In­no­va­tors

Animation Magazine - - Miptv Special Report -

Lo­ca­tion: Red­wood City, Calif. No. of em­ploy­ees: About 15 Founded: 2015 First project: In­va­sion! Cur­rent projects: In­va­sion!, a com­puter an­i­mated VR short in­ter­ac­tive movie. What We Say: A com­pany whose founders have ex­ten­sive an­i­ma­tion roots at Pixar, DreamWorks and Zynga Games, Baobab is at the fore­front of bring­ing that same magic of char­ac­ter-driven sto­ry­telling to the new VR space. What They Say: “In­va­sion! is an in­ter­ac­tive movie cre­ated for fam­ily au­di­ences and is uni­ver­sally ap­peal­ing. Un­like other VR con­tent, it’s not art­house niche, im­mer­sive jour­nal­ism, a movie trailer or a game. Right now, there are many tech demos (things be­ing very small, very big, pop­ping out at you) that are beau­ti­ful, but lack­ing story. We be­lieve story comes first and VR is an­other toy box used to con­vey sto­ries in a unique way. When the tech-ex­per­i­men­ta­tion phase passes, as it does for all new medi­ums, au­di­ences will hunger for great sto­ries the way that they have with books, movies, plays, etc. Baobab aims take VR past early adopters and to bring VR to the masses.” — Mau­reen Fan,

Co-Founder Lo­ca­tion: El Se­gundo, Calif. No. of em­ploy­ees: 9 Founded: 2013 First project: Dragon­flight Cur­rent projects: Dragon­flight, The Ab­bot’s Book What We Say: This award-win­ning team of vis­ual ef­fects artists cre­ated one of VR’s most jaw-drop­ping ex­peri- Lo­ca­tion: Los Angeles No. of Em­ploy­ees: 12 Founded: 2016 (Par­ent com­pany Proof, Inc., founded 2002) Projects: TBA theme park ride film attraction, with Mouse­trappe. What We Say: Pre­viz has been a game changer for VFX, and now pre­vis leader Proof is bring­ing the ex­per­tise it earned on more than 300 fea­tures to the world of VR with its new PRIME di­vi­sion. Set up to bring in di­rec­tors, cin­e­matog­ra­phers, pro­duc­tion de­sign­ers, etc., to use VR as a next-level vi­su­al­iza­tion and de­sign tool for their nar­ra­tive sto­ry­telling ex­pe­ri­ences, PRIME is poised to make a real im­pact on the new medium. What They Say: “Proof has al­ways been the first, best step for cre­atives to vi­su­al­ize their nar­ra­tive sto­ry­telling projects for the medi­ums of film and tele­vi­sion. I want PRIME to build on that legacy as the first, best step in the im­mer­sive vi­su­al­iza­tion and de­sign process for ex­pe­ri­ences that go be­yond the screen. For VR ex­pe­ri­ences, we’ll rapidly it­er­ate for re­view in an HMD to de­ter­mine what will and won’t work in VR. We’ll plan out 360 cap­ture in ex­act­ing de­tail, both for the sake of ef­fi­ciency on set and to make sure that the di­rec­tor gets pre­cisely what he needs to re­al­ize his vi­sion for the project. For cul­tural in­stal­la­tions, live events, lo­ca­tion-based en­ter­tain­ment and themed at­trac­tions, we’ll col­lab­o­rate with de­sign­ers early on in the cre­ative process us­ing our lat­est CG an­i­ma­tion tech­niques in con­junc­tion with VR as an im­mer­sive vi­su­al­iza­tion and rapid-pro­to­typ­ing toolset. The end re­sult will be the abil­ity to see an attraction or event (and their me­dia con­tent) from any an­gle, un­der any con­di­tions and from any point of view, and all of this be­fore a sin­gle shovel hits the ground or stage piece is con­structed.” — Christo­pher Bel­laci, Head

of Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment &

Sales Di­rec­tor, Jaunt Cin­e­matic VR Lab Lo­ca­tion: Los Angeles Years ex­pe­ri­ence: 30 First projects: Di­rected two-award win­ning MTV mu­sic videos: “Luka” for Suzanne Vega; and “Be Still My Beat­ing Heart” for Sting. Cur­rent projects: De­vel­op­ing a cin­e­matic VR story that will be a “magic re­al­ism” road trip mix­ing myth, ar­chae­ol­ogy, land­scape and time, told through a fe­male nar­ra­tor; di­rec­tor on And So the Wind Blew, a multi-screen au­dio­vi­sual piece that im­merses the au­di­ence in a mag­i­cal land­scape ac­ti­vated by the wind; pro­duc­ing and di­rect­ing Rhythms & Vi­sions III, the third in a se­ries of im­mer­sive in­ter­ac­tive au­dio­vi­sual events staged on the grounds of the USC School of Cin­e­matic Arts. What We Say: As the di­rec­tor of the new Jaunt Cin­e­matic VR Lab at USC’s School of Cin­e­matic Arts, Reckinger adds to her artis­tic cre­den­tials a key role of help­ing to es­tab­lish VR stud­ies in an aca­demic set­ting. This not only will help set best prac­tices for the medium, but also help a new gen­er­a­tion push its bound­aries in un­ex­pected di­rec­tions. What She Says: “The Jaunt Cin­e­matic VR Lab is an in­cu­ba­tor and pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity ded­i­cated to ex­plor­ing sto­ry­telling and cre­ative con­tent mak­ing with emerg­ing VR tech­nol­ogy. The USC lab sup­ports stu­dent and fac­ulty cre­ative projects that uti­lize the in­no­va­tive Jaunt VR cam­era and soft­ware tech­nol­ogy for pro­duc­tion and post-pro­duc­tion. Our SCA mak­ers come from the fields of live ac­tion, an­i­ma­tion, writ­ing and in­ter­ac­tive me­dia, and we en­cour­age them to be VR pi­o­neers, to col­lab­o­rate, mix tech­niques and freely ex­plore sto­ry­telling and ex­per­i­men­ta­tion with the new tools of vir­tual re­al­ity.”

