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Hen­son’s Dig­i­tal Pup­petry Stu­dio lets voice per­form­ers an­i­mate dig­i­tal char­ac­ters like pup­pets, bring­ing a slice of real-time act­ing to Splash and Bub­bles. By Tom McLean.

“The ef­fect on our lit­tle au­di­ence was noth­ing less than elec­tric. They re­sponded al­most in­stinc­tively to this union of sound and mo­tion. … It was ter­ri­ble, but it was won­der­ful! And it was some­thing new!” — Walt Dis­ney, on the au­di­ence re­sponse to a live, work-in-progress show­ing of Steam­boat Wil­lie, 1928. ing a re­sume that in­cludes song­writ­ing with Mor­ris­sey’s Alain Whyte, cut­ting records with pro­ducer/en­gi­neer Joe Chic­carelli (U2, Beck, White Stripes), Brian Malouf (Michael Jack­son, Queen), and mas­ter­ing an al­bum for the band that would be­come Lo­cal Na­tives (all be­fore the age of 23) — Sla­gle has the unique perspective of work­ing ex­clu­sively in the au­dio world for his en­tire life. But it was in the pe­cu­liar con­nec­tion of mu­sic with the world of an­i­ma­tion that he found his niche.

“An­i­ma­tion is magic,” he says. “It ac­tu­ally har­nesses the forces of time and space to cre­ate a lim­it­less world of pos­si­bil­i­ties through de­cep­tion. I con­sider it vis­ual alchemy. You have to be very per­cep­tive to pick up the sub­tle con­nec­tions that seam­lessly stitch to­gether the ex­pe­ri­ence of the two senses. I’m a sen­si­tive per­son. It’s some­thing that took its toll dur­ing child­hood and even as an adult, I hated ad­mit­ting this qual­ity in my­self. It wasn’t un­til I started work­ing with an­i­ma­tion that I re­al­ized the very part of me I tried to hide was the big­gest as­set I have. When­ever I watch a new piece I’m work­ing on, I feel a heavy weight of re­spon­si­bly to make sure the mu­sic and au­dio is al­ways in com­plete har­mony with the an­i­ma­tion it­self.”

Sla­gle also built his chops as house pro­ducer for Fuller­ton’s Ar­ti­sans La­bel for seven years. He ex­plains that work­ing in a fast­paced mu­sic stu­dio for so many years al­lowed him to de­velop the skills to work and cre­ate about as fast as he could dream ideas up.

“When I worked on my first an­i­ma­tion, I wasn’t think­ing in the de­fined de­part­ments of mu­sic, Fo­ley, sound de­sign, etc. I just knew what needed to be there,” he says. “Ev­ery de­ci­sion, no mat­ter how big or small, should al­ways sup­port the big­ger pic­ture that is the story. Imag­ine each choice made dur­ing the pro­duc­tion of an an­i­ma­tion is like a pixel on a screen, the full im­age on the screen is the story the cre­ator is try­ing to tell. Ev­ery pixel must be the ap­pro­pri­ate color in or­der for the pic­ture to be as clear as pos­si­ble. Ev­ery choice mat- ters — no choice is too small.”

Open the Portal may not have re­leased its Steam­boat Wil­lie yet, but with its fo­cus firmly planted on both halves of the sen­sory spec­trum, ex­pect them to pro­duce some in­ter­est­ing work. [ In­flu­ences Bar­rett Sla­gle is the co-owner and head of au­dio at Open the Portal, han­dling all sound de­sign, Fo­ley, VO, ADR, mu­sic com­po­si­tion and mix­ing.

Mu­sic Danny Elf­man: “I grew up with the Tim Bur­ton films and was a Danny Elf­man fan be­fore I even knew who he was. I think what I learned the most from his work was how to take a seem­ingly un­event­ful scene and, through the use of mu­sic alone, cre­ate a very im­pact­ful mo­ment. The open­ing scene in Beetle­juice is just a slow pan over the model town, but his ex­cit­ing and whim­si­cal score sets the pace for the en­tire film and pumps up the au­di­ence for the re­mark­able ex­pe­ri­ence ahead.”

