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Beaverton teen turns passion for animation into a profession

At 16 years old, Samuel Shin is already two years into his career as a professional animator. His love of Legos was the spark that led to his early career.

BEAVERTON, Ore. — Samuel Shin is not your typical teen.

“People are often really surprised when they find out how long I’ve been working,” Shin said.

This Beaverton 16-year-old is already well into his career as an animator.

“Most of the time they just assume it’s just something I got into in the past year mainly due to COVID and quarantine, but then I say, 'No I’ve been working, I guess, professionally for around two years,'” he said. “It’s super cool and super weird to say”

KGW first met Shin in 2019 when he landed a job at Black Plasma Studios. He was just 14 years old. But Shin’s love for animation started well before he ventured into the working world.  

“It all stems from Legos,” he said.

Legos were both the figurative and literal building blocks to a future career.

“I would watch these Legos stop motion animation videos on YouTube and that’s what really inspired me to take my cardboard boxes, that I could color in with crayon, and my laptop webcam, and take picture after picture,” he said.

He’d spend hours and hours meticulously moving pieces and snapping photos.

“I would sit with these sets for hours and make something that would amount to like three minutes after, like, a full day of just taking pictures over and over again,” Shin said.

Legos, again, inspired the next step. The Lego Movie pushed him to venture into computer animation that looked like stop motion.

“So, of course, I got dragged down that rabbit hole,” he joked.

It didn’t take long for Shin to grow his computer animation skills and to find friends with the same passions. Those friends then encouraged him to apply for a job posting at one of the top animation studios around.

Before he knew it, the then 14-year-old was animating professionally.

“Here I was, just barely in high school, working alongside them with the same kind of schedule and the same kind of work,” Shin said.

Online schooling with Oregon Virtual Academy was his ticket to making it work.

“It really helps me fit it in so I’m not battling for time on both sides,” he said.

Shin is now a senior in high school. He skipped ahead two grade levels. He is working on Black Plasma’s next project and focusing on his own venture.

“I want to see how it’s like to get a group of people together and see one of my visions come to reality.”

Shin plans to direct his own short film on a topic that helped him on his path to animation: friendship.

“Connections you make through gaming or common interests, such as animation like my own,” he said. “And I think it would be super interesting to explore those different type of dynamics in an artistic way that I haven’t really seen done before.”  

The 16-year-old is animating his own feature. He has this advice for kids and teens with a passion they want to make a profession.

“It’s more than just a hobby if you want to make it,” he said. “Just go out there and do it. What I find especially helpful to me is just that community aspect of it -- getting a group of people with common interests that you can bounce ideas off of and really build on each other and provide feedback too. That kind of environment has been immensely helpful for growth.”