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As a starry-eyed freshman back in 2012, DigiPen BFA in Digital Art and Animation graduate Edward Davies was thrilled when he got a chance to meet Andreas Deja, the renowned animator behind some of his favorite Disney characters growing up. “I’m particularly a fan of his character Gaston,” Davies smiles, recalling the DigiPen campus visit when he got to experience a live sketch session of characters originally brought to life by the 30-year Disney veteran, including Scar, Jafar, and Lilo. “I got to speak to him about his career and the characters he’s animated!”

Eleven years later, Davies would meet Deja a second time, accepting the first annual Andreas Deja Scholarship Award at the 2023 Creative Talent Network (CTN) Animation Expo in November. In addition to a cash award for education from the CTN Foundation, the scholarship earned Davies 10 months of private mentorship sessions with Deja on Disney’s monumental “Illusion of Life” 2D animation techniques, developed by Walt Disney Productions’ original core animators, the “Nine Old Men.”

“I was completely blown away when I found out I’d won. It felt like a full-circle moment,” Davies says. “When he told me about the mentorship, he said it’s going to be how he was taught by one of Disney’s original Nine Old Men, Eric Larson! It feels like such a huge honor.”

Edward Davies holds his framed award certificate next to a smiling Andreas Deja.
Edward Davies smiles next to his new animation mentor for the next 10 months, traditional Disney animation master, Andreas Deja.

To be considered for the award, applicants were assigned to submit an animation of a tiger walking in a circle, from which Deja blindly selected a winner based on merit alone. “He didn’t know which animation was who’s when making a judgment. When he picked out my animation, he was quite surprised and happy that it turned out to be me,” Davies says of Deja, who still remembered their conversation at DigiPen back in 2012.

Davies has indeed spent lots of time honing his animation skills since then, most recently on Wild Goat Animation’s 2023 animated short, “Cowabunga,” another product of CTN. In 2021, Davies met a group of fellow animators in a CTN workshop class about producing animated shorts. The class loved the animatic that emerged from their workshop project so much, they banded together as Wild Goat Animation and finished it to completion with the support of the CTN Foundation after the expo.

Davies served as an animation supervisor on the international, 20-plus person team. Together, they worked virtually throughout the first half of 2022 to produce the film under the direction of another 30-year Disney Animation veteran, James Lopez. The animated short follows two aliens as they attempt to abduct a cow in their UFO so they can get creamer for their tea. “In my role as animation supervisor, I oversaw the animation of the characters and the animatic, making sure the timing and spacing was right,” Davies says.

Davies just completed his initial kickoff session with Deja and says he’s excited to continue deepening his 2D animation abilities. “One of the biggest things I took from DigiPen is that even as you get more skilled, you still should be constantly learning,” he says. “There will always be opportunities to grow!”