BURBANK — Armed with a folder packed with sketches, 20-year-old Matthew Lewis was eager Saturday to get honest critiques of his drawings from industry experts at this year's animation expo.
For Lewis, his folder of cartoon sketches represents his longtime passion in pursuing a career in character design and concept art.
"A lot of it is super, super competitive, and there is the warning that you have to get your [stuff] together now and every time you have your foot in the door, jam it in there and pry that door open as best you can," he said.
Lewis, an art student from Granada Hills, said he planned to show his drawings to "anyone who is willing to look."
He was one of hundreds of animation design hopefuls who attended the three-day Creative Talent Network Animation Expo at the Burbank Marriot Convention Center.
Warner Bros, Walt Disney Animation, DreamWorks Animation and Sony Pictures Animation were some of local studios that offered fellow designers an inside look at the industry.
While the event gave designers an opportunity to network with others in the same field, they also got the chance to learn about the industry in several workshops and from top animators.
Expo organizer Tina Price, who founded the Creative Talent Network, worked as an animator for 25 years at Walt Disney Animation, where she said fellow designers were always willing to give her advice and help her out with projects.
"Young people today don't have that opportunity, whether it is because they are short-term employment or the bad economy … so I wanted to re-create what I had received by bringing the professionals together with the students and their peers to connect on a creative level," she said.
Some studios have also cut their training programs due to limited funding, she said.
Price said the event offered designers a rare opportunity to meet the industry's leading animators.
"You'll never see them together again like this, and it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet them, talk to them, ask questions and get them to look at your work," she said.
Of 200 designers interviewed for various jobs at last year's event, 20 people were placed with studios, Price said.
"But they made, more importantly, lifetime career connections with these people," she said.
Making network connections was critical for 30-year-old Marc Taganas, who was looking for job opportunities in digital art.
The Poway resident came equipped with his portfolio, which he planned to show to representatives with major design companies.
And while Taganas is enjoying his work with Sony as a quality assurance tester, he hoped to broaden his connections in the industry at the event.
"It's pretty hard right now," he said. "While we are going to school, they kind of assured us that although the ecomony is kind of down right now, entertainment usually does really well."