industry changed over the years?
Well, I’ll always be scratching my head in disbelief that traditional hand-drawn animation is no longer in film. What has changed for the good is that there’s a push to get the story right. The new CG animation medium has also created more competition in the industry, which means more studios and jobs.
What’s the most important thing that you’ve taught someone?
Learn to be a great draftsman. Surround yourself with people who are better than you, and be teachable.
Going to art school was a huge wake-up call and a complete personal crisis
Mermay 2017 “I joined in the fun of the online event created by my old Disney buddy Tom Bancroft illustrating Mermaids during the month of May. I thought of what I might see while surfing.”
Sabina and Charlie “This was a commission for a friend that turned into quite a few more of the little girl and her dog.”