SPOTLIGHT STORIES: TINA PRICE

Interview conducted by Tracey Miller-Zarneke

Tina Price is a modern-day animation industry pioneer: after spending almost three decades working within the studio system, Tina went on to create an entire animation community out of thin air and to brand a city as “the animation capital of the world”: she is the founder of the Creative Talent Network, which exists as a social enterprise with all proceeds invested in the global animation community in the form of upgraded services, educational programs, promotional tools, workshops and networking events that inspire members to connect, find jobs and reach their artistic and professional goals. The base of CTN has a physical home at the Center Stage Gallery in Burbank as well an annual gathering in the form of the CTN Animation eXpo at the Marriott Convention Center in Burbank and at the Burbank Arts Festival.

In recognition of the CTN Animation eXpo approaching its decade anniversary this month, WIA would like to share the story of Tina Price so that others might be inspired by her entrepreneurial and persistent spirit.

Think back to the earliest moment in your life when you realized you loved being a creator of art and please share it with us.

I was born into a family of writers, dancers, artists, musicians and engineers.  They were a combination of native Californians and British immigrants. I entered a pre-school group called “The Tiny Mites” where I first experienced painting. I started dance lessons at the age of five; I started playing music at ten, and I started drawing at fourteen. I never knew of a world that is the ‘working for money’ world.  I have been lucky enough to always do what I love to do for a living.  For seventeen years I was a ballet dancer, for 27 years I was in the animation community (both 2D and 3D), and for the last twelve years, I’ve been designing events while being a proud member of the women entrepreneur movement. Art and creativity play an important role in my life: they enhance my ability to express my individuality, grant me the freedom to be curious, and give me courage to explore while at the same time feeling and expressing love.

Did your parents/family encourage you in your pursuit of art as a career? If so, how? If not, how did you move forward in your pursuit?

As the story goes, I looked through a window at the Parks and Recreation public hall, saw a ballet class in session and said, “I want to do that!” to my mother. She was very supportive, driving me to ballet classes six days a week for the next sixteen years. I became a professional dancer with the New York City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and Chicago Lyric Opera, but a ballet career is typically over at the ripe old age of 25.  So after I hung up my toe shoes, I took a temporary “normal job” until I could find something I could fall in love with to do for a living. The girl sitting next to me at the “normal job” was the wife of an animator at Disney. She invited me over for dinner, and later that couple introduced me to Don Bluth who was creating “Banjo the Woodpile Cat” in his garage at the time. He trained me on how to do in-betweens and paint cells. That introduction was another door opening and I said to myself  “I want to do that!” and so I ran full speed on the journey of learning that became a career spent working with Filmation, Disney and JibJab.

Who were/are your mentors, inside or outside of animation? How have they affected you?

Audrey Hepburn combined with Steve Jobs…and I just have a lot of faith in the energy and flow of life, faith in the universe. I’ve both seen and experienced so many miracles that have reinforced my belief in life and love.

Have you ever served as a mentor? If so, how has being on that side of the equation helped you?

I have been a mentor by example to thousands of people by creating and hosting the CTN animation eXpo. It has changed people’s lives around the world. It changed my life. The original idea came to me around 2007 and it just wouldn’t let go of me. I funded it myself and learned how to put on and host a world-class event by trial and error and gave the event to the world.

How has the status of women in our industry shifted over the course of your career? How has this affected your career path, if at all?

I was raised to think I need not be held back by the opinions of others, that I am able to do anything I set my mind to, and these are beliefs that still ring loud in my mind. I never noticed if I was ever being discriminated against because I was all-in busy trying to figure out the next thing in front of me. I can take folly in the idea and wonder what the outcomes might have been had I grown into a man of 6’ 4” and my name was Tim. But why bother? You just keep going.

What, if any, adversities have you faced in your career or life in general, and how did they shape the leader you are today?

One’s journey is all about adversities and what you do when you encounter them. I was born with a dislocated hip and was the first baby to be put into a splint. I overcame that physical challenge and became a professional ballet dancer. I had no clear career path when I quit dancing, then I met people and pursued animation. I was in a training program at Filmation Studios, and everyone was hired except for me. But I came back every week to show my work until one day they needed help and hired me. I got into Disney Animation and, among many things, started their CG department when only 2% of the employees were women in this field. And I created CTN (the Creative Talent Network) after being released by Disney after 23 years—it felt like a natural way to stay connected with my peers and to help promote what it is we do. 

Don’t wait for opportunities. Don’t wait for that perfect door for you to open. Make your own door, open it and go through it.  I always tell people that you can’t solve problems that may happen on the other side of the door by staying on this side of the door. You have to go through the door and then solve the problems. And there may be a lot of problems, but you can solve them. That’s the only way: you must go through that door. Don’t wait for someone to open it for you and escort you.

Share with us a moment of exhilaration in your career.

I’ve been so blessed with so many exhilarating experiences. Seeing the Magic Carpet in “Aladdin” and knowing that Darren Kiner and I made that character fly, that we figured it out: we made a pipeline that went from 2D to 3D and back again, and it was really amazing!  But I must say that on November 17, 2009, the opening day of the first CTN Animation eXpo, I had never before felt anything like that, seeing an idea blossom from just a thought in my mind to fruition. I used my mother’s inheritance money and my 30-year career-filled Rolodex and great relationships and just did it. I’m not better than anyone else. Anyone can do it. You just have to be willing to risk everything and open that door.

What advice do you have for young people looking at animation or other artistic industries as their career field?

Learn everything from everyone. Make mistakes and fix them. Leave judgment behind. Put curiosity center stage. Stay naïve, always seeing the world with fresh eyes. Love the people in the industry you are looking to get into, and help people. And then after you’ve been successful, give back.

What do you believe will encourage women to enter the creative field and seek to become leaders in such industry?

Seeing other women succeeding.  Seeing the paths that can be taken. “It isn’t easy being green,” as Kermit says. But “if you can dream it, you can do it,” said Walt Disney.

How do you keep your artistic spirit refreshed, even when under the pressure of production deadlines or life challenges?

I have more of a problem with how to stop being excited about projects. That’s my problem. I’m just as excited today as I was when I just was starting out. I love learning and that keeps me refreshed.

Why is an organization like Women in Animation important?

Women in Animation is about community and unity. And that’s important.

Any other thoughts or advice you wish to share with our membership?

Never give up!

Women in Animation thanks Tina for sharing her experience and perspective with our membership. WIA congratulates her on her 10th anniversary of CTN eXpo and wishes her continued success with CTN and whatever other doors she decides to walk through in her inspired, energetic life.

TINA_4---Tracey-Miller-Zarneke
TINA_3---Tracey-Miller-Zarneke
TINA_1---Tracey-Miller-Zarneke
TINA_5---Tracey-Miller-Zarneke
TINA_2---Tracey-Miller-Zarneke