The Treasure Map in Animation

By Albert Barba | September, 16, 2012 | 6 comments

As animators, both in life and projects in which we are involved, many times we wonder ourselves what’s the best path to go through, what decisions to make, and especially how to manage them in order to achieve the fruits that we desire so much.

When a shot is delivered to us and we start imagining how we would like it to be, we think about these questions. And always the uncertainty invades us about how we will get what we intend. This uncertainty, along with other external aspects that influence us, and specially the attitude with which we will take those decisions, determines the final result of our animation.

This is why I would like to share my point of view about what is the best way to tackle the problem in this thought process. Before taking any decisions, it’s important to think about a sort of assumptions that, in my opinion, are very important and essential in order to get the final results as you expect, or even much better, as you really imagine. The point is what attitude to choose towards what you want. And that also applies in life. In the  following lines I will describe a series of universal concepts, applicable to animation, or anything else, to get what you pursue.

  • Wanting
  • Knowing
  • Power
  • Imagination

WANTING, “Where there is a will, there is a way”

The Compass. Is the attitude that drives us to behave actively, with determination and enthusiasm against the adversities, so that we can get what we want. The perfect example would be the different reactions we may have against the problems that are facing us in the shot. The “how” will not become relevant if we don’t fight with our best attitude:

  • Positive mental attitude. You must realize that, more than being conditioned by the circumstances of the shot, we can choose how to face the circunstances, intellectually and emotionally. The position we take against this situation will completely determine not only the interpretation of the shot but how it will be in the very end.
  • Optimism. That’s it. If I really want, I can do it. And I’m doing it immediately without postponing it for later. I’m doing it now.
  • Willing to be useful. Creating something with the intention of bringing novelty, value-added. Willing to give the best of ourselves, wanting to do it well and prove to people who trust us that we can do it even better.
  • Generosity. If we are able to give what is expected from us, we will be very lucky. As the saying goes: “Whatever you give, is giving it to yourself, anything you do not give, is taking it off from you”.
  • Risking. Do not go with false security, you have to jump into the swimming-pool so that you can check if the water is cold.
  • Humility. Focus on what you really want with a humble attitude. This will give you more credentials and you will stay away from the famous arrogant image which is often projected onto the figure of the animator. This only drives you into failure  (speaking in a profesional and emotional way).

KNOWING, “Wisdom is the daughter of experience”

It is the terrain map. As artists that we are, we must never stop learning, allow yourself to be influenced by each and every one of the passions you have. The knowledge never stops growing, there’s always something new. Researching, learning, understanding and anticipating to have the best range of solutions. That will make you remarcable over many others and will make you feel recognized and valued. That’s why being prepared and formed before starting the shot is so important in order to fully understand what we are creating, and also with the highest competence. That means, if the shot requires it, doing a little research of what we really don’t know and also we need to know, in order to apply this knowledge into this particular animation.

  • Willing to learn everything. Never stop learning.
  • Expertise and differential knowledge. “If you want to be relevant, you have to be different from others, and being different means that you have to look everything that surrounds you differently than the rest does”.
  • Make mistakes. In my opinion, making mistakes is one of the greatest privileges you have in the learning process. You feel lucky for having experienced a situation where you could learn how to do things better. It’s better having been in those situations instead of ignoring them, isn’t it? I believe making mistakes is one of the most important things when learning. Do not be afraid of failure, because that guides you to better understanding. Again, it is being privileged.
  • Listen. In order to learn you must know how to listen, get involved with the best people and learn from them. Reward and appreciate the ideas they can give you.

POWER, “Act, here and now, the future is the present and you have the power to change it”

The skills. The shovel that allows you to dig until you find the treasure you desire. it’s not enough wanting and knowing if there’s no execution afterwards. You have to give to get, and it must be done in a proper way related with your mind intentions.

  • Be determined. With the predisposition and knowledge inside your backpack, it’s time to implement those ideas, but it is important not to move off. That knowledge has created a very specific idea in your head. Do not miss this idea, maintain yourself focused. Put the Key Poses you think will add value to the animation and build the rest around that. So just from the beginning you won’t lose the focus of interest in the shot, which is the most important thing.
  • Willing to improve. “If you do things well, then do them better.” The instinct of self-improvement is a silver bullet, and also if you get surrounded by the best talented people, it will help you improve professionally. There’s nothing better than feeling this sense of fulfillment.
  • KISS, “Keep it simple, stupid”. That sentence sums it up, keep it simple, if the idea is simple and it works, keep it like that. Leave the ornamentation for when it is really needed.

IMAGINATION, “If you can imagine, you can create”

It is the light that enlightens you throughout the process. It’s the muse, what you believe in. It’s a concept that it’s linked to everything else. It’s essential to imagine in order to create all that you believe in and you have learned throughout the process. It’s very important not to lose your path and to be clear about where we want to go, trying  to see what our destination is, the “leitmotiv” of the shot.

  • Perspective. When you get stuck (and it will happen) is important to step back, look at the problem in perspective, take it easy (how many times we say ourselves how bad we are animating?) to be more efficient finding the solution. That may mean stop animating and continue with other things to relieve tension, start with another shot, try thinking this is not a big deal… It’s true, if not the second, the third time’s charm, and you always end up finding the best solution. Patience is the key, but also perseverance.
  • Look and feel. “It’s not enough having a vision, it’s mandatory to feel it inside you”. Try to make other people feel what you want to transmit. In this case, to your supervisor, so he/she knows exactly what’s your intention in that shot. Make him feel.


I could pick to pieces many more ideas, particularly some techniques like: ways of organization, how to preserve work procedures to be useful in a near future for another shot… But this is not the real intention of this post. The real intention is how we focus more emotionally towards we want, and as I said before, both in life and in animation, is extremely important. Especially if you know that in animation, the emotional and personal factors influence directly in each animator’s work.

My advice is that everything mentioned above can be applied across the board, and then you can start creating synergies that, without getting noticed, will get applied into your life, your job and your animation.

It’s us. Animators. Odd personalities. Always looking for the little details. All that is very difficult to perceive and for most people can’t see, for us is a whole world, and we are delighted to understand it. It is the motivation to find those engines that make people act, react, think, perceive or find satisfaction or happiness, that inspired me to write this article.

I hope this post has been useful for you. I encourage you to fulfill your best goals with this good dose of motivation.

PD. – Thanks to Alex Rovira and Francesc Miralles for their influence in the “Treasure Map“, as well as all the other books. It has been a great source of inspiration for this post. Thanks to Manu Menéndez that helped me out translating this post into the english version.

6 Responses to The Treasure Map in Animation

  • Mathias Aubry

    Really cool article! it’s true that there is often a feeling of uncertainty at the beginning of doing a shot! you know what you would like to achieve but the way to get there… You have good points about being Positive and Optimist! thanks for sharing Albert. I also looked at your demo reel, nice work, I love your first dialogue ;)


  • Juan Campanella

    Excelente. La frase “Si somos capaces de dar aquello que se espera de nosotros, seremos afortunados. Siempre desde el punto de vista de que todo aquello que das, te lo das a ti mismo, y todo aquello que no das, te lo quitas.” ha sido mi filosofía de vida. Muchos lo van a leer, pocos lo van a entender, y menos lo van a aplicar. Por eso los que suben son los menos. ¡Abrazos, maestro!

  • Adriano

    Genio, muy bueno la verdad

  • Alex Alvarez

    Grande Albert!

  • Albert Barba

    Gracias Batitaaaaa!!!!!!!

  • Bata

    Groso papa! todo un filosofo de la animeta!!!

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