Paul Conner: Guiding The Future of CGI


The list of incredible staff members with even more impressive resumes is never-ending on the CU Denver campus—but some of those resumes are more mysterious than others.

Paul Conner—instructor and Program Coordinator for the Digital Animation Center at CU Denver—is a man as interesting as he is secretive. He is so secretive, in fact, that while he can say which projects he’s worked on, he can’t say exactly what work he’s done for them. With experience working for Sony Pictures, IMAX, Reader’s Digest, and Boeing, Conner has learned valuable life lessons and gained unprecedented knowledge in the field of animation.

Conner originally received his inspiration to work in the animation industry from the legendary creator of Star Wars. “I think like most of us it was George Lucas. Star Wars shaped all of our futures,” Conner said.“All of us [in the animation industry] would agree the first time we saw [A New Hope], we were like, ‘Oh my god, I have to do that and there’s no question about it.’”

To achieve his dream of working in animation and emulating the works of those like Lucas, Conner attended the Colorado Institute of Art to earn his degree in visual communications. Additionally, he received a second degree in computer animation from the Academy of Art at the University of San Francisco.

Conner’s passion for animation has given him the opportunity to work on incredible projects and films. Throughout his career, he has contributed to a broad spectrum of projects such as Hollywood movies like Amazing Spiderman 2, Edge of Tomorrow, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. (Because he has signed a myriad of non-disclosure agreements, he can’t say exactly what he’s done, but he can say that he “got to work with assets” from these films). He has even done animation work for court litigations where he helped “animate [a] plane crash so that…everybody could see exactly what happened.”

When he’s not working on Hollywood movies or government projects, he does feature film work for local Denver films.

From his experiences working in a field that he loves and is passionate about, Conner has some advice for the college student who aspires to do the same and a reminder to students that hard work pays off. “You’re not born with this. Nobody is,” Conner said. “Some people are willing to put in the time. They are willing to put themselves into it and some people aren’t. Nothing comes for free.”

Conner also stresses the importance of loving your career: “I was telling my students how important it is to love what you do,” Conner said. “You have to. Otherwise, you don’t put yourself into it. My entire life, not a single day has ever gone by where I looked at the clock thinking ‘Oh my gosh. Two more hours until I get to go home!’ I’ve never done that.”

“[Loving what you do] is so important,” Conner said. “If I won the lottery I would still do this. I am not kidding. This is a hobby I get paid for.”

Conner can teach everyone a thing or two about the animation industry, including being passionate about the work that you do and keeping it a secret, too.

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