Jon Brion: “When I first started get­ting se­ri­ous about film scor­ing, I thought I had to be a John Wil­liams type. Huge epic score, full or­ches­tral ar­range­ments, big big big all the time. The first time I sat down and watched Eter­nal Sun­shine of the Spot­less Mind, I left with an en­tirely new perspective on what I thought film scores had to be. The score wasn’t mas­sive. In fact, it seemed so small. I could hear the breath of a sin­gle oboe player. It sounded so in­ti­mate, but just as emo­tion­ally im­pact­ful as any big Hol­ly­wood score.”

Ray­mond Scott: “When I first started work­ing with an­i­ma­tion I thought to my­self, Who is the best at this? Af­ter do­ing a lot of dig­ging I found the most iconic mu­sic in all of an­i­ma­tion his­tory. We all have heard his mu­sic but few know his name, Ray­mond Scott. Scott is the master of vivid sto­ry­telling through the use of mu­sic only. His work and in­no­va­tion is al­ways in­spir­ing to me.”

Sound De­sign Alan Splet: “The first time I watched Eraser­head, all I could think about was what mad­man con­cocted these per­fectly man­gled sound­scapes. Alan Splet might take the sound of a tum­bling ma­chine and trans­form it into a haunt­ing drone, or place a storm in­side a house. I love the sur­re­al­ist ap­proach he brings to any film. I of­ten find my­self chan­nel­ing the spirit of Alan Splet.”

Ben Burtt: “It is im­pos­si­ble to even dis­cuss sound de­sign with­out men­tion­ing Ben Burtt — he in­vented the damn phrase. Learn­ing from the old school Dis­ney Car­toons and tak­ing sound to a whole new level with Star Wars, Ben Burtt started as a child with a sin­gle (lit­tle) tape recorder, and now he is the in­dus­try stan­dard for sound de­sign. I think the big­gest thing I’ve learned from his work is just to re­ally think out­side the box and al­ways keep your ears wide open. You never know when that mag­i­cal sound might ap­pear in daily life. I also re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate his at­ten­tion to de­tail. Ben will look at a ro­bot on screen and start think­ing of all the in­ter­work­ing parts in­volved, most of which will never even be seen, just to assign each gear, grind, squeak or click a sound.” [

Cel­e­brat­ing its fifth an­niver­sary, the World An­i­ma­tion & VFX Sum­mit will honor six of the bright­est stars in the an­i­ma­tion and VFX sky with Hall of Fame awards to be pre­sented at a star-stud­ded gala cer­e­mony Nov. 1 at the Casa del Mar’s Colon­nade Ball­room, ad­ja­cent to the world-fa­mous Shut­ters on the Beach in Santa Mon­ica, Calif.

The gala cer­e­mony caps the sec­ond day of the sum­mit, which as­sem­bles top busi­ness and cre­ative tal­ent from across the globe for in-depth panel dis­cus­sions and in­ti­mate and pro­duc­tive net­work­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties at the Cal­i­for­nia Yacht Club in Ma­rina del Rey, Calif.

This year’s Hall of Fame hon­orees cover the full gamut of the in­dus­try, from in­ter­na­tional busi­ness suc­cesses to cre­ative in­no­va­tors set­ting the agenda for the fu­ture.

The Hon­orees Betty Cohen, pres­i­dent of Betty Cohen Me­dia Con­sult­ing, is a na­tion­ally-renowned TV net­work and dig­i­tal me­dia ex­ec­u­tive, as well as ad­viser and ex­pert in brand cre­ation. She was the found­ing pres­i­dent of Car­toon Net­work/Adult Swim/ Boomerang and later served as pres­i­dent and CEO of Life­time En­ter­tain­ment Net­works. Cohen launched and grew Car­toon Net­work into a global busi­ness with a $3 bil­lion as­set value within nine years, green­light­ing such hit shows as The Pow­er­puff Girls, Dex­ter’s Lab­o­ra­tory and Sa­mu­rai Jack, as well as launch­ing Car­toon Net­work Stu­dios, Car­toonNet­, Boomerang and Adult Swim. As pres­i­dent of Betty Cohen Me­dia Con­sult­ing, her clients have in­cluded Speak­a­boos,, Mered­ith, Road­trip Na­tion and the Paley Cen­ter for Me­dia. Cohen has been in­ducted into the Broad­cast­ing and Cable Hall of Fame, and re­ceived the pres­ti­gious “Muse Award” from N.Y. Women in Film and TV. She was named one of “The 50 Most Pow­er­ful Women in Busi­ness” by For­tune mag­a­zine.

