Being someone that has always wanted to start their own animation company I have always had a respect for those entrepreneurs that have already done it.  There is of course Walt Disney, but there is also the less known people such as Will Vinton.  I learned about Will and his studio a few months ago, and was surprised I never heard of him before.  Starting your own company there are so many decisions that you have to make on a daily basis, and any of those decisions could be the one that causes your company to fail.  Will made a wrong decisions that cost him his studio.  Will Vinton is credited with coming up with the term “Claymation”, and was even trademarked by him.  He won an Oscar, and several Emmy Awards for the work that his studio did.  Even if you don’t know him you might know his work.  His company Will Vinton Studios made many classic claymation feature films, TV series, TV specials, and short films. His commercial work is what I remember the most, and it includes the California Raisins, the Domino’s Pizza Noid, and the M&M’s Red, Yellow, and Green characters.  Will’s company was doing really well, and taking on many more projects.  Many felt his studio was growing to fast, and that is how he lost control of it.  By the end of the 1990’s the studio was seeking funds for more feature films.  One of the key investors was Phil Knight, the owner of the shoe company Nike, Inc..  Part of the deal for Knight to invest more was that he would require a larger stake in the company.  He also got his son Travis a job at the company as an animator.  Travis previously had a failed career as a rapper under the name Chilly Tee.  You might be thinking I’m getting off subject, but this is where things went wrong.  In 2002, Will Vinton ended up losing control of Vinton Studios when Phil Knight became the majority shareholder in the company.  Eventually they decided that Will was no longer needed, and he was fired from the company he started.  Phil Knight ended up putting his son Travis in charge of the company, and the company was later renamed to Laika. You may know Laika for their feature films Coraline, & ParaNorman.  This story sounds very similar to the story of Steve Jobs with Apple computers, but the difference is Steve was able to come back and retake over his company. When I read about this a couple of months ago there was no happy return for Mr. Vinton, but I read an article this morning about how he is trying to make a comeback.  His new company Vinton Entertainment announced a co-production deal with Gnosis Moving Pictures for a series of animated features directed by Vinton.  You can learn more about these projects check out this article, but this is not the focus of my post.

Maybe this will prove to be successful for Will Vinton, and maybe not.  The important thing is that even though he had fallen down, he was able to rise from his failure to try again.  This and many other stories are things that I try and learn about, so that I can hopefully not make the same mistakes.  One of my biggest fears is to pour my heart and soul into this company of mine only to have it fail.  I know there is a lot I still don’t know, and these last 2 weeks I have learned a great deal.  I will continue to learn from my own mistakes as well as mistakes made by others.  This can be very scary realizing I’m flying blindly, and if I knew yesterday what I know today, maybe I would not have made the same decision that I made yesterday. This reminds me of one of the things Steve Jobs said during his Stanford commencement speech.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well worn path; and that will make all the difference.”

So even though I might make some wrong decisions I have to believe it will all work out in the end. In high school I was a pole vaulter on the track and field team.  Holding the end of a 12 foot pole, running as fast as you can, planting the pole in a box that made the pole to bend, and shooting you high into the air taught me a valuable lesson that I feel applies to this adventure of mine.  Pole-vaulting can be very dangerous, but you have to run into it with full confidence, because any hesitation or doubt will slow you down and not give you the speed you need to get you up and into the mat.  The times I second guessed what I was doing I would get shot up and backwards into the air away from the soft pole-vault mat, and onto the hard track.  Whenever that happened we had a rule that without a moment to think about it you had to try again.  If you let yourself think about that fall it would shake your confidence, and once you lose your confidence it was much harder to get it back.  After every fall you had to get up and try it again.



The Phoenix is a mystical bird that every 500 years(depending on the version) would consume itself in its own flames only to be reborn from the ashes.  I have always loved the story of the phoenix and its rebirth, and have always used it as a source of inspiration and motivation.  In a way I have always thought of the Phoenix as my Spirit Guide.  No matter how many times I might fail I will always pick myself up, dust off the ashes, and try again with a renewed energy, and a greater knowledge from my previous mistakes. As the saying says “What does not kill me makes me stronger”. Believing in this gives me the confidence to go after my dreams regardless of how “dangerous” it might seem.  As Steve Jobs and now Will Vinton have done, they had risen from the ashes of their failures, and were symbolically reborn to try again. There are countless of stories in the business world of people being reborn to come back from failure.  I know I don’t want to fail, but I can’t let the fear of failure shake my confidence.  If I do fail I will look to the Phoenix and rise out of the ashes to start again.  I hope that any of you that has or will have setbacks will have the courage and strength to rise again to make your dreams come true.

Please share in the comments any other stories of rebirth that you personally have had, or that you have heard about.


If you have not already, I hope you will join me on my journey by subscribing to my blog.  If you have any thoughts or advice I would love to hear what you have to say, so please feel free to leave me any comments below. Otherwise, be sure to stay connected with me on Twitter (@MillerAnimation). Only Time Will Tell.

The First Week

toysrus-todayWhen I thought about how my first week after leaving my job at DreamWorks would go I envisioned a much less active week. I figured it would mostly be me trying to get some of the basics in place so that I could eventually start finding clients. In reality it has been a pretty active week, and that gives me a lot of hope for the future. I was hired on as the Post Supervisor for a series of Toys R Us commercials my good friend Hashi is co-producing/Directing and doing his After Effects magic on. They are in the fashion of his Action Movie Kid videos that he has been doing with his son. If you have not seen them yet you should check them out. It will be exciting to get to work with Hashi, and see him take his craft to the next level. There are 3 shooting days at the end of next week, and then I will mostly be working from home making sure we get all After Effects work done on time and delivered to the client.

