Hi there, please tell us a little bit about yourself! Who are you? What do you like to do for fun?
Hello!! My name is Alex Parker. I’m an animator/designer born and raised in Texas, and when I’m not doodling at my desk, I’m usually scouring Netflix for the latest German show, trying to keep our two kitties from climbing the curtains, or trying to convince my husband to start up a DIY project on our house with me that we’re both probably very unqualified for.
Can you tell us what you do as a Motion Designer at Disney for those who are unfamiliar?
As a Motion Designer for DPEP (Disney Parks Experience Products), I animate content for screens that service the Disney Parks. This can be anything from keeping content fresh for the My Disney Experience App, putting together graphics that simplify a guest's online shopping experience, or tucking little surprise and delight elements into custom resort television screens. Any opportunity for animation to add a bit of charm and magic to a guest experience, I’m all over it!
How did you decide to pursue your specific career? What pivotal moments pushed you to where you are now?
Both of my parents hold very professional career titles, so it felt totally natural to follow in those footsteps. I was completely prepared (and excited!) to start my education for a career in orthodontics, and ended up in a Graphic Design / Animation class by chance in my last year of high school. That's where I really started to get passionate about design and movement and art, and found 3D animation to be a perfect blend of artistry and technical skills.
I ended up going to school for five years for 3D animation, snagging Bachelors and Masters degrees, and loving every minute of it. Once out of school, I landed at a post-house in Dallas called Infinite Fiction, doing 2D/3D animation for advertising. This was a big shift from the "animation for film" mindset that all of my academic training had covered, but it kept me on my toes and I loved the bite-sized nature of the projects in advertising vs. film.
About a year and a half into working at Infinite Fiction, the pandemic hit and it ended up being a huge turning point for me. I went full-time freelance, founding my personal brand Ladybird Animation and working remotely from Bryan, Texas. The Type-A personality in me absolutely loved crafting every detail of both the creative side and the business side of running a brand, and I really cherished the flexibility the freelance life offered. I ran Ladybird Animation full-time for a little over a year, at which point a message from a recruiter dropped this opportunity with Disney quite literally in my lap. After having applied to the Walt Disney Company countless times, it was such a funny twist of fate to have this opportunity present itself this way, but I’m so glad it did!
What programs & tools do you use everyday for your work? What do you like/dislike about these programs?
I do a fair mix of 2D and 3D work, so I bounce between Cinema 4D, After Effects, Photoshop and Illustrator pretty regularly. Plug-ins that help these applications talk to each other are the unsung heroes of my workflow, like Overlord for going from Illustrator to After Effects.
Any advice on how to stand out and get hired for those starting off?
Absolutely! I approach job hunting in two halves: Making the work, and showing the work. Taking the time for personal projects can really make your portfolio stand out, especially when you're fresh out of school and are most likely sporting the same type of projects as the rest of your peers. Personal projects give recruiters a chance to see your personal style, and if you're still figuring yours out, personal projects are a great way to do that!
When it comes to showing the work, a clean portfolio is a must, and letting your personality show through it is always a plus. On top of that, a huge part of showing off your work is knowing who to show it to. Find the recruiters for your dream studios on LinkedIn, and start meaningful conversations with them. Keep the social accounts where you show your work current, and share your work regularly. Getting the right pair of eyes to land on your work can be tricky, and a bit of a long game, but it only takes one person to make a difference in your career!
What are some must-have resources or skills you would recommend for your industry?
I stumbled upon a few podcasts/books during my time as a freelancer that I really enjoyed, and the topics they cover definitely carry over to full-time/contract motion design work as well. The first are the "Motion Hatch" podcast and Chris Do's "The Futur" podcast. These both dive deep into the business side of the creative industry, and are super motivating. My go-to books are Hoodzpah's "Freelance and Business and Stuff", and Joey Korenman's "Freelance Manifesto". I'd recommend any and all of these to anyone looking to jumpstart a creative freelance career, or even those just looking to get a better feel for the business side of the creative world.
What are 3 character traits that would make someone excel in your field?
Young at heart
Most satisfying & difficult thing about your job?
I've got such a soft spot in my heart for the Disney Parks, so it's always so rewarding to hear when a new project has gone live and is brightening the guest experience! To know the work I'm doing is contributing to the overall magic and detail-scape of the parks is always such a surreal part of this position. I’d have to say what I’ve found the most challenging part of this job is working in more of a siloed workflow. Especially coming from the freelance world where you’ve got this bird’s eye view of every part of your project, its timeline, and so on, it can be a little strange to not always have that mental roadmap of where your work is living in the grand scheme of things, but you always know it’s in good hands.
What would you like to say to your younger self?
That your dreams and goals are valid, so don’t be shy in going after them! Doors open to those who knock, and guidance comes to those who ask.
Best advice you've received/heard?
This gem came from my mom: "Fake it 'till you make it!" For a long time I was always the first to tell myself that I couldn't do something, or that I wasn't qualified enough for a position, or that my work wasn't good enough to send in an application to a studio. You'll never know until you try, and when you start going through the motions and patterning your life after successful people, there's a point where those patterns transform from "going through the motions" to being an authentic part of the way you live your life. Give yourself the grace and room to learn and to be imperfect; that’s where the real growth happens.