Lo­ca­tions: Toronto No. of em­ploy­ees: 350 artists world­wide Year founded: 1995 First Project: Charmed Cur­rent projects: The Flash, Leg­ends of To­mor­row, Su­per­girl. What We Say: Vis­ual ef­fects talk of­ten fo­cuses too much on fea­ture films at the ex­pense of TV, which is rapidly catch­ing up with the big-screen in terms of need­ing a high num­ber of com­plex ef­fects shots. Deluxe En­ter­tain­ment’s Encore has been at the fore­front of bring­ing fea­ture-qual­ity ef­fects to weekly se­ries, on weekly bud­gets and on weekly sched­ules. Shows like The Flash, Su­per­girl, Leg­ends of To­mor­row and NCIS stand out be­cause of Encore’s ef­forts. What They Say: “Stu­dios, net­works, and the mas­sive fan bases for char­ac­ters like The Flash have new ex­pec­ta­tions for vis­ual so­phis­ti­ca­tion and ef­fects in their shows. We just com­mit to do­ing the im­pos­si­ble – with the right team in place we dive in and do things we’ve never at­tempted be­fore. With that mantra and a work­flow that elim­i­nates un­pro­duc­tive tasks, we took on Su­per­girl and Leg­ends of To­mor­row and ex­panded our team with like-minded peo­ple. This year we com­pleted 59 to­tal episodes and 6,500 shots, and we look for­ward to what­ever chal­lenges come our way.”

— Ar­men Kevorkian, Exec. Cre­ative Dir./ Sr. VFX Su­per­vi­sor Lo­ca­tion: Bur­bank No. of em­ploy­ees: free­lancers. Founded: 2013 First project: Stretch Cur­rent projects: The Purge: Elec­tion Year, Hard­core Henry, Scan­dal. What We Say: Stay­ing ahead of the rapidly chang­ing VFX and post land­scape is a dif­fi­cult job, and one that VFX Le­gion has met head-on. It’s cre­ated a fully re­mote, largescale post-pro­duc­tion and VFX stu­dio that works with a world­wide ta­lent pool of in­no­va­tors, cre­ative thinkers and prob­lem solvers to meet the shift­ing needs and bud­gets of con­tem­po­rary con­tent cre­ation. What They Say: “Artists have been dis­placed all over the world, or se­nior artists are want­ing to re­turn home and stop hav­ing to travel the world to keep work­ing in VFX. Le­gion is that chance. We de­vel­oped a sys­tem that very ex­pe­ri­enced artists can con­trib­ute mean­ing­ful work on vis­ual ef­fects from all over the globe. We can keep the qual­ity high be­cause of the level of own­er­ship that the artists take over their work. They truly are the most im­por­tant part of the process.”

— James David Hat­tin, Cre­ative Di­rec­tor/VFX Su­per­vi­sor Lo­ca­tions: Bos­ton, Los Angeles No. of em­ploy­ees: 75 Founded: 2010 First project: Zookeeper Cur­rent projects: Ghost­busters, The Mag­nif­i­cent Seven, Pa­tri­ots Day. What We Say: If you saw Hard­core Henry, you saw ZERO at work — and prob­a­bly didn’t no­tice. Not only was the mass de­struc­tion and may­hem the stu­dio added to ac­tion se­quences in­dis­tin­guish­able, it was all done for a fea­ture con­ceived in 360 de­grees and ex­e­cuted like a first-per­son shooter video game. Pretty cool. What They Say: “The funny thing about vis­ual ef­fects is that the bet­ter you do your job, the less no­tice­able you ac­tu­ally are. At ZERO we strive to cre­ate ef­fects that blend seam­lessly into the world, en­hanc­ing the nar­ra­tive rather than dis­tract­ing from it. That might mean chang­ing sum­mer to win­ter in Black Mass, or mak­ing 40 shots across Hard­core Henry’s high­way chase feel like one con­tin­u­ous se­quence. Achiev­ing these ef­fects with no tell­tale signs that a com­puter was ever in­volved is our Holy Grail. We’re con­tin­u­ally look­ing for ways to make vis­ual ef­fects feel real, whether work­ing on an ex­plod­ing truck or an oth­er­worldly crea­ture. We don’t want it to dis­tract from the story — we want it to be the story.” — Brian Drewes, Co-Founder