Butch Hart­man is a mul­ti­ple Emmy- and Annie Award-nom­i­nated and BATFA-win­ning an­i­ma­tor, writer, di­rec­tor, pro­ducer, il­lus­tra­tor and ac­tor, best known for cre­at­ing the lon­grun­ning se­ries The Fairly Od­dPar­ents, which de­buted on Nick­elodeon 15 years ago. Hart­man is the cre­ator of two other pop­u­lar Nick se­ries, Danny Phan­tom and T.U.F.F. Puppy. His new an­i­mated se­ries, Bun­sen Is a Beast, about the first beast to ever go to a hu­man school, will pre­miere on Nick in 2017. In 2015, Hart­man launched his own en­ter­tain­ment net­work, the Noog Net­work, via a free in­ter­ac­tive app, and has jumped into the world of comic books with the orig­i­nal se­ries Three O’Clock Club, co-cre­ated with Jor­dan Gorfinkel and pub­lished by Lion Forge Comics. Also, Hart­man and his wife, Julieann, founded Hart­man House, a char­i­ta­ble, non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that ben­e­fits needy chil­dren and fam­i­lies around the world.

Michael Hirsh, chair­man of The En­ter­tain­ment and Me­dia Fi­nance Group, is a highly ac­com­plished en­tre­pre­neur and ex­ec­u­tive who be­gan his ca­reer in en­ter­tain­ment as a film­maker and later founded Nel­vana and TeleTOON Canada. When DHX Me­dia ac­quired Nel­vana in 2012, Hirsh be­came vice chair­man and sat on the board of DHX for three years. Hirsh co­founded and is chair­man of The En­ter­tain­ment and Me­dia Fi­nance Group, which com­bines pro­fes­sional fi­nan­cial ad­vice with in­terim and spe­cial­ized lend­ing for small and medium-size pro­duc­ers in Canada. He also is chair­man at CineCoup, an in­de­pen­dent and gam­i­fied film-fund­ing agency, and CEO at Float­ing Is­land En­ter­tain­ment, a pro­duc­ing team with many ti­tles in de­vel­op­ment. Hirsh has earned nu­mer­ous Day­time Emmy and Gemini awards and nom­i­na­tions, and is a reg­u­lar speaker at in­dus­try pan­els and events.

Travis Knight is pres­i­dent and CEO of LAIKA, the award-win­ning fea­ture film an­i­ma­tion stu­dio lo­cated in Hillsboro, Ore., and the di­rec­tor and pro­ducer of Kubo and the Two Strings. He was pro­ducer and lead an­i­ma­tor on LAIKA’s The Box­trolls and ParaNor­man, and was lead an­i­ma­tor on the stu­dio’s first fea­ture, Co­ra­line. All of LAIKA’s fea­tures have been nom­i­nated for Academy Awards, as well as BAFTA and PGA Awards. Co­ra­line and The Box­trolls also were nom­i­nated for Golden Globe Awards; and ParaNor­man was cited as Best An­i­mated Fea­ture by 14 crit­ics’ groups; more than any other 2012 an­i­mated fea­ture. Knight earned an Annie Award for his char­ac­ter an­i­ma­tion work on ParaNor­man and, as pro­ducer, re­ceived an Academy Award nom­i­na­tion for The Box­trolls. He was named a Ris­ing Star of An­i­ma­tion by An­i­ma­tion Mag­a­zine in 2007.

