There is no better gift than happiness and fun and CL Terry works to create just that. An artist and an animator, Terry finds creativity all around her and turns it into moving images that are guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Starting off in her hometown in Australia and moving to the entertainment hub of California, Terry currently works with the Walt Disney Company, providing joy to their global audiences.
CL Terry talks to Simone Bhagat, Contributing Editor, Creative Sparq, about the hard work that goes into an artistic career, life at Disney and the way her work has transformed with technology.
Tell us about your work and how you came to specialise in animation.
I focus mainly on short-form digital content. I loved drawing as a child but didn’t really become interested in animation until my mid-20s (while on a vacation to Walt Disney World!).
Working for Disney was my ultimate goal when moving to California and I feel very fortunate to be on the Parks and Resorts Digital team. It’s the perfect fit for my skill set and I get to contribute to our guests having the same amazing experience I’ve always had at the parks.
I try to make work that everyone can enjoy, but if I had to pick a common element in all of my work I guess it would have to be fun.
Please provide some context on the environment that you grew up in and how that influenced your creative career choices.
When I was very young my parents sent me to art classes with a local artist named Don Waters. At the time I thought it was just a fun after-school activity but I can see now that it laid a great foundation for everything I do. I also spent a lot of time babysitting my 3 younger siblings and I would spend hours drawing any Disney character or funny little scene they would request in MS Paint to keep them entertained. Possibly more entertaining for me than it was for them, but before the internet and cable, we had to take what we could get!
When I was older, I didn’t actually do art in school and focused more on math and science. Neither of which are overtly related to art, but I feel the problem-solving skills I developed during that time definitely help me day to day. I do recall making little, animated flip books in the corners of my textbooks though, so I guess that counts!
And what about now? How does the culture at Disney enable you as an artist?
I like being around other creative people to bounce ideas off of but at the same time prefer a quiet environment that allows one to focus. Luckily Disney provides both of these things. I also try to take advantage of what’s offered to us on campus, like gesture and life drawings sessions at lunch and yoga.
So what does creativity mean to you in the context of your work?
I’ve never had any trouble coming up with ideas, but the real creativity happens when trying to select the right idea given the restrictions I’m facing and identifying what will be most effective for the viewer in a particular moment. You can also do some pretty exciting things if you think creatively about the technology that’s available to you. I’m a huge fan of finding digital cheats that either save time or replicate a look that can normally only be achieved traditionally.
How does technology influence the way you work and what are the opportunities/challenges that it presents to creative specialists in your field?
The biggest influence technology has had would be that my work is now 100% digital. At the same time, however, I try to let my background in traditional animation and traditional mediums influence my digital work so it can still have a bit of an organic feel. One of the huge benefits of my work being digital is that I can now work from anywhere and for anyone in the world, so the shift from traditional animation isn't all bad! Looking forward, in 20 – 30 years I doubt I’ll be designing for screens anymore and interactivity will be a much bigger part of what I do.
How do you stay current with tech trends in your discipline?
Earlier this year I got really into AR and I'm now learning code so I can make my first app. Fortunately, this industry is full of talented people who are more than willing to share their knowledge so it makes venturing into new areas fairly easy, as long as you're willing to put in the effort.
When you start a project, what does your creative process entail? Any creative rituals you follow?
I start by looking at references and spend a lot of time sketching and experimenting with colour. I generally draw and animate extremely fast so I’m able to spend a good chunk of time in the early stages, really refining my ideas.
I try to meditate every day, and I’m a bike commuter which I really love as it clears my head. I draw every day as part of my job, but I also try to do some personal drawing every day. It’s my time to just let weird ideas out and experiment.
What skill sets are critical to your work?
Creative problem solving, communication and speed.
Your favourite creations?
Buzz Mountain - Last year I created a series of animations of Disney / Pixar characters at Disneyland. This was a personal project before I started working for the company and I think it really worked to my advantage to have things like this in my portfolio.
Cat Loaf - Cat Loaf is an original character I’m currently developing a story for and I’m particularly fond of this gif because it was my first time successfully using a new rigging method I’d been tinkering with.
Moving Right Along - The Muppets have had a huge influence on me and this is a scene from possibly my all time favorite movie. I’m constantly amazed by how relatively simple puppets can be so expressive and I can very much relate to Kermit’s desire to move to Hollywood and make ‘millions of people happy’.
Take Your Cat To Work Day - This is one of my favorites from my 2016 ‘100 Days of Gifs’ project. It’s only 6 frames and took a fraction of the time that some of my others take - a good reminder that simple is sometimes best. Plus I just really wish I could take my cats to work.
Where do you find your creative inspiration?
People! I’m lucky to know many hilarious and interesting people who are an endless source of inspiration. Living in LA has also been great, there’s always something happening and California has so many incredible places to explore.
Any advice to young people starting out in your profession?
Draw draw draw! But also make sure you get out there and have a life. You’ll never be able to create interesting work without that.
This feature is part of the Young Sparqs interviews.
About The Interviewer
Mumbai-born, Singapore-raised, Simone has been dancing for 17 years, training in ballet, jazz, hip hop and contemporary dance. She currently lives in New York studying theatre at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts with a minor in business at The Stern School of Business. Also trained in music and singing, Simone teaches dance to children in Singapore through her entrepreneurial venture, The W E R K Dance Company.