Insider's Guide - Max the Mutt College of Animation, Art & Design
Whether you’re already at school, looking to find a new school or even considering moving overseas to study, nothing beats hearing from the students themselves! We speak to Gerardo Viruega about the ins and outs of studying at Max the Mutt College of Animation, Art & Design.
Whether you’re already at school, looking to find a new school or even considering moving overseas to study, nothing beats hearing from the students themselves! We speak to Gerardo “Gerry” Fonseca Viruega about the ins and outs of studying at Max the Mutt College of Animation, Art & Design in Toronto, Canada.
What’s the name of your school?
I study at Max the Mutt College of Animation, Art & Design.
What’s the name of the neighbourhood?
It’s located on Danforth Avenue, Toronto, Ontario.
Closest train station or public transport option?
Victoria Park station, Main Street Station and the Danforth GO Station are very close to school. All of them are less than 10 minutes away from school, with Main street having a bus that stops right in front of the building.
How long have you been there?
I'm halfway through the last year of my Animation Program.… Time really flies!
Why did you choose to study here?
I remember about five years ago I was looking for animation summer camps here and there. I knew that’s what I wanted to study, but I didn’t really know where. I took some weekly workshops here and there, but nothing really clicked. That is, until I found Max the mutt. I took an in-person, two-week traditional and digital animation workshop.
From that day and until this very day, close to finishing my last year of the Animation diploma, I can tell you MTM is nothing like other schools. I felt at home as soon as I stepped foot in that school.
The first thing you see when you walk outside your school?
Either a cozy neighbourhood, or the wide array of stores and businesses…depends on whether you look left or right.
The closest shop to outside your school is:
There are so many shops to choose from! Very affordable pizza across the street, Subway, Burger King, Bulk Barn, Dollarama, Metro Supermarket, Staples, and so many more. There’s even a Lowes Store, in case you decide to redesign your kitchen while you’re in the middle of animating a bouncing ball!
Your school is great, but you wouldn’t mind a bit less:
Max the Mutt has the potential to be really big. Bigger and newer facilities would be great to give better tools for instructors and students alike.
The unofficial uniform of your school is:
Always the style that represents the student the most. You won’t find someone who dresses the same as another. Just like our art, our style also reflects a lot of the artist’s heart… And maybe a lot of old clothes covered in conté for those studying the traditional courses.
A mandatory stop for anyone new to your city:
Grabbing a ferry ticket and sailing across the lake to Centre Island is a must. However, my favourite activity is definitely the Food Truck festival at The Beaches. You can enjoy some delicious food with amazing life performances.
A common myth about your school is:
Being a smaller school doesn’t mean the education is not as good. In fact, we have professional, knowledgeable and flexible teachers, all of which have worked or are currently working in their respective industry.
Having smaller classes just means the instructors’ attention can be even more focused on each student individually.
How would you describe the school community?
Max the Mutt has one of the most respectful, professional, caring and diverse communities I’ve ever seen. There’s no discrimination amongst anyone, and everyone treats each other as teammates.
A massive night out for students at your school is likely to be:
Jumping on the train after class to watch the newest superhero movie that’s come out. Playing Smash Bros. with your best buds on the way there, and afterwards even doing some Karaoke until our souls can’t take it anymore (or until our room reservation expires and we have to leave).
You won’t find a better place to eat than at:
Kensington Market is a neighbourhood that is filled to the brim with foods, markets and stores from a bunch of different cultures and parts of the world. Whenever you’re craving something very specific, you’re sure to find it somewhere near Kensington. If you’re an international student like me, you’ll feel right at home in at least one of those restaurants.
The strangest thing you’ve ever seen at your school is:
Two students made avatars of their teachers inside a fighting game. Soon enough, they showed them to both instructors, and they bet on who would win in that metaphorical fight. I will neither deny nor confirm that those students were my best bud and I…but if they were, I’d just say I won.
One thing you’d never change about your school is:
I would never change the instructors. They are the shining stars of the school. They are always willing to help, and the amount of knowledge and skill they have is incredible. Every instructor at MTM is very aware that every person has a different skill level, and they will always encourage you to be the best version of yourself.
But one thing you wouldn’t mind seeing changed is:
I’d love for more Administration Staff. They work super hard to make amazing choices for schedules, class arrangements, amongst many many other things. However, this means sometimes that information can take a while to be provided, and there can be a lot of changes mid-semester. They do a wonderful job, but I’d love it if they had more help to be even more efficient than they are now.
You’re learning a wide range of skills and software, what subjects or tools are you enjoying the most so far?
Sculpting in ZBrush brings me back to those wonderful times when I was a kid and played with real clay. Now I have the tool to make those Play-Doh stick figures into magnificent, anatomically correct 3D models.
What advice do you have for students thinking of studying for your degree?
Be ready to work a lot! Also, there’s always something new to learn. If you’re stubborn or refuse to take input from others, you’re just slamming the breaks on your progress. I know sometimes it’s hard to take criticism, or getting out of your comfort zone. But once you do both of these, I can assure you, you’ll get way stronger in your work. And who knows? Maybe you’ll end up being passionate about something you didn’t even know you liked. Happened to me with 3D modeling this year.
Take this advice, your art journey is like a boat…the skills you’ll learn are the motor, and your heart will be the anchor. You can never have more than the other. Skill without heart is boring, and heart without skill is a mess. Find your balance, and always have your dreams… That passion that will always remind you why you like doing this, as your lighthouse.
Someone gives you $1M to pimp out your school. You use it to:
I would love to get MTM a big building that’s exclusive to the school. I’d love to renew some of the older materials and get even more drawing references and models. The office would have a big upgrade, giving jobs to lots of people and making the overall process even smoother. And finally, I’d love to have a very large lunchroom where everyone can fit.
What personal projects are you working on at the moment? How do you stay motivated?
I have an ongoing comic series on Webtoon, Tapas and Instagram called “My other half”. I’m also working on my own book series, and I’m almost done with the second book. All of this combined with a constant practice of 3D modeling and sculpting. I always look back on my dreams as a child, and my journey of making people feel a certain way.
Where do you see yourself after graduation?
Doing 3D Character Modeling or Animation for a company who’s passionate about people rather than business. I’d love to stay in Toronto, have a place of my own, a cute little cat, and a job in which I can share wonderful stories with people who need them most.
Gerardo “Gerry” Fonseca Viruega is a Mexican artist with love to spare and dreams to grasp. His imagination runs faster than light. You can find more of Gerry's work on Instagram, Tapas, Webtoons and YouTube.