Em­ployer: LAIKA Lo­ca­tion: Portland, Ore. Years ex­pe­ri­ence: 10 at LAIKA First project: Co­ra­line Cur­rent project: Kubo and the Two Strings What We Say: Noth­ing has changed the way stop-mo­tion an­i­ma­tion is made more than the rise of rapid pro­to­typ­ing (a.k.a. 3D print­ing), and no stu­dio has made more ad­vanced use of it than LAIKA un­der the di­rec­tion of Brian McLean, whose ef­forts re­cently earned him a Sci-Tech Achieve­ment Award from the Acad­emy. What He Says: “LAIKA’s Rapid Pro­to­typ­ing sys­tem takes a cen­tury-old tech­nique of re­place­ment an­i­ma­tion and fuses it with 21st cen­tury 3D print­ing tech­nol­ogy. By har­ness­ing the power and con­trol of com­puter an­i­ma­tion soft­ware and com­bin­ing it with state of the art 3D print­ers, we are able to achieve lev­els of emo­tion and sub­tle fa­cial per­for­mances that the medium of stop-mo­tion has never seen be­fore. It is amaz­ing what hap­pens when you com­bine two pow­er­ful tech­nolo­gies, and put them in the hands of an ex­tremely tal­ented crew. It never ceases to amaze me how far the RP team pushes this tech­nique, and in the process re­de­fines what is con­sid­ered pos­si­ble. I am hon­ored to get to work at a stu­dio that re­wards cre­ativ­ity and risk-tak­ing, and along­side such a hard­work­ing and tal­ented group of peo­ple. I can­not wait to show the world what we have been able to do with RP and fa­cial an­i­ma­tion on Kubo and the Two Strings.” Lo­ca­tions: Cor­val­lis, Ore. No. of em­ploy­ees: 60 Founded: 1997 First prod­uct: TrackIR, the orig­i­nal head tracker for gam­ing. Cur­rent prod­ucts: Prime cam­eras, Flex cam­eras and Mo­tive soft­ware. What We Say: With the line be­tween live ac­tion and an­i­ma­tion in­creas­ing blurred, tools like Op­tiTrack’s 3D track­ing hard­ware and soft­ware are mak­ing it sim­pler and eas­ier than ever to stitch the two to­gether. Its pre­cise track­ing helps an­i­ma­tors it­er­ate more quickly and fo­cus their ef­forts on de­tail work, rather than clean up. And that’s no small thing. What They Say: “We like engi­neer­ing so­lu­tions for hard prob­lems and then giv­ing cus­tomers tools that re­quire less and less of their at­ten­tion as time goes on. Re­gard­less of the size of the sys­tem, from the largest per­for­mance cap­ture stage in the world to a con­fer­ence room sys­tem, ev­ery cus­tomer ben­e­fits from this fo­cus. And with mas­sive growth in in­door drone track­ing for re­search, and of course the ex­plo­sion of VR, we’re see­ing uni­ver­si­ties, high schools and even ju­nior high schools in­stalling sys­tems for mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary use. That gives us a sense that we’re do­ing the right things in prod­uct de­vel­op­ment.”

— Brian Nilles, Chief Strat­egy Of­fi­cer Lo­ca­tion: Metz, France No. of em­ploy­ees: 15 Founded: 1991 First prod­uct: TVPaint An­i­ma­tion Cur­rent prod­uct: TVPaint An­i­ma­tion 11 Pro­fes­sional Edi­tion What We Say: Though the com­pany is small, its reach is large be­cause TVPaint is the best choice for ef­fi­ciently cre­at­ing work that looks good enough to have been done on pa­per. TVPaint has earned ac­co­lades and been used to make such di­verse films as Song of the Sea, The Red Tur­tle and The Dam Keeper. What They Say: “The ver­sa­til­ity and flex­i­bil­ity of TVPaint An­i­ma­tion com­bines tra­di­tional tech­niques (light ta­ble, an­i­ma­tion disk, shift and trace, flip, etc.) with dig­i­tal ca­pac­i­ties (auto save, fast col­or­ing process, spe­cial ef­fects). ... TVPaint An­i­ma­tion em­u­lates pa­per an­i­ma­tion to make the dig­i­tal an­i­ma­tion ex­pe­ri­ence as com­fort­able as pos­si­ble.” — Elodie Moog, Sales Man­ager

Lo­ca­tion: At­lanta Ed­u­ca­tion: Uni­ver­sity of Akron, Record­ing Work­shop. Years ex­pe­ri­ence: 24 First project: Record­ing and post-pro­duc­tion on an ad agency job at Beach­wood Stu­dios. Cur­rent projects: Au­dio post and mu­sic for Adult Swim shows, com­mer­cial work for var­i­ous ad agen­cies and clients, and net­work brand­ing. What We Say: Just as Adult Swim has helped de­fine an en­tire brand and genre for an­i­mated com­edy aimed at young (and notso-young) adults, Kohler’s mu­sic has brought an au­dio iden­tity to the net­work’s shows that de­fines the sound of its brand as much as the an­i­ma­tion de­fines the vi­su­als. What He Says: “Since I be­gan my ca­reer, I’ve had the op­por­tu­nity to mix at Sky­walker Ranch, to col­lab­o­rate with great artists, and to have made mu­sic that has played con­tin­u­ously on net­works for years, on ev­ery con­ti­nent. It re­ally makes it well worth the long hours in­vested. I think I will al­ways be mod­i­fy­ing, cus­tomiz­ing, adding to, and, at the same time, stream­lin­ing my stu­dio and process. It’s what in­flu­ences new ideas for me. I plan to con­tinue work­ing in sound de­sign, but I’m also mov­ing to­ward more mu­sic com­po­si­tion, and hope­fully into new av­enues of mu­sic col­lab­o­ra­tion as we all em­brace shar­ing and cloud op­tions in our work process.” Lo­ca­tion: Los Angeles Ed­u­ca­tion: Villa Lo­bos Con­ser­va­tory in Rio de Janeiro. Years of ex­pe­ri­ence: Al­most 40. First project: Play­ing mu­sic with a jazz band at a li­brary in Rio de Janeiro at 16 years old. Cur­rent projects: The Nut Job 2, De­spi­ca­ble Me 3, The Last An­i­mals. What We Say: An ac­com­plished mu­si­cian in mul­ti­ple forms and gen­res, Pereira has helped bring the sound of mu­sic for an­i­ma­tion into the main­stream. His lengthy list of an­i­ma­tion cred­its both past and present proves he’s given shape to the in­ter­ac­tion of an­i­ma­tion and mu­sic in to­day’s in­dus­try. What He Says: “I hope I have a long life ahead of me, so my list of ac­com­plish­ments is noth­ing com­pared to what is still to come. In one way or an­other, I write mu­sic ev­ery day and I want to con­tinue like that for­ever. I’m thank­ful to ev­ery­one and ev­ery­thing for how far I’ve got­ten as of now and also, I hope I can con­nect more my love for na­ture and en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues with my life as a mu­si­cian who is will­ing to be part of projects that are geared towards the pro­tec­tion of all na­ture’s gifts to us.” Lo­ca­tion: San Francisco Ed­u­ca­tion: Uni­ver­sity of Chicago Years of ex­pe­ri­ence: 13 First project: “Cisco Sys­tems spon­sored a mas­sive in­dus­trial event in which four re­gional VPs rapped, both as a video and on­stage, about their teams and ‘makin’ dealz.’ I ar­ranged and pro­duced the mu­sic track, and coached their per­for­mances.” Cur­rent projects: Cre­ative Di­rec­tor of Mu­sic and Sound, Google ATAP. Mu­sic and sound su­per­vi­sor, for Pearl, a Google Spot­light Story di­rected by Pa­trick Os­borne; and Rain or Shine, a Google Spot­light Story di­rected by Felix Massie and pro­duced by Nexus Pro­duc­tions. What We Say: VR is new ter­ri­tory for mu­sic, as well as for sto­ry­telling, art and vi­su­als, and Stafford is in the trenches di­rectly solv­ing those prob­lems and bring­ing au­dio flare to some of the most suc­cess­ful VR projects to date. What He Says: “Ul­ti­mately, mu­sic’s role in VR is the same as it is in film, the­ater and games: to en­hance nar­ra­tive and emo­tional im­pact. If I’m do­ing my job, the au­di­ence never has to re-think mu­sic’s role in or­der to en­joy a story. But in VR, mu­sic has to func­tion dif­fer­ently. It has to an­swer new ques­tions. Tra­di­tion­ally, com­posers and au­dio pro­fes­sion­als never worry about a sin­gle au­di­ence mem­ber tilt­ing or ro­tat­ing their head. They don’t need to ac­count for that in their mu­sic or mix. But in Glen Keane’s Duet, the mu­si­cal score knows if you’re look­ing at the girl, the boy, the dog, or just look­ing up at the stars. And in Pa­trick Os­borne’s Pearl, the mix knows when the mu­sic is sung by on­screen ac­tors over there; when it’s played through the speak­ers of an ag­ing car stereo; or when mu­sic acts as the nar­ra­tive un­der­score. When it’s just ... mu­sic.”

