Nothing says childhood like Saturday morning cartoons. Kids still wearing their pajamas and waking up at the crack of dawn just to watch Wile E. Coyote chase the Roadrunner around a desert landscape. But to Ryan Paxton, senior animation major at Huntington University, those cartoons formed a passion that has driven him to animated success — before he’s even finished his degree.
Paxton is currently the lead animator on a start-up PC game under San Francisco-based studio Misfits Attic. “A Virus Named Tom” is a multi-player sci-fi puzzle game animated in 2D. After sending out more than 100 applications to animation jobs nationwide, Paxton settled on an unpaid internship in New York. But when Misfits Attic mailed him a rejection letter detailing that he did not have enough experience to do the job, Paxton had other ideas.
“I fought them on it,” he said, his voice still tinged with disbelief with at his own persistence. “I wouldn’t let them turn me down without the chance to prove myself.”
The studio responded to his adamant refusal with a challenge: To duplicate one of the studio’s own animations from scratch and then improve it. Paxton completed the task and won the studio over.
“In the end, they liked the improvements I did to the animation so much that now it’s in the game,” he said.
Just like that, Paxton was hired, and has been working on the game from his home in Fort Wayne, Ind., since August.
Originally from Cincinnati, Paxton has always had an interest in animation.
“I’m a guy,” he said with a shrug of his shoulders. “I grew up watching cartoons and making stick figure flipbooks in the back of my classes at school, always doodling.”
But it wasn’t until after Paxton’s first year of college in Ohio that he decided he wanted to transfer schools and study animation. He used a search engine to find “animation” and “Christian college,” and Huntington University’s digital media arts webpage popped up. He visited the campus and felt drawn to HU, but was still unsure whether he should leave Cincinnati.
“That winter I saw cartoons on TV that weren’t just for kids,” he said. “I thought, ‘Hey, I could do that. There’s still a business for this.’ That was really the final push I felt to attend HU.”
In addition to the game he is animating for Misfits Attic, Paxton is also creating his own game for independent study. He says the skills he learned in the DMA department, combined with the work he’s done for Misfits Attic, has helped him reach his fullest potential as a student animator.
“I had one animation professor that wasn’t afraid to fail anyone. He said to me, ‘You’ll have to really want it, but if you want me to show you this material and you enjoy doing it, the sky’s the limit.’”
Paxton’s game, a dark-themed adventure, called “Shaded Chasm,” is being developed exclusively for Windows smartphones.
Classmate Tyler Keff Beasley and recent HU animation graduates Chris Viel and Jay Canul form Mourou, Paxton’s team of animators. Mourou has recently completed the prototype for the game, and remains on the lookout for a programmer to take on the project.
For Paxton, the future hopefully holds opportunity and the chance at his dream job in an art direction position. But for now, he’s content carefully constructing dream worlds on the computer monitor.
“Some people go the studio animation route alone. I want to make us to make our own stuff,” he said. “I want to see my crazy imagination be brought to life — that’s a winning situation for me.”
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