From Toonz to Walt Disney, an insight about Chatrasal Singh’s inspiring journey in animation field

Everyone wishes to live their dream life and Chatrasal Singh is one of those lucky few who has managed to accomplish it by securing a place at Walt Disney Animation Studios. Having worked on several feature films, TV shows, among other things across six countries for almost 15 years, it’s his passion and love for animation that has led him to this stature in his career. 

AnimationXpress got in touch with the enthusiastic animator, who hails from India, to gain a deeper understanding of his journey, challenges and much more. 

Getting into the animation industry

Singh revealed how in 10th grade he visited Toonz studio for the first time and that’s when he decided to do animation for a living. Toonz was also the first ever studio that Singh worked for as a professional in 2010. He said, “It gave a valuable jump start to my career as I got the opportunity to work in a professional production environment for a TV series. I am grateful for the guidance and opportunities given by Toonz CEO Jayakumar which served as a solid foundation for my animation journey.” Although Singh’s parents didn’t have much knowledge about the animation industry’s scope, they played a crucial role in his career by backing his passion for animation and helping him out for his animation studies in Vancouver.

Chatrasal Singh at Vanarts college, Vancouver

Having an industry presence of around 25 years, Toonz has nurtured and given a kickstart to careers of several people. Toonz Animation Academy is one of the well-known animation training institutions in India and with industry veterans and experts teaching there, it has been able to create a strong foundation for 2D and 3D animation. Over the years it has become successful in garnering young talent across India and Singh is one such example of that. At Toonz, Singh came to know about several departments in animation and how it fits in the pipeline. He said, “Toonz, having their departments well structured, and us working on a TV show called Jil Jil Genie, gave me a good idea about the entire production aspect like how shots move from layout to animation to further down the pipeline into lighting, compositing and so on.” 

Journey post Toonz 

After working in Toonz, Singh got an opportunity to work in another major animation studio, DreamWorks Animation (DWA). The studio is famously known for characters like Kung Fu Panda, Shrek, Puss in the Boots and others. At DWA Singh was able to further enhance his skills and delve deeper into the 12 principles of animation, especially the appeal in characters. He was hired to work on mini webisodes along with 20+ members of the team and within six months of joining the studio, Singh was promoted to the position of lead animator on the show. “The rapid growth trajectory at DreamWorks and their contagious artistic environment made it a pure joy to work there and it propelled me to a great height in my career,” he added.

About his current employment at Walt Disney, he mentioned, “It’s been an absolute pleasure and a dream come true to be working at the studio that has created some of the most inspiring and memorable movies. I grew up watching Disney movies like so many of us and to be a part of the team that has created such magnificent stories and characters is an unparalleled feeling.” He further said that everyday at Disney is a learning day, and even if he is only spending time with colleagues, there’s always something new to grasp.

Artists tend to have special projects that have had an impact on them or their career, Singh too has one. He is most attached to his project Wish Dragon, a Sony/Netflix movie, while working for Base FX studio in Xiamen, China. One of the main reasons behind this project being special for him is that he was involved in the movie production from the beginning. Wish Dragon was the first movie that was produced by the studio and with the team being small, they had to face challenges but they were able to pull through. He revealed, “I had the chance to work on the characters in the pre-production phase, where we do walk/run cycles and performance tests. This helps define the personality of the characters and also style of animation in the movie. In addition to this, I was also tasked with developing a character in the film, where I had to come up with a pose library and expressions sets for the character. This library of poses was used by the entire team in their performance of that particular character.”  The movie went on to become successful and popular among viewers. 

Chatrasal Singh with his team at Base FX Studio

Giving back to the community

As mentioned earlier, Singh has worked in over six countries and is currently based in the U.S. He says that although he is still learning something new everyday at Disney, he does plan on contributing towards further building the Indian animation society and mentoring students in India is something that is on his mind.  He mentioned that a major difference in the Indian and American education system is that the students in the U.S. have a plethora of options to choose after high school as far as animation is concerned, which is lacking in India. Singh said that even though the Indian students are taking help of American coaching through online classes, mentoring them in person is the need of the hour. The coaching institutes in the U.S. have trainers that are actively working in studios besides teaching which is not the case in India, hence the students lack the knowledge of industry demands and workflow. 

Singh’s wishlist is to give back to the Indian animation studio by successfully running a studio, create more jobs, develop original content, make it available worldwide, and get international traction.

Singh recently had an opportunity to judge Animation Xpress’ ANN Awards 2022 where he could review Indian content. Talking about ANN Awards, Singh said, “Being a Jury for ANN awards was a very enjoyable experience. I was very impressed with the submissions and the imaginative ideas of young talent in India. Certain aspects like animation, lighting and others could have been more refined in the short films, but what I absolutely cherished was the originality of the content and the creativity. I am looking forward to so much more to come from India.”  He also said that platforms like ANN Awards will encourage and inspire more people to showcase their talent and innovative content. 

Lastly commenting on his future plans, Singh said that currently he is soaking in all the filmmaking and storytelling concepts at Disney and eventually in the future he would want to create his own short film and feature film.