Twirly­woos Masha and the Bear Dot Na­ture Cat

eliv­er­ing high-qual­ity work for mul­ti­ple plat­forms within short time frames and lim­ited bud­gets is stan­dard op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dure for any an­i­ma­tion stu­dio. But few are likely able to live up to the turn­around stan­dard set by Brain Zoo Stu­dios, which has twice de­liv­ered a com­plete 80-minute an­i­mated fea­ture for Marvel in six months.

“All of that pro­duc­tion was done here in the U.S.; none of it was out­sourced, which is an­other thing that we’re very adamant about, which is keep things local and keep things here,” says Mo Davoudian, CEO and cre­ative di­rec­tor of the En­cino, Calif.-based stu­dio, which is cel­e­brat­ing its 20th an­niver­sary. “I don’t know of any other com­pany that’s de­liv­ered a film in six months, any­where.”

And Brain Zoo de­liv­ers in more ar­eas than just fea­tures. Spring­ing from a back­ground in gam­ing, the com­pany pro­duces an­i­ma­tion and vis­ual ef­fects for ev­ery­thing from game cinematics and trail­ers to live ac­tion, mo­tion cap­ture, com­mer­cials, VR and an­i­mated shorts.

“To us, it’s all a va­ri­ety of tech­niques,” says Davoudian. “The tech­niques are all the same and it’s just the vis­ual bar you’re shoot­ing for, whether it’s pho­to­real or it’s car­toony.”

The gen­e­sis of Brain Zoo came in the early 1990s, when Davoudian was study­ing in­dus­trial de­sign at Art Cen­ter Col­lege of De­sign in Pasadena. “Juras­sic Park came out and as soon as I saw what was be­ing done with the same soft­ware I was us­ing I was like, OK, no more cars and prod­ucts,” he says.

Davoudian found like-minded stu­dents and made two short films — Nora and Firestorm — while in school and in­terned at a gam­ing com­pany. Around grad­u­a­tion, he and a few friends de­cided to form Blue Zoo and cre­ated a demo reel that earned a lot of in­ter­est when it was shown around at E3.

“There was a need for a com­pany like ours that would do the cre­ative, the di­rect­ing, and be able to tell a story in the cinematics and trail­ers,” Davoudian says. “We fo­cused heav­ily on those things and set up our pipe­line based on those pro­duc­tion sched­ules. It gave us a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence in sto­ry­telling and cre­at­ing IPs, and that es­sen­tially be­came our ex­per­tise.”

Brain Zoo’s best-known IPs in­clude a pair of short films: Pepe & Lu­cas, an award-win­ning an­i­mated short that’s also been spun off to an in­ter­ac­tive book; and Nora, a re­cent re­make of the short Davoudian made in col­lege, which the stu­dio also is look­ing to pitch as a se­ries. Brain Zoo also has won awards for its work on video games such as Strat­ego, Lost Planet and Dark­watch, the later of which won eight awards over­all in­clud­ing five Davey Awards.

While the type of work the stu­dio does varies from year to year, the com­pany is right now spend­ing about 40 per­cent of its time on VR projects, with the rest di­vided be­tween games, trail­ers, cinematics and com­mer­cials.

“It’s all sto­ry­telling, it’s all the same process — it’s just a mat­ter of what’s longer and what’s shorter in terms of time,” he says.

Brain Zoo has a core group of about 20 peo­ple, which has scaled up to as many as 80, Davoudian says. And he says the com­pany prefers to work with local ta­lent, though it has had to ven­ture be­yond South­ern Cal­i­for­nia to work vir­tu­ally with artists all over the world.

Hav­ing notched 20 years in busi­ness, Davoudian says Brain Zoo plans to con­tinue to op­er­ate as an in­de­pen­dent stu­dio and cre­ate its own con­tent.

