It's hard for me to believe, but it's been 10 years since I finished Alien Song and it began its viral spread across the internet. I had been working on it for a few months, and sharing iterations of it with the CG-Char Forum to get feedback from other animators. Once I sent out the complete version, the list members started passing it around, and it eventually spread into mainstream email circulation, alongside the Dancing Baby. I had never intended for this clip to go beyond the confines of the forum, much less catapult me into a new career. There was no YouTube back then, of course, so it choked a lot of email servers in the process. I received thousands of emails in the ensuing months, but best of all was this one, dated November 15th, 1999:
I saw your Alien Song animation and really liked it. Would you
consider interviewing with Pixar? If so, send me an email and
we'll set something up.
I had to resurrect some archived email to find this, and I'm glad I still have it! This was two weeks after I had left my job at Presto Studios in San Diego to pursue film work in the San Francisco Bay Area. I was hoping to get into ILM to work on the Star Wars prequels. I interviewed with them three separate times, and luckily they never hired me! Pixar interviewed me in December, if memory serves, but I didn't start working there until March 14th, 2000. In the meantime I was doing some freelance work, including some visual effects for the film "Titan AE".
In addition to helping me land a job at Pixar, Alien Song got me a lot of attention on the internet (which was still pretty young), and a phone-call from Gloria Gaynor's (singer of I Will Survive) publicist. I was happy to hear that they weren't going to sue, considering I never licensed the music! Suddenly I was being asked to speak at CG and animation festivals around the world, and I even got some licensing deals. Of course for every legitimate business offer I got, there were 30 or so that were suspicious or never panned out.
Those were heady times. The internet bubble had yet to burst, computer animation was still in its infancy, no one had heard of Al Qaeda, and the iPod was just a twinkle in Steve Jobs' eye. My demo reel at the time was comprised mainly of Alien Song, a couple of other Blit tests, and some FX and CG work. I doubt I could get an interview at Pixar with the same reel today. It's a lot bigger company now, and there is a lot more competition out there, especially with schools like AnimationMentor.com cranking out skilled animators left and right. I am one lucky guy...
You can read about my process for creating Alien Song here, and there's a FAQ as well.