Studios pooling Creative Youths’ Talents in a long term – Part 1

Entrepreneurs.my had the opportunity to interview Leah Hoyer, the Former Director of Development from Walt Disney Co. (Los Angeles), which during her past times, she has worked on global hits such as Phineas & Ferb, Recess, and Kim Possible, during Kreative.Asia 2012 which was recently held in Hilton Hotel, KL. She is now the Creative Producer at Levity Entertainment Group, where she develops live-action and animated television, web and mobile series and seeks out creative talents for management and co-production opportunities. She discusses her views on how studios can work with schools to help generate a long-term pipeline of talents. Endless thanks and much credit to our fabulous friends from award-winning PR firm TEXT100 for providing such coverage with us for the benefit of local entrepreneurs.

A Moment with Leah Hoyer on how studios can work with schools to help generate a long-term pipeline of talents.

Thank you so much for your willingness to be interviewed. To make it short, I got interested with your ideas about the youth development program, or in other word, pooling talents in a long term, as shared by you recently. So, I got a few questions to ask you about it.

1) Would it be worthwhile for a particular studio to partner with an educational institute, and if so, would it be more fruitful if the partnership begin at high school level or only at college/university level?

Leah Hoyer:
That is a good question. I personally think it would be very useful for studio to partner with school, because then they can actually say specifically what they are looking for, what their needs are, and they can train those to be able to do that in anyway. Like Walt Disney, helped by start a school, because he knew there was interests in it. But I actually feel like, the earlier you can start it, the better. And it also depends, because I think there’s a lot of people who would be very good in art, without actually choose or go to college for variety of reason, and if they have the skill, to be good in things like animation, creation, video games, all that sort of thing, and they are trained that well in high school or maybe then a year in a cheap program afterwards, I think that actually could be very good.

2) What factors would a studio have to consider before embarking on such a partnership, and in turn what should the educational institute consider beforehand?

Leah Hoyer:
Well, that’s clearly a long term proposition, in someway. So, a studio have to know they have connect to it for several years, before they really gonna start to see a change in things, and they so have to know that going anyway. But I think, other than that, there maybe some sort of financial kind-of arrangement between them as well, being able to share their talent from the studio with the school, to ensure a true partnership is not just something for the full-year start like saying “We say this is the curriculum we want, now make sure that happen.” I think it’s so much better, if they will send some of their directors, producers, or writers, to work and interact and invite the students to come over, whether it would be really formally through a working internship, or whether it be a part-time exhibit – just come and do a studio tour, get the sense of these things, or shadow a storyboard artist for a day, so that they can see what that’s like, and understand early on, if that’s something make sense for you, or excites you. Because the thing about creative industry is, they can be so much fun and can be really rewarding, but if you don’t have the passion for the job that you’re doing, it could be miserable. And so, I think it’s really great, if people have a chance early on, to figure what it is that most excites them and most interests them. And so, if they get the chance to over the course for the first school year, whether first year in high school or first year in college, to be able to go and say “Over the course I’ve shadowed in 5 different roles, I think I might be interested with that, and I see that for a day, like I keep in touch with those people.” It gives them a much better idea of what they want, and in that the person who’s might be particularly find a sanity in their job, they can be someone go back to year after year, and they’re getting better and following their track, and getting that experience. And I also feel like it’s underestimated, how much a person with a mentor get out of that kind mentor-student relationship, and it’s a little bit different, but I know every time I come to an event like this, and I do presentation, and I talk to people afterwards, and have a discussion in a room, or a Question & Answer session, I always learn things, not just from other presenter, but also from the people in the room, and it helps to really understand the processes and the needs of different prospective and Point of View, and it’s so helpful. See, it benefit a lot of way instead of going back and forth.

3) We have yet to hear of studios doing such partnerships, especially in the South East Asia region. So, would you be able to cite any examples for us, if there’s any? And why are they considered so successful in their partnerships?

Leah Hoyer:
Well, I think absolutely the best one to look at, is the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). Some years ago, several decades ago, when Walt Disney was still alive, he actually partnered with them, by I mean, the key is, animation – the group of animators and storytellers which are well-fed, like he need to have new ones, because the old ones are great, but he need the top-notch quality people. And so he help found this school’s particular animation division, but with the idea, that all of the different pieces of art can play with each other, and talk to each other, like a student in a dance program who also learn film studies and diverse that. Because animator in particular, really need to have a good sense of human movements, which I actually feel like, best animators are the ones who actually rather athletic, because they can get to see what the body does and how does it moves. He started this program and has been insanely successful.

1976, first animation class at CalArts, Elmer Plummer in middle surrounded by his students including John Lasseter, Brad Bird and Andrew Stanton.

I talked about this in my talk here. The very first class – John Lasseter, Brad Bird, Andrew Stanton, like all 3 of them were in it, it was a class of 12 people, and those 3 amazing luminaries were in that group of 12 people. It’s insane, and the number of people that came of it through the year. It’s unbelievable. You kind of know if your students in high school and they’re interested in becoming a Disney animator. It’s not the only way to go, but you know that your best shot is to get into CalArts, to get into that program. And so, it also helps the school because it attracts those people because of the way they go. And Pixar is the same thing, because of John Lasseter went there, he completely knows those of the people who learn really good. And it’s not that the other great film schools out there, I think like NYU, UCLA are all great film schools, that have good animation programs and everything, but that one in particular just have the pedigree and the alumni, and as I’ve mentioned in one of my talks, what they do is they try to get everyone live on campus, about 90% of the students all live there. So, they constantly learning from each other – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week learning, as opposed to the 4 hours a day and night of show up in a class at college. Because when you’ve been hanging out with people with what you have in common, is your love of art and classes, and you gonna talk about project etc, you gonna make each other more creative, because you constantly talking about creativity. That is probably be absolute best example. In Hollywood, every studio have their some version of partnering with all of the universities, so there are several film schools. I was at UCLA and earned MFA in Animation. And in UCLA Film School, there is always internship opportunity, there’s chances to do these kind of things, and sometimes scholarship were given. But there’s nothing that is exclusive than CalArts. It’s the great one to look at.

To be continued in Part 2 on April 11,2012.


With well over a decade of experiences in the entertainment industry, Leah Hoyer has overseen more than 200 hours of programming for network and cable television, both in the US as well as internationally. Ms Hoyer was the Director of Development for Disney Television Animation, working on global hits such as Phineas & Ferb, Recess, and Kim Possible. She is now the Creative Producer at Levity Entertainment Group. Leah was also an attorney before attending the prestigious UCLA Film School to earn her MFA in Animation and pursue her passion for cartoons. She has taught classes at UCLA Film School and guest lectures at several universities. She is also on the Board of Directors of Women in Animation International, where she focuses on international outreach programmes for women in the creative and animation industry.