“Right now it’s (a lot of) VR and tele­vi­sion, es­pe­cially tele­vi­sion,” he says. “We’re re­ally mak­ing an ef­fort to do the se­ries work and es­sen­tially be­come show run­ners to cre­ate unique and orig­i­nal prop­er­ties for our­selves and for clients.” [

Tis a hit for PBS and an aus­pi­cious en­try into an­i­ma­tion for kids for Wind Dancer Films. By Tom McLean.

hat Wind Dancer Films’ first chil­dren’s an­i­mated se­ries — PBS new­comer Ready Jet Go! — is a hit comes as no sur­prise to any­one fa­mil­iar with the vet­eran fam­ily en­ter­tain­ment com­pany’s track record.

“If you look over the years, it’s al­ways been about fam­ily and com­edy, and when we stay in those lines we do in­cred­i­bly well,” says Dete Me­serve, prin­ci­pal at Wind Dancer, best known as the pro­duc­tion com­pany be­hind clas­sic TV shows like Roseanne and Home Im­prove­ment and hit fea­tures in­clud­ing the Mel Gibson com­edy What Women Want.

And Ready Jet Go! is on track to main­tain Wind Dancer’s rep­u­ta­tion. The show reached 8.4 mil­lion view­ers, in­clud­ing more than 3.1 mil­lion kids, and racked up more than 30 mil­lion streams on dig­i­tal plat­forms through Fe­bru­ary.

Me­serve is a vet­eran of Wind Dancer who has been pro­moted to prin­ci­pal of the com­pany as it en­ters the chil­dren’s en­ter­tain­ment and an­i­ma­tion sec­tor, with Nick­elodeon vet Rusty Tracy join­ing the com­pany as VP of an­i­ma­tion.

Ready Jet Go! is cre­ated by Craig Bartlett, cre­ator of Hey, Arnold! and ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer of Di­nosaur Train. He pitched the se­ries while dis­cussing gen­eral fam­ily pro­gram­ming ideas with Me­serve.

“We were do­ing kids shows at the time, but not an­i­ma­tion, and we were ex­cited about the ideas he had from a story stand­point, about look­ing at space and look­ing at Earth through the eyes of an alien kid,” says Me­serve, who im­me­di­ately said yes to Bartlett’s pitch.

The show — made in con­junc­tion with NASA’s Jet Propul­sion Lab­o­ra­tory in Pasadena — fol­lows young Sean and Sydney, who be­friend the new kid on their street, Jet Propul­sion, whose fam­ily mem­bers hap­pen to be aliens from the planet Bortron 7. To­gether, they ex­plore the so­lar sys­tem and the ef­fects it has on the sci­ence of our planet.

“You have the comedic el­e­ments and the story el­e­ments that we’re all very fa­mil­iar with,” says Me­serve. “But then you get this other el­e­ment, which re­ally got us got us very ex­cited, which is we get to weave into there some kind of a cur­ricu­lum.”

That ed­u­ca­tional fac­tor, plus the cre­ative and busi­ness fac­tors, was what led Wind Dancer to go all in on an­i­ma­tion and re­quire the skills of some­one like Tracy, who set up a scal­able pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity for the stu­dio.

“One of my re­spon­si­bil­i­ties at Nick was be­ing a li­ai­son with all of the ven­dors that we worked with, as well as find­ing new ta­lent and new folks to work with,” he says. “If I know a stu­dio that is local or in­ter­na­tional that would be a per­fect fit (for a spe­cific project), I’ll try to place the work with the best-fit folks as pos­si­ble.”

For Ready Jet Go!, all the writ­ing and cre­ative di­rec­tion is done in Glendale, with a part­ner team in Van­cou­ver do­ing pre­pro­duc­tion and a stu­dio in In­dia do­ing the an­i­ma­tion.

“It’s re­ally quite an in­ter­na­tional process and, in terms of our growth mov­ing for­ward, we’ve now built the base of the in­fra­struc­ture that we need,” says Tracy. “The ma­chine is there and at this point it is just kind of adding more seats to it as need be.”

Projects in de­vel­op­ment in­clude Not a Box, based on the best sell­ing book by An­toinette Por­tis, as well as a preschool prop­erty that Mer­seve says plays younger than Ready Jet Go! and is al­ready gar­ner­ing in­quiries from po­ten­tial part­ners. An an­nounce­ment on a sec­ond sea­son of Ready Jet Go! is ex­pected soon.

With a track record like Wind Dancer’s, even creators are show­ing up in droves.

“We are meet­ing with peo­ple and look­ing for strong show creators,” says Me­serve. “We’re try­ing to fig­ure out who are the creators we’d like to work with, so we’re in that very fer­tile place where great ideas are com­ing out and in a cou­ple months we’ll be able to an­nounce some cool things.” [

In life, there are dis­qual­i­fiers. That is, there are cer­tain things which can be said or re­vealed that in­stantly dis­qual­ify a per­son from be­ing an ex­pert on a sub­ject or hav­ing their opin­ion val­ued by oth­ers, and quickly re­veals the self-pro­claimed author­ity to be a char­la­tan.

In an­i­ma­tion, hands down, it’s the loath­some mis­use of the made-up word, “an­i­ma­tions.” “An­i­ma­tions” is not a word. Say­ing “an­i­ma­tions” to an in­dus­try vet­eran is like talk­ing about “sheeps” to a shep­herd.

Talk­ing about “an­i­ma­tions” is like putting ketchup on a steak or pineap­ple on a pizza: Just be­cause some peo­ple do it doesn’t make it OK. An­i­ma­tion is more pop­u­lar than ever: it’s a buzz­word, it’s sin­gu­lar, it’s plu­ral, but it’s most cer­tainly not spelled with an S.

I was re­cently hor­ri­fied to dis­cover a lead­ing global 3D-an­i­ma­tion soft­ware com­pany snuck an “an­i­ma­tions” right in the mid­dle of one of their ren­der menus. Oh, the irony.

Free­dom of speech? Ab­so­lutely. Free­dom to use the word, “an­i­ma­tions”? To the gal­lows with thee!

