BY RAEJHON JOHNSON
Domee Shi is the first female short film director in Pixar’s history. In this edition of Life after Sheridan, we cover the 29-year-old Sheridan grad who found success from Sheridan’s Animation program.
Shi was born in China but was raised in Toronto. She began to develop a passion for animation in high school, and joined a “supernerdy online community called DeviantArt”. It helped Shi connect with other artists and she credits it as a big reason why more women are getting into animation and illustration. She decided to enroll in Sheridan’s Animation program for a bachelors degree in 2007. She spent the next four years making connections and proving that she had great potential in her class.
“You’re kind of looked down at times because everyone was talented but all the recognition went to the guys mostly,” said Shi “It was hard to stand out but I think the main thing that helped me was just putting 100 percent into my work, remaining positive and making connections. It always gives you a leg up if you know somebody who knows somebody at Disney or something. I always made sure my work was shared and noticed on my blogs.”
When questioning her reason for applying to Sheridan, she credited a lot Sheridan artists who were her favourites and motivated her to attend the same school.
“Sheridan was how I realized I wanted to get into animation,” said Shi. “I loved a lot of local artists work on DeviantArt and a lot of them went to Sheridan. That motivated me to follow in their footsteps in a way.”
Shi became a cartooning instructor for about a month after she graduated, educating young and aspiring illustrators on things from comic books to character design and more. She claims her first job out of college was her Pixar internship, however, after some research, her LinkedIn shows she did time in 2009 at Chuck Gammage Animation Inc prior to that. She worked as a clean-up artist, inbetweener, storyboard artist, and animator for three months. In 2011, Shi started her internship with Pixar Animation Studios in California for three months.
At the time, Shi still had jitters presenting to others and had to overcome that as she would have to complete assignments each week to pitch to others. She lists her internship as one of the hardest challenges in her life but also one of the most fun. After three months she had finally proved her worth and was hired by Pixar following her internship. She spent time working on a well-known project such as Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur and Toy Story 4.
“In school, you make the drawing as perfect and detailed as you can so you get good marks, but Pixar is much different,” said Shi “You’ll have to redo your drawings many times and do it quickly, sometimes to me it’s like scribbles but you really do have to look at the bigger picture.
One day while Shi was sitting at her desk, she decided to make her own short film on the side. The film would be called Bao, based on her Chinese heritage, the story is set around an overprotective mother who doesn’t want to let go of her precious dumpling, which is actually based off Shi and her actual mother, even placing the film in the streets of Toronto, having the CN tower in one scene.
She ended up having her short-film shown before the showing of Incredibles 2, which she also worked on for about a month. She currently still works at Pixar Studios, working on their next big project.