On this last Sunday I posted on Facebook about me leaving my job at DreamWorks, and my plans to start my own animation company. I was hoping for a big response, but did not expect the response I got. My friends and family have been so supportive, and gave me a lot of words of encouragement. As of the writing of this post my company Facebook page has 423 Likes, and in the first 24 hours my blog received over 900 views from all over the world. Which includes 756 from the US, 46 from France, 16 from Canada, 11 from Italy, 10 from Malaysia, 8 from Brazil, and it goes on and on. A total of 24 different countries that have visited my blog. This chart below shows you the numbers for the whole week, and I’m shocked how it spread to so many different countries.
By country

I had a good number of artists that reached out to me to let me know they would love to work with me, so I have a rapidly growing list of freelancers that I can call when I have projects. This also generated a few clients asking for my help on projects. Most of them were asking for help to make their animation projects for much less then what is possible. Although one project I was able to find an artists that agreed to the budget being offered. They are working on the final draft of the script, and then after that we should be able to get started on it. I will keep the details of the project private out of respect for the clients privacy, but once finished I will be glad to share it with all of you.

On Wednesday I went to a Producers Guild event, and was able to meet a lot of really great people. I love that when I go to these events I’m almost always the only person in animation. This works in my favor since if I can be known as the animation guy anytime they need animation they will hopefully think of me. I can offer them help on their projects with animation, but also graphics, titles, special effects, and many other CG visuals that they may want.

This morning I have a conference call with Hashi and the team working on the Toys R Us commercials. It will be exciting to see how this process works, and meet some of the other people that are onboard the project. Next week on the shooting days will be a new experience for me, since I have never been on location for a live action shoot (besides my own college films). It has been a great first week on my own, and I hope the momentum of this week can continue on into the future.


If you have not already, I hope you will join me on my journey by subscribing to my blog. If you have any thoughts or advice I would love to hear what you have to say, so please feel free to leave me any comments below. Otherwise, be sure to stay connected with me on Twitter (@MillerAnimation). Only Time Will Tell.


Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July

I’m now officially independent from DreamWorks Animation. So not only will I be celebrating the United States’ Independence today, but also my own.  This week has been great because for the first time I have been able to be open to tell people what my plans are, and I have been getting some interesting reactions.  Some people look at me like I’m crazy, and you can see the eye roll and thought bubble saying “never going to happen!”.  On the other extreme are the people that get really excited, and start talking about exchanging contact information so that they can come work with me.  Most people seem to fall somewhere in-between these two extremes.  I guess these reactions are to be expected, since most people do not try and start their own animation company.  I also ran into some people that opened up to me about their own entrepreneurial efforts that they are secretly working on.

I have been working on saying “I’m planning on starting my own animation company” more confidently.  For so long now I have been keeping it a secret, and it is now surprisingly difficult to say it out loud.  It does feel good to say it, and it makes my dream seem more tangible.  This has also put me on an emotional roller-coaster.   One minute I’m very confident in my dream thinking this will be easier then I thought, and then the next minute asking myself if I’m making a huge mistake.  I know the shaking of my confidence is only temporary caused by the reactions of my peers, and the more people I talk to the more confident I become no matter what their reaction is.  I have to remind myself that majority of people are going to tell me that it can’t be done, but I have to follow my own heart.  I will take what people say as advice, and recommendations, but in the end I have to make my own decisions.

The question I keep getting from people when I tell them about me starting an animation company is how am I going to actually start it?  My response is simply, “one step at a time”.  I plan to relax this holiday weekend, but starting early Monday morning I will hit the ground running.  Since my wife does not go into work until 10am she will be able to watch our son in the morning until then.  I will be waking up at 6am each morning and have a dedicated 4 hours each morning to work exclusively on the business.  At 10am I will take over watching my son so my wife can go to work.  This might not be a permanent solution, but it will help get me started.  I’m excited about this because in addition to having time to work on my company I will also get to be there for my son, and watch him grow.  I will also be able to work when my son is taking his naps, but any parent knows you can’t rely on having that free time consistently.  If I need to leave the house for meetings with clients, or networking events we will get a babysitter for those times.

It will be really tight living on just one income, and we will have to stick to our very strict budget to make this work.  I really appreciate my wife for supporting me, and giving me the opportunity to take such a huge risk to follow this dream.  She knows we will have to make a lot of sacrifices, and she has been nothing but positive and supportive.  She is the best partner I could have asked for.

Eric IndependenceYesterday was my last day at DreamWorks Animation, and I felt very inspired and energized with my decision to leave, and go off on this adventure.  Packing up my office and saying my farewells to friends and co-workers was bittersweet, since I walked those halls, and been with those people for so long.  In a way it became my second home.  It felt like the end of an era for me, and the start of one grand adventure.  I hope I’m able to keep in touch with many of my co-workers, but I realize that yesterday was the last time I would see some of them.  Before picking up the cliche final box of my belongings with the plant sticking out the top,  I paused for a moment, and looked around my office to reflect on my time at DreamWorks. I have some really amazing memories from the last 6+ years, and that made me happy and sad at the same time.  I picked up my box, and closed the door to my office metaphorically closing that chapter of my life.


If you have not already, I hope you will join me on my journey by subscribing to my blog.  If you have any thoughts or advice I would love to hear what you have to say, so please feel free to leave me any comments below. Otherwise, be sure to stay connected with me on Twitter (@MillerAnimation). Only Time Will Tell.