There is a long list of ad­di­tional dis­qual­i­fiers that need to be put on ev­ery pro­fes­sional’s “Don’t Ever, Ever Do” list, but here are a few of the re­peat of­fend­ers I’ve wit­nessed over the decades, just to get you started:

Putting a count­down at the be­gin­ning of your an­i­ma­tion demo reel. I’ve known more than a cou­ple of an­i­ma­tion re­cruiters who frown upon this prac­tice, po­litely la­bel­ing it a tired cliché (while clearly yearn­ing to use a much-more ma­ligned term), that qual­i­fies for an au­to­matic and im­me­di­ate eject, the rest of the reel to never be seen.

Call­ing your­self “Ma­jor Epic Fea­ture Film An­i­ma­tion Pro­duc­tions Com­pany” when you are in re­al­ity a new grad­u­ate from col­lege look­ing for an en­try-level job. Open­ing your demo reel with claims of be­ing a com­pany and not a sin­gle en­tity look­ing for a job makes it seem like you are try­ing to fool hu­man re­sources into think­ing you’re big­ger than you re­ally are. That, or you sim­ply think it’s cool. Ei­ther way, this is a very ef­fec­tive tech­nique for de­valu­ing your stock in the eyes of a re­cruiter.

Also, fathom the per­son who brags about want­ing to be a pro­fes­sional ac­tor but doesn’t know who Kevin Spacey is.

How about the in­dus­try out­sider who wants to cre­ate an an­i­mated TV se­ries that “ap­peals to all ages”?

What about be­ing a graphic de­signer spe­cial­iz­ing in cor­po­rate iden­tity and not know­ing the dif­fer­ence be­tween sta­tionery and sta­tion­ary?

Or us­ing such busi­ness clichés as “meet or ex­ceed ex­pec­ta­tions,” “take it to the next level,” “win-win,” “one-stop shop” or “think out­side the box” while claim­ing to be a busi­ness that thinks out­side the box.

How about the self-pro­claimed mu­sic guru who brags about start­ing a se­ri­ous rock band that plays real mu­sic while re­fer­ring to the bass player as “backup gui­tar”?

Lastly, what about the per­son who claims to be the world’s big­gest Tarantino fan “ex­cept for all the vi­o­lence and old mu­sic”?

Frus­trat­ingly enough, the list goes on and on. Feel free to send me your own dis­qual­i­fiers and I’ll add it to the pile.

Other than pro­vid­ing some sort of mildly sour amuse­ment from these ris­i­ble con­tra­dic­tions, there’s a point to all of this. A cer­tain level of pro­fes­sion­al­ism needs to be main­tained for a dis­ci­pline to re­main held in high re­gard. The more pur­ported ex­pert an­i­ma­tors use “an­i­ma­tions,” the more it re­flects poorly on the in­dus­try. It only takes a few spoiled bushels to ruin the en­tire or­chard.

The real dan­ger in the overuse of an in­cor­rect spell­ing of a word or made-up slang term, is that if said mal­a­prop­ism runs amok and unchecked for a long enough pe­riod of time, it has a chance of ac­tu­ally be­com­ing a real thing. As a pro­fes­sional in your field, it’s your re­spon­si­bil­ity to keep this from hap­pen­ing. Don’t con­trib­ute to mass fal­lacy by be­ing ap­a­thetic, which is just as rep­re­hen­si­ble — if not more so — than aid­ing and abet­ting. In your an­i­ma­tion trav­els, if you come across some­one or some­ones (see what I did there?) that com­mits this heinous crime, you have my per­mis­sion to rep­ri­mand and cor­rect them with ex­treme prej­u­dice.

Strive to be the great­est am­bas­sador of your cause. Take pride not only in your work, but in your in­dus­try. Help all those in­volved raise the over­all stan­dard of pro­fes­sion­al­ism in your cho­sen dis­ci­pline. Both artist and client stand to ben­e­fit. Martin Gre­bing is a mul­ti­ple- award- win­ning an­i­ma­tion pro­ducer, small-busi­ness con­sul­tant and pres­i­dent of Fun­ny­bone An­i­ma­tion. Reach him at www. fun­ny­bonean­i­ma­tion.com.

Phase three of the Marvel Cin­e­matic Uni­verse kicks off with Cap­tain Amer­ica: Civil War, in which Cap (Chris Evans) goes rogue and bat­tles Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) af­ter S.H.I.E.L.D. be­comes cor­rupted and the gov­ern­ment tries to rein in the Avengers.

Di­rected by broth­ers An­thony and Joe Russo, Civil War is a pre­lude to the up­com­ing two-part Avengers: In­fin­ity War saga. The ac­tion cen­ter­piece of Civil War is the air­port bat­tle be­tween team Cap and team Iron Man, fea­tur­ing new­com­ers Spi­der-Man (Tom Hol­land), Black Pan­ther ( Chad­wick Bose­man) and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd).

“We had to work very hard on a nar­ra­tive level to de­ter­mine how to get them there; put them in a box and trap them in a cor­ner, forc­ing them to take sides with Cap and Iron Man,” says An­thony Russo. “There was deft ma­neu­ver­ing of plot, char­ac­ter, emo­tional ma­nip­u­la­tion and phys­i­cal chore­og­ra­phy, us­ing their abil­i­ties against one an­other. Ev­ery­thing is an über-ob­jec­tive for each side. But at the same time, you have many mini-mo­ti­va­tions, pulling ev­ery­body through the fight on dif­fer­ent lev­els. For in­stance, Pan­ther just wants to kill the Win­ter Sol­dier and he goes right to it. Spi­der-Man doesn’t re­ally un­der­stand the stakes of the fight but he can’t be­lieve that Tony Stark has taken an in­ter­est in him, and he just wants to im­press him and help him.”

In­dus­trial Light & Magic, un­der the VFX su­per­vi­sion of Rus­sell Earl, han­dled the ma­jor­ity of Civil War, es­pe­cially the air­port bat­tle, which took up more than 40 per­cent of the di­rec­tors’ at­ten­tion in post. Ev­ery­thing was shot on green-screen in At­lanta and ILM added the vir­tual air­port as well as the in­tri­cate char­ac­ter an­i­ma­tion. There was a pre­vis cut by The Third Floor along with cuts by the stunt and ed­i­to­rial teams, and ILM added a few wide shots to pro­vide more scope.

