Ben Anderson started out playing basketball for Cap, but it was Capilano University’s 3D Animation program that led him to the slam-dunk of his career as part of the team that created the Oscar-winning movie, Life of Pi. He remains extremely proud of the film’s achievements in the field of visual effects, which include a BAFTA, an Annie and numerous other awards.
“You know when people say ‘You can’t take that away from me?’ It’s that kind of feeling,” says the 35-year-old animator, who was born in South Africa.
Ben moved to Vancouver as a teenager when his stepfather took a job there. He’d always been artistic, and after a tumultuous year on the basketball team, he says, “I saw the animation program and I thought ‘Oh, that looks like fun. I like drawing.’ So I took the night course and I got into the full-time 2D program.” After graduation, he worked in flash animation at Bardel Entertainment and Studio B Productions before returning to Cap for the 3D Animation program, because he felt that was where the industry was headed.
He quickly caught the attention of 3D program coordinator Craig Simmons. “His animation ability was amazing. He was able to breathe life into characters from very simple to more complex,” Craig recalls. “Everything that he did was top-notch. He worked hard—that’s always a big part of it.”
Because Ben had already worked in TV, he wasn’t as focused on learning animation as he was on working with all kinds of different software. “You really had to know your stuff and you had to be driven,” he says. “And I enjoyed the camaraderie and the team aspect. Everyone was pushing everyone else, so it was a lot of fun.”
After graduation, he helped animate a feature called Happily N’Ever After for Nitrogen Studios in Vancouver. Then he worked on IMAX 3D Dinosaurs: Giants of Patagonia, and he started to enjoy creating visual effects. After bouncing from studio to studio, including Rainmaker Entertainment, he moved to Toronto to work on visual effects, commercials and flash animation. When a friend called from L.A. to tell him he ought to check out that scene, Ben made the leap, landing in the right place at the right time.
His projects included Hop and Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Ben’s studio, Rhythm & Hues, was then hired to work on Life of Pi. “It really was the most rewarding experience of my career, because I was lead on one of the animation teams in India,” says Ben, who also worked with the L.A. team and did his own shots. “I got to sit in on meetings with (director) Ang Lee—he was on the TV, but it was really cool to hear him talk and understand his vision for the movie, because he really was visionary. You could tell during the process that this was turning into something very cool.”
Last year, Ben moved back to Vancouver to become an animation director at Nerd Corps, a bustling studio with 400 employees. “If you work in animation or visual effects, you will travel,” he advises future animators. “You have to follow the work around. There’s work in Australia, in Europe—you’ll be all over the place. Keep your possessions to a minimum.”
The production resources supervisor at Nerd Corps, Herrick Chiu, says he hires many 2D and 3D animators from Cap because their training is well balanced between artistic and technical. He hired Ben and calls him “very creative, organized and precise, and a very good communicator.”
Ben advises would-be animators to absorb all the knowledge they can get at school and then go for it. “Listen to your teachers,” he counsels. “They know what they’re talking about.”
Learn more about Capilano’s Animation programs.
Submitted by Marketing & Communications