Ellen Poon is an ex­pe­ri­enced su­per­vi­sor, pro­ducer and artist in the field of vis­ual ef­fects and an­i­ma­tion with 30 years of ex­pe­ri­ence. Poon was a found­ing mem­ber of MPC’s Com­puter Graph­ics depart­ment in 1986. Later, at Rushes Post Pro­duc­tion, Poon won crit­i­cal ac­claim for her work on a ground­break­ing ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign in which a 3-month-old girl spoke like an adult. Poon joined ILM in 1991 and was the first woman at the com­pany to be­come a vis­ual ef­fects su­per­vi­sor. Poon’s re­al­iza­tion of the mir­a­cles in The Green Mile, crea­tures in Star Wars: Episode I — The Phan­tom Me­nace and the di­nosaurs in Juras­sic Park are just some of her on-screen ac­com­plish­ments. Poon is now an in­de­pen­dent VFX su­per­vi­sor and pro­ducer. Her work with block­buster Asian projects Hero and Mon­ster Hunt have won her two Hong Kong Film Awards for Best Vis­ual Ef­fects. While Poon en­joys be­ing a pro­ducer and su­per­vi­sor, she equally en­joys be­ing an artist where she can be hands-on to cre­ate some of the stun­ning im­ages that we see on the screen. Her work on Frozen, Zootopia and, most re­cently, Moana, proves Poon is a ver­sa­tile artist. She is a mem­ber of AMPAS and VES.

Pierre Siss­mann is chair­man and CEO of Cy­ber Group Stu­dios and, over the past 25 years work­ing in the de­vel­op­ment, pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion of cul­tural and en­ter­tain­ment prod­ucts, has been in­volved in TV chan­nel launches, live and filmed TV en­ter­tain­ment and mu­sic pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion. Af­ter spend­ing 10 years at Sony Mu­sic as Euro­pean and French VP of A&R, mar­ket­ing and pro­mo­tion, he joined The Walt Dis­ney Co. as pres­i­dent for France, then as ex­ec­u­tive VP for Europe, Mid­dle East and Africa. He started for the com­pany Walt Dis­ney An­i­ma­tion France, the big­gest Euro­pean an­i­ma­tion stu­dio, which worked on projects such as The Hunch­back of Notre Dame and Tarzan. In 1996, he cre­ated and was the first pres­i­dent of Dis­ney Chan­nel France. In 2005, Siss­mann co-founded Cy­ber Group Stu­dios, a French com­pany that pro­duces and dis­trib­utes global con­tent for kids and fam­i­lies, par­tic­u­larly CGI and 2D HD an­i­mated TV se­ries. Nom­i­nated for an In­ter­na­tional Emmy for its preschool hit Zou and the re­cip­i­ent of more than 65 in­ter­na­tional awards in the past decade, Cy­ber Group Stu­dios is one of Europe’s lead­ing an­i­ma­tion stu­dios. Since its in­cep­tion, Cy­ber Group Stu­dios has amassed an over­all cat­a­log of 1,000 half-hours, and has pro­duced 800 episodes of TV an­i­ma­tion, in­clud­ing its most-re­cent ac­claimed show, Zorro: The Chron­i­cles. Through its dis­tri­bu­tion arm, Cy­ber Group Stu­dios also caters di­rectly to more than 160 clients around the world. Siss­mann, al­ready a knight in the French Le­gion of Honor and the Na­tional Or­der of Merit, was made a knight in the Or­der of Arts and Let­ters by the French Min­is­ter of Cul­ture in 2014.

The Pre­sen­ters Pre­sen­ters for the Hall of Fame awards in­clude: Michael Eis­ner, founder, The Tor­nante Co., and for­mer chair­man and CEO of The Walt Dis­ney Co.; Gale Anne Hurd, pro­ducer of such well-known movies as The Ter­mi­na­tor, The Abyss, Ar­maged­don and AMC’s smash-hit TV se­ries The Walk­ing Dead; and Fred Seib­ert, founder of the on­line an­i­ma­tion out­let Fred­er­a­tor Net­works and for­mer pres­i­dent of Han­naBar­bera Car­toons. The Pan­els The deep lineup of pan­els for the sum­mit will ex­plore in de­tail such is­sues as how to pro­mote

Ben­itez, Comet global head of kids and pres­i­dent, VFX edi­tor VFX su­per­vi­sor, Dou­ble man­ager, The Gotham CEO, founder and CEO, ex­ec­u­tive of in­te­grated ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer, Radar di­rec­tor, pro­ducer and

Les­lie Car­rara-Ru­dolph

Bar­rett Sla­gle

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