DreamWorks & Summer Arts

My brain is still processing the amazing, fully scholarshipped adventure I just had. Collaborating with DreamWorks Head of Animation, Rex Grignon was a dream come true. See the Animation below…

I’ll talk about the things I learned below, but I first need to thank those scholarhippers who made this possible for me. Thanks to the Cartoon Talent Network who not only provided funding for this event but also gave me a free 3-day pass to their amazing expo – which I’ve attended the past 3 years. Every time I go to that event, it changes my life. Thanks to CSU Summer Arts, who also gave me a scholarship and connected me to people of diverse artistic disciplines. For those interested in next year’s animation course, it will actually be sponsored by Nickelodeon and focus on pitching animated tv series. And last, but not least, I’d like to thank my current employer Weber State Campus Store, who were just supportive all around as I pursued this adventure. We’ll soon have some exciting content to share from there as well.

It is impossible to convey everything I learned in this experience, but I’ll try to pass on the gems. The first surprise for me was exposure to the other disciplines. I’m already someone who seeks out diverse artistic experience, but from the moment we attended the performance by PUSH Physical Theater I knew I was among some unique, high caliber artists.

The Second surprise was collaborating with Todd Waring, a successful broadway, film, AND TV actor. He was an amazing teacher and really worked to understand our process. Through him, I understood acting on a MUCH deeper level. We created our shots in what began as a very random creation process, but the more we worked on bringing everything back to the character we’ve been creating, we discovered some awesome ideas. When Todd left, I almost teared up. The experience was THAT amazing.  I fortunately took good notes and kept a thorough record in my journal.

The Third surprise was Rex Grignon (check out his awesome sculptures). This guy worked on the original Toy Story, helped pioneer Dreamworks’ CG department, recently directed animation in Madagascar 3, and is a dedicated, humble teacher. I hope to work with him again and look forward to his mentorship in the future.  The most exciting collaborative moment we had was at the very end. I had an hour left and he wanted to try out a big change to my animation. We dove in and in 5 minutes raised my shot to a new level! He told me he’ll never forget how our group handled that final countdown crunch time. We were whistling, enthusiastic, and engaged. I was still moving about the room collaborating on others shots till the end. It was bliss – the kind of experience I’ve craved as I animated alone for the past two years. Rex was a joy to work with and I couldn’t thank him enough. He has the spirit of TRUE collaboration! He likes to learn and grow, but the LOVES to give.

I was also surprised by the impact of physical activity on our animation. We played a lot of Frisbee and some volleyball as a break from animation. I can’t articulate how this affected our team of animators. All I can say is that I definitely need to incorporate fun physical activity into my workflow. The results are immeasurable.

And the the last surprises I’ll share now are the great animators I worked with. Our lunch conversations were an outpouring of knowledge and passion for animation. We all grew substantially as both people and animators. I’m going to ask them to comment below so you can engage them in conversation and check out their work.

And now, my animation. When I look at this shot I feel excited for the future, for the greater animated shots coming soon! Setting aside some of the projects I promised  you (which I WILL finish), I’m now going to polish my reel with the abilities I gained in working with Rex.

Here’s the animation we made:

I can’t wait to share more of this journey with you and chat with you in the comments below. Talk soon!


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