By the time Sohn reached the eighth grade, his father was ready for a change. “It’s funny talking about it now,” Sohn says. “It’s really hitting me. It was a really hard time; my parents worked very hard. My father wanted a nine-to-five job.” So, he sold the grocery store and moved the family to White Plains where he bought an art supply and framing store.Although Sohn’s father bought the store more for the framing side than the art supplies, artists would stop in, and Sohn’s mother, who knew her son was interested in animation, asked the artists about animation schools. Eventually, she found a summer program in animation at a visual arts school in Manhattan with classes taught by “Sesame Street” animators.
“Those guys were amazing,” Sohn says. “They did interstitials, numbers, little stories. But, while the guys next to me were animating with sand and markers, doing postcards and abstract animation, I was trying to figure out animals and doing motion studies. They said I had to go to California, that they don’t teach that stuff here.”
Someone recommended the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). Sohn applied and was accepted. “My mother didn’t want me to go,” Sohn says. “I had also gotten into New York schools. But my father said, ‘If that’s what you want, you’re going.’ I argued with my mother. I said, ‘I’ve got to get out of here.’ But, once I got on the plane and the jet engine turned on, I bawled my eyes out.”
Of course, it was the right thing to do. At CalArts, Sohn found animators who shared his passion.
“I’d be working until three in the morning, flipping pages, figuring out timing, the spacing in the drawings, the rhythm, to get a little elf jumping out of a tree, and the guy next to me was making a monkey climb a tree. We’d just nerd out. I made great friends there that I work with to this day.”While he was in school, he and his classmates would call animators they admired and ask them to lunch.
“We called all the living ‘Nine Old Men’ at Disney,” he says. “We were such huge fans. We were passionate about what they had learned and done and we had big dreams about pushing the form.”