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INTERVIEW: Disney Animation Storyteller/Artist Carole Holliday
When you are getting feedback you have to listen to everything - even the parts that you do not like. - Carole Holliday
“Receive instruction so that you may gain a heart of wisdom.” Proverbs 19:20. Hey Hey everyone, we are finally back with our SC Interview Series! This week I got to chat with animation storyteller/artist Carole Holliday. She has worked with Disney and Marvel, has written and illustrated her own books, and also directed a short film called Witt’s Daughter. She has such wisdom, I learned a lot from her and I hope you do too - enjoy!
1. How did you end up at Disney?
I applied when I was a senior at Cal Arts and got a portfolio review. This was during the time that you could actually schedule a meeting to have your portfolio looked at. The man that I met with said, your drawings are good, but you need to do more quick sketches. But, all I heard was, your drawings are good. The first part was all I heard. But I could not figure out why I was failing to get hired.
At the time, I was going to a church in Santa Clarita and one of the church members knew Glen Keane (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Beauty & the Beast). I eventually got to meet with him and asked him for advice. He told me that when he had his portfolio review it was with Eric Larson and he encouraged him to do more quick sketches. And so, after hearing that, I did five sketch pads of quick sketches and chose ten of them to put in my portfolio, and then I ended up getting hired at Disney.
For this reason, when you are getting feedback you have to listen to everything - even the parts that you do not like. And so, I should have just listened to what the first fellow had said. But I just could not hear it then. I was too prideful. All I heard was, I was good but not that I could be better.
2. What is one piece of advice you wish you would have received before beginning your career?
Do not lose sight of your original goal. When I first started I wanted to be a director. At one of my first meetings, I was asked, where do you see yourself in five years? And I replied, I want to be a director. The person laughed. I was young. I do not remember how I responded to him laughing but it definitely stayed stuck in my head.
After that, I would frequently visit the development department to voluntarily pitch ideas. One day my supervisor asked me, why do you pitch ideas so often, do you want to be in development? Because I can give you a job in development. And I replied, No. I just want to have good things to work on. At the time, I mistakenly thought that directors came from animation (the department I was working in) - but they actually come from development. Had I explained to him that I was pitching because I was a natural storyteller, who had a lot of story ideas and who eventually wanted to become a director, he would have helped me to understand that directors come from development/story, not animation. And then I would have known and had a better understanding of how to become an animation director. But that guy laughing at me kept me from being vocal about my desire to become a director.
So I say that to say, hold on to whatever your goal is, clearly articulate it to others, and have the confidence to know that you can do it.
3. In your opinion, what is the one perpetual habit that you believe keeps creatives from moving forward in their career?
I cannot speak for other people. But, for myself, I keep moving forward. Of course, there are going to be people who tell you, no. But, the people I admire never let a “no” stop them. But these are people who are not cantankerous or obstreperous. They are people who have an I am going to make myself better mindset.
Several years ago, I could not find a job and so I wrote a children’s book. I taught myself how to paint. And since I really loved baking, I enrolled in culinary school for a year with the hopes of possibly opening a cookie shop. So, I do not know what stops creatives from moving forward except for despair, maybe? But I keep my eyes focused on God and I know He has some plan for my life and so I keep moving forward on that.
(SN: She never opened the cookie shop :( but says she still learned and grew a lot!)
4. What is your favorite Disney project that you have worked on and why is it your favorite?
Donald’s Gift - my project, that is why I liked it! But it was a hard project. I never had any directing experience but there was an open trainee position and they allowed me to pitch an original idea. Around that time I saw a film that was about a creature that was passed along by touch. And from that inspiration, I chose to do a story about Donald Duck getting annoyed by a song that chases him around.
That was the beginning of Donald’s Gift. From that story, I wanted to showcase Christmas breaking him and producing a bad attitude that would ruin all of his relationships, including the one with his fifty-year girlfriend. I wanted Daisy to break-up with Donald, that is what I wanted. And then I wanted him to learn, he receives the Christmas Spirit and everybody gets back together. It is a little different than the final result. But I loved it because it was something that came from me.
5. Where do you see yourself in the next five to ten years?
Directing. God willing. I am happy doing storyboards. But I want to tell a story, I want to tell my own story.
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