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Inspiration from Glen Keane

Glen Keane has been such a source of inspiration to so many. I took a few notes during his commencement speech during graduation, and also at the opening ceremony of CTN where he also spoke. Here are a few badly quoted, but hopefully inspiring tid bits.

“The bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” Maya Angelou

Glen referenced this quote when trying to encourage us to be sincere and vulnerable in our work as animators. To paraphrase he said: Our job is to tell the story of our characters. Of course, without us to animate them, those characters would never come to life. So in turn, our own life experiences inform the decisions we make with our character. He then gave a great example from The Little Mermaid.


He told of how much of a struggle it was to animate Ariel reaching her hand out at the 2:50 second mark. He felt like it was the right action for her to do as a character, but knew that as soon as the guys saw it, they’d all know he was a big sissy! But he animated it that way anyway. He let himself be vulnerable.

Years later, he told us how he met a young woman who had stopped him to tell him something. She asked if her remembered that scene from The Little Mermaid, to which he said “yea yea” ashamedly. “Well” she said, “When I first saw that movie as a child, I stood up in the middle of the theater and reached out my hand too. I wanted to grab Ariel’s hand and pull her into my world.” It was a very humbling experience he said. It taught him, that vulnerability will always resonate in the hearts of your audience.

So he encouraged us to also be vulnerable in our work. To put a piece of ourselves in every shot. Sometimes an idea will come from personal experiences. Other times they might come from a deep part of our personality that even we can’t explain. But if you put that into your work, it will reach people.

Here are a couple videos of the man himself. Enjoy!

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