What turned the se­quence around, how­ever, was hav­ing Ant-Man turn into Gi­ant Man and Spi­der-Man tak­ing in­spi­ra­tion from the bat­tle of Hoth in The Em­pire Strikes Back to take him down by wrap­ping his web around his legs.

“He grows to 50 feet and that was a big mass and weight change from an an­i­ma­tion stand­point,” Earl says. The Rus­sos de­cided that he should stag­ger like a “drunken baby” and Rudd moved around in a mo-cap suit like Godzilla. They worked on fur­ther mo-cap re­tim­ing with dif­fer­ent beats for grab­bing, run­ning and jump­ing, and used var­i­ous tools to stitch the per­for­mance to­gether and then aug­mented it with key-frame an­i­ma­tion.

“One of the most in­ter­est­ing things about the se­quence to me has been that poor (An­tMan) couldn’t be more of a red shirt in the whole fight and then he ends up be­ing the cen­tral piece when he turns (into Gi­ant Man),” says An­thony Russo. Spin­ning a New Web­head The big chal­lenge, though, was in­tro­duc­ing Spi­der-Man into the MCU. Like all the other Avengers, his move­ments and web-sling­ing needed to be grounded in real-world physics. ILM did nu­mer­ous tests with the Rus­sos, who wanted him to be a kid just get­ting used to his pow­ers. “So he didn’t hit the per­fect pose,” says Earl, who pre­vi­ously worked on The Win-

as well as

move­ments and con­vert them into vec­tors, which can be ex­ported to an STMap, which can then be used to dis­tort the logo or paint swab in a way that fol­lows the move­ment.

Over­all, it’s not the big­gest re­lease The Foundry has ever done, but they’ve made up for the lack of vol­ume with a huge help­ing of pro­duc­tiv­ity. New seat pric­ing starts at $4,274, plus main­te­nance af­ter the first year.

Why get a work­sta­tion tower when you can get a lap­top that does the same job? (Hon­estly, I can think of a lot of rea­sons, but work with me on this.) The most re­cent re­lease of the ZBook from Hewlett-Packard has re­ally be­gun to blur the lines of what it means to be a work­sta­tion ver­sus a lap­top.

I’m re­view­ing the ZBook 17” G3, and it’s quite a mon­ster. But de­spite its size, it’s sur­pris­ingly light­weight at nearly 8 lbs. It’s not a feath­er­weight MacBook Air, but then again, an Air doesn’t have the fire­power that the G3 does. This HP has 32GB of RAM (but can hold 64). I have 500GB of stor­age, but the sys­tem is ca­pa­ble of tak­ing a cou­ple of HP Turbo Drives for a to­tal ca­pac­ity of 4TB. Yeah. TERAbytes.

On the video side, an NVidia m5000 with 8GB drives the dis­play. My dis­play is stan­dard, but there are Ul­tra HD and DreamColor touch op­tions for the G3. I have Adobe CC in­stalled, along with Maya 2016 and Max 2017. All are run­ning at the same time at the mo­ment, and the cool­ing fans aren’t even kick­ing in. In fact, the lap­top is nearly silent. But then again, maybe I’m not hear­ing it over the Bang & Olufsen au­dio.

The sides of the body are filled with IO ports in­clud­ing a RJ45 port, 4 USB3s, an HDMI, SD Card and Smart Card reader and two Thun­der­bolt 3 ports (yeah, that tech­nol­ogy that started out on Macs).

That not enough for you? You can get a Thun­der­bolt ex­pan­sion dock that plugs into the power and one on­board Thun­der­bolt port. This dou­bles the amount of pe­riph­er­als you can con­nect at one time and adds in a Dis­playPort 1.2 for good mea­sure. And it’s about the size of a pack of pen­cils.

This vari­ant that I’m writ­ing this ar­ti­cle on is about a mid-level ver­sion. Nei­ther the sup-iest su­per model nor the base model. If I were to choose a por­ta­ble work­sta­tion that I could run around on a film set while show­ing pre­viz to di­rec­tors, or putting to­gether rough comps, this would cer­tainly be on the top of the list of con­tenders. Prices range from $1,549 to $3,899, de­pend­ing on op­tions. Todd Sheri­dan Perry is a vis­ual-ef­fects su­per­vi­sor and dig­i­tal artist who has worked on fea­tures in­clud­ing The Lord of the Rings: The Two Tow­ers, Speed Racer, 2012, Fi­nal Desti­na­tion 5 and Avengers: Age of Ul­tron. You can reach him at todd@tea­spoon­vfx.com.

The re­lease of both Poké­mon: The First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back and the 18th and most re­cent fea­ture, Poké­mon the Movie: Hoopa and the Clash of Ages, marks the 20th an­niver­sary of one of the most-pop­u­lar fran­chises in an­i­ma­tion and gam­ing history. The cre­ation of Satoshi Ta­jiri, a shy game de­signer whose predilec­tion for col­lect­ing in­sects as a boy earned him the nick­name “Dr. Bug,” Poké­mon is a multi­bil­lion dol­lar em­pire and an icon of pop­u­lar cul­ture through­out the world.

By 1999, the Poké­mon games, toys, trad­ing cards and TV pro­grams had be­come so om­nipresent, Time and other journals that usu­ally ig­nored the ex­is­tence of Ja­panese an­i­ma­tion ran ar­ti­cles about them. Ma­jor news­pa­pers re­ported on teach­ers ban­ning Poké­mon games from the class­room, chil­dren were ac­cused of steal­ing trad­ing cards and prob­lems arose when Burger King ran out of pro­mo­tional toys tied to the first movie. By 2014, more than 21.5 bil­lion Poké­mon trad­ing cards had shipped world­wide — that’s al­most three for ev­ery per­son on the planet.

