#CYPossible: Tony Bancroft, Media Arts Design

Completing coursework calls for celebration, and we are proud to celebrate with Cypress College’s newest degree- and certificate-holders. By achieving these education goals, graduates and certificate-earners are equipped to continue on their college path or find strong footholds in the career fields they’ve chosen. We’ve taken the journey with these outstanding students, and know that when they look to the horizon, they see what is #CYPossible.

Animator Tony Bancroft poses with some of his drawings.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

I grew up in Southern California my whole life. I’m one of the few! Born in Lynwood, CA, my twin brother and I had loved to draw since we were 3 years old. Drawing has been a part of my whole life. What I discovered as I moved into a career of 35 years in animation and working at Disney, Sony, Warner Brothers, and other studios is that I am a storyteller deep down. I love bringing characters and stories to life.

Why did you choose to attend Cypress College and how did being a student here help you find your first position after completion?

I started being inspired by Charles Schulz and his wonderful Peanuts comic strip as a kid. My brother and I created our own comic strips through High School thinking we would graduate and get syndicated into national newspapers. But, life had something else planned.

Along the way of pursuing the comic strip dream, my brother and I took an illustration course at Cypress College and met a student doing very cool clay-animated short films. My brother and I became friends with him and made a film of our own with him that summer. We were bitten by the animation bug and it changed our lives. By the way, that student was Eric Stefani and he and his sister, Gwen Stefani, started No Doubt and ultimately hit the big time in pop music with their album “Tragic Kingdom.”

A sketch of the Lion King character Pumbaa, a warthog.

What did you pursue after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.) and where are you now?

Once Tom and I were introduced to animation by Eric, the light bulb came on. We thought, if we can bring life to characters through clay-animation (which we were horrible sculptors) then perhaps we can animate with the drawings we loved to do. We did some research that summer and discovered that the best collage for animation was in Valencia, CA, just in our back yard! It was meant to be! Tom and I applied, got accepted and packed our bags to go to California Institute of the Arts (CalArts).

We were taught by the very best artists at Disney Studios. Most of our teachers worked at Disney during the day and then came to the campus to teach art night. Tom and I grew in our animation skills so quickly, which was a good thing since by a year and half in we had run out of money to continue at CalArts. Thank God, Disney came to interview for candidates in a brand new internship they were offering. We were the first twins to both get accepted into the internship and ultimately, get jobs at Walt Disney Feature Animation! I worked there for about 12 years and animated on “Rescuers Down Under,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” “The Lion King,” “Emperor’s New Groove” and I co-directed “Mulan.”

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

I’m happy to say that I have fulfilled many of my bucket list items and career goals in animation. I have worked at almost every major studio in Hollywood, most small independents studios, I’ve been an animator, Supervising Animator, Director, Producer, Exec Producer, and owned my own studio. I’ve written a book (“Directing for Animation”), co-host the longest running podcast on animation on iTunes, and have been the Program Director/Professor at two universities. I have spoken and taught at studios and schools around the world. Besides more of the same, I aspire to create a legacy of sharing my passion for animation that inspires the next generation of creatives to become the game-changers of tomorrow.

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I love animation. I think it brings meaning to people’s lives if told through the construct of a great story. Cinema can literally change lives and inspire us to be better people. I believe that animation has a timelessness that live action can’t match and because of that it has the ability to affect culture.

What are you most proud of?

Well, of course, the most rewarding creations I’ve been involved with is my children. As much as I love drawing and animating, there is nothing like being with my family.

If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?

I’ve never been one to regret choices I’ve made. Trust me, I have made plenty of mistakes and had devastating trials. But I feel like those are the necessary learning tools God gives us to improve and grow. I try to count it all joy and move forward with optimism in what the future holds. At least, that’s the plan on a good day.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Cypress College has always been an important place in my life. The school came about to me at a time that was pivotal in helping me to figure out what I wanted to do in life. The instructors I had were as good as any I ever had, especially in their level of care and understanding. The friends I made there impacted me in life-altering ways. For students looking at Cypress College, I would tell them that Cypress College is a place where new beginnings happen. I’m proof of that.