Alumni Profile: Paul Briggs, Kansas City Art Institute

When he was a senior at KCAI, Paul Briggs learned from his department chair that Disney was accepting portfolios for an internship. The Texas native scrambled, submitted a drawing portfolio, got the job and started animating on “Mulan.” Except for stints at Warner Bros. and Nickelodeon, he has been with Disney ever since.

He was story supervisor on “Frozen,” the Oscar winning, crowd-pleasing fairytale, and “Big Hero 6,” the animated superhero comedy. Being head of story, or story supervisor, means he managed a team of story artists working together to get the director’s vision onto the screen, he said.

Asked how KCAI prepared him for his career at Disney, Briggs mentioned the strong foundation he gained in art training and the support system he experienced with other students. He also said that college is a time when a student can try new things, experience failure and learn from it.

“You develop a better sense of what your strengths are, and you focus on improving and developing yourself,” he said. “KCAI gave me the opportunity to try a lot of different things. Even though I was in illustration/design, I was very into sculpting, ceramics and drawing. Some of my figure- and anatomy-drawing classes were crucial to my getting an internship at Disney. Plus, there’s a great support system through other students. You’re all going through the same thing, but on different paths. So you have friends who push and challenge your individual work.”

When asked what advice he might share with high school students aspiring to a career in animation, he said, “Animation is hot right now, and there’s a lot of it going on everywhere, not only at the big feature studios but also in television, gaming and in foreign countries.”

He offered two specific tips for would-be animators:

  • “It’s extremely important to understand the basic fundamentals. It’s always obvious when a new portfolio arrives and someone hasn’t put forth the effort in understanding basic principles and methods. Use your time at school to do this!”
  • “The other thing I’d say is tell me a story, show me character, make me care and empathize.”
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