The pop­u­lar­ity and its at­ten­dant pub­lic­ity led to a num­ber of cu­ri­ous ker­fuf­fles. Some fun­da­men­tal­ist Chris­tian groups com­plained about the con­flict they saw be­tween bib­li­cal cre- ation­ism and the Poké­mon that evolve into higher forms. But in 2000, Sat2000, a satel­lite TV sta­tion run by the Vat­i­can, said the trad­ing card and com­puter games were “full of in­ven­tive imag­i­na­tion,” did not have “any harm­ful moral side ef­fects” and were based on “ties of in­tense friend­ship.”

In the Mid­dle East, weird ru­mors arose that Poké­mon was some­how anti-Is­lamic and/or pro-Is­rael. One ru­mor claimed “Poké­mon” meant “There is no God in the uni­verse,” an­other that it meant “I am Jewish” in Ja­panese. It’s ac­tu­ally an eli­sion of “pocket mon­ster.” In 2001, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Ara­bia, the king­dom’s high­est re­li­gious author­ity, is­sued a fatwa ban­ning the Poké­mon fran­chise, claim­ing it en­cour­aged gam­bling and pro­moted Zion­ism.

Adding It All Up Al­though the Poké­mon craze peaked years ago, it re­mains stag­ger­ingly pop­u­lar. The TV se­ries run to more than 800 episodes, plus nu­mer­ous spe­cials. More than 260 mil­lion video games have been sold world­wide. Not to men­tion plushes, T-shirts, back­packs, et al. On a typ­i­cal day, eBay lists more than 400,000 Poké­mon items, with some sets of rare trad­ing cards of­fered for as much as $175,000!

The First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back grossed $86 mil­lion in its 1999 Amer­i­can the­atri­cal re­lease, beat­ing South Park: Big­ger Longer and Un­cut, The Iron Gi­ant and Princess Mononoke, and set­ting a box of­fice record for a Ja­panese an­i­mated fea­ture that still stands.

The Mewtwo and Hoopa movies share a ba­sic plot with sev­eral of the other fea­tures: a new, eclips­ingly pow­er­ful Poké­mon ap­pears and re­fuses to be­lieve that friend­ship be­tween hu­mans and Poké­mon is de­sir­able or, in some cases, pos­si­ble. In its wrath, this new crea­ture threat­ens to wreak havoc on the world and/or hu­man­ity. It falls to the ir­re­press­ible Ash Ketchum (Satoshi in Japan) and Pikachu to change the en­emy’s mind by demon­strat­ing the un­break­able bond of af­fec­tion they share. That sto­ry­line of­ten feels prob­lem­atic, as the threat of such mas­sive de­struc­tion is sim­ply too big for the main char­ac­ters to han­dle. Ash is a good kid, but no one re­ally wants him stand­ing be­tween them and world de­struc­tion, any more than they’d want El­roy Jet­son to take on Mothra.

The TV se­ries, which fol­lows Ash’s ef­forts to be­come the great­est Poké­mon trainer of all time, works bet­ter. Like the games on which they’re based, these ad­ven­tures al­ways stress friend­ship, hon­esty, fair play and good sports­man­ship. If a Poké­mon grows too weak dur­ing one of the rit­ual bat­tles, it faints and must be taken to a Poké­mon Cen­ter to be healed. No Poké­mon or hu­man is ever se­ri­ously in­jured. A trainer who mis­treats his Poké­mon gets his come­up­pance — and a stern talk­ing-to from Ash. Al­though some par­ents ob­ject to the se­ries as prod­uct-based, there are many worse things for kids to watch on the air and on disc.

As many orig­i­nal Poké­mon fans have be­come par­ents, they’ve been in­tro­duc­ing their kids to Pikachu, Charizard and Squir­tle. The fran­chise shows no signs of fad­ing away: A 19th fea­ture is slated for re­lease in July in Japan, and a new Nin­tendo 3DS game will be out for Christ­mas. How­ever, The Hol­ly­wood Re­porter re­cently of­fered some dis­may­ing news: Leg­endary En­ter­tain­ment, Warner Bros. and Sony are said to be close to com­plet­ing an auc­tion for the live-ac­tion film rights to the Poké­mon fran­chise.

I can hardly wait. [

Zo­ol­ogy: The Round­tables, The Ori­gin of an An­i­mal Tale, Re­search: A True-Life Ad­ven­ture, Z.P.D. Foren­sic Files (Easter Eggs guide), Score­topia and Deleted Char­ac­ters. The stand­alone DVD comes with Score­topia and mu­sic video, and the Dig­i­tal ver­sion has an ex­clu­sive “In­ter­na­tional Char­ac­ter Reel.” Plenty to keep the whole pack (or herd, or colony, or zeal of ze­bras) en­ter­tained.

[Re­lease date: June 7] fer­ence speaker gig. There, a chance en­counter helps him re­al­ize what — and whom — has been miss­ing from his life. The Blu-ray ($39.99) of­fers a few in­trigu­ing fea­turettes: None of Them Are You: Craft­ing Anomalisa, In­ti­macy in Minia­ture and The Sound of Un­ease. But re­ally, this mas­ter­ful film stands on its own two plas­ticine feet just fine.

[Re­lease date: June 7] leas­ing a Col­lec­tor’s Edi­tion BD & DVD of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time the same day. The first ti­tle in the new “Hosoda Col­lec­tion” is priced at $49.98 and in­cludes pre­miere screen­ing event footage and be­hindthe-scenes fea­ture, di­rec­tor’s talk and mu­sic video for Hanako Oku’s “Gar­net” and is bun­dled with an ex­clu­sive 52-page book full of mak­ing-of spot­lights, in­ter­views and art­work. [Re­lease date: June 7]

Pepe & Lu­cas

Marvel’s Iron Man and Cap­tain Amer­ica: He­roes

Dete Me­serve

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