Saturday, December 07, 2013

Walt Disney's grave on his birthday - December 5 2013

Hello everyone!

In what's become a tradition for me every year since 2008 I take a trip to Walt Disney's grave in Glendale, California to pay my respects and to honor him on the occasion of his birthday. He was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1901 and passed away in Burbank, California in 1966. He would have been 112 years old. Here's what it looked like on December 5, 2013...

I recorded video of my visit as I did last year and wanted to share it with you on The Academy's blog. The video hasn't shown up on Blogger's YouTube search yet so I can't embed it at this moment but I will later when it becomes available and I'll edit the post.

Meanwhile you can take a look at how things went by following the link below. I had a mishap with the flowers but everything turned out alright. I get a little emotional when I'm at his grave as it's an intense personal experience for me being that close to him. I have a great affection for Walt Disney. In any case it's always a great privilege being there and representing in spirit the artists of the animation community and the world.

There are many people of fame and notoriety that are buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California. If you'd like to see photos of some of the graves of a few famous people, follow this link to the AnimationNation Forums...

Thanks for checking this out. May the memory of Walt Disney help to keep you creatively inspired.

Charles Zembillas
The Animation Academy
Burbank California

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

In Memory of Zina Lahr 1990 - 2013

On April 2 2013 a most unusual student joined us here at the Academy. She came all the way from Colorado to take Character Design 1 in Burbank.
Her name was Zina Lahr.

She was a remarkable and talented young lady. She dressed in an aviator's head gear with goggles and had feathers streaming from her hair. She was such a gentle, kind and soft spoken soul you knew you were in the presence of someone very special every time you were with her. Someone so extraordinary she didn't seem to be from this earth.

Zina exhibited strong skills and a unique vision. She was involved in making life sized dinosaur puppets move. The kind that would require individuals suiting up inside of the contraption. Her art was beautiful and we all grew creatively while she was with us. Our experience with her was extremely positive and we missed her when she had to go back home to take care of her ailing grandmother. Just last month I received an email from Zina saying how much she looked forward to coming back here again in the future.

A week ago on Wednesday, November 20 2013, Zina Lahr fell to her death in an accident while hiking in the hills around her hometown of Ouray, Colorado. She was only 23 years old.

Zina was the kind of person that is too good for this world. She will be remembered as someone of exceptional significance and her memory will always be held as something very special to me personally. Zina was the kind of girl that made you feel wonderful just by being in her presence. For myself and on behalf of everyone who knew her at the Academy we offer her family and loved ones our sincerest condolences. We were lucky to have known you and to have had you with us Zina. You'll be greatly missed.

Rest In Peace.    

Monday, November 25, 2013

Chance Raspberry's Indiegogo Success

The phenomenon of crowdfunding has become and is increasingly a major method of launching projects of any and all sorts. In animation and other creative fields sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo have transformed the way that business is done. This positive and dynamic development is making a difference in the lives of many people. It holds tremendous potential for the future considering how far this new system will eventually go.

Simpsons animator and Academy legend Chance Raspberry wrapped up his second crowdfunding campaign on  November 12 2013. This time on Indiegogo. Chance has already made history with his successful Little Billy project on Kickstarter last year. His follow up involved a showcase for his musical talents. It's a CD entitled "Old Souls.... Young Hearts". His goal was $4500 and he wound up with $6401. Now he can push Little Billy even further.
Congrats again Chance!
Here's the promotional video he created for the Indiegogo campaign...


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Kiana Mosser animation

One of our long term standout students has been experimenting with animation featuring characters she's been developing through her time at the Academy. Take a look at this simple and poetic video Kiana Mosser created. It's called "Dusk"...

Here's something else she's created recently. This video is entitled "Journey"...

You can see more of Kiana's animation on her YouTube channel...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Art of Vanessa Ramirez

We've had the pleasure of having Vanessa Ramirez as a student for most of 2013. She is a professional artist who attends class at The Academy to develop additional skills and further progress her projects. This is some recent art that Vanessa created while in the Visual Development class. She's been focusing on enhancing her tonal rendering through the use of blue pencil and free form black line sketching. Her style is unique and very distinctive. One look at her work and you know right away who did it. You're welcome to visit the blog of Vanessa Ramirez to get the full scope of her talents and see more of what she can do.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Class art from Chari Pere

Earlier this year we had the pleasure of Chari Pere's participation in Character Design 1. She successfully completed the class and will be returning next month to continue her creative studies. Chari is a  cartoonist who's been making inroads with her career through independent projects she's been developing. You can see Chari's website here.
Let's take a look at some of what she created in her Character Design class. Chari focused on nurturing her own style while focusing on fundamentals and the difference they make when applied to your art.
After Chari completed her concept designs she moved into a production mode. First she established the definitive look of her character through a rotation. The three pose rotation you see below is suitable for modeling the character in a 3D program. Next she delved into her facial expressions, action attitude poses, and finished off with a rendered dimensional drawing suitable for visual development. Solid work from a talented artist. Looking forward to what Chari will be coming up with upon her return.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Carlos Del Castillo on live TV in LA - August 25 2013

We had a surprise this past August 25 2013 when one of our students was featured on live TV in Los Angeles. The KTLA Morning News put a spotlight on Carlos Del Castillo, a talented artist and one of our youngest students. Carlos has been at the Academy for several months. He is a very promising student with a high degree of skill for his age. Watch how well he handles a live broadcast... 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Andre Medina on "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2"

Later this year Sony Pictures Animation will release "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2". Happy to report that Andre Medina a former student from The Animation Academy in Burbank was on the visual development crew for the movie. Take a look at the latest trailer and see some of his highly imaginative work for the film on his blog.

Andre Medina's blog:

Monday, July 01, 2013

Evan Burse on Kickstarter

Evan Burse is a former student of The Animation Academy. Since the time he attended classes he's created a following through his Cartoon Block YouTube channel. Now he's got a Kickstarter campaign in the works to raise funds to publish his first book of his art. The campaign wraps up July 13 2013. See the video below for details and access Evan's Kickstarter campaign here.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Thomas Perkins - Daily lunch bag art

Thomas Perkins is one of the animation industry's leading designers. He's a former student of the Academy and has distinguished himself by virtue of his outstanding talent and unique creativity. Every day he decorates lunch bags for his three children. Thomas comes up with amazing drawings and posts the images on a dedicated blog. Take a look... 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Catching up with Sean Jimenez

One of the first students we had when the Academy structured a dedicated Visual Development class was Sean Jimenez. He was my student even before I launched the school. Sean joined us in 1998. This is a sample of Sean's student work from that period. It's mounted and displayed in the classroom on our wall of fame.

We lost touch with Sean over the years. Last I heard he was continuing his education at CalArts and doing well. That was quite a while ago. This week by chance I discovered where Sean is and what he's doing. Very happy to report that Sean Jimenez is currently the Background Design Supervisor at Disney TV working on Gravity Falls. Another of our many former students who went on to great success in animation.

Follow this link to see his blog. Congratulations on your achievements Sean and best wishes for the future. Keep Creating!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Classroom Art of Ed Irizarry

We're fortunate to have with us in an instructor capacity for Character Design the very talented Ed Irizarry. A long time Disney artist in the Consumer Products Division and past Academy student, Ed has been creating some great stuff while sessions are in progress. Here's a sample of some of the compositions he's come up with as of late that greatly inspire our students and staff as well as educate us all. You're welcome to visit Ed's website and blog to see more of the art he creates.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Savannah Dittman - Rising Star

We have many students who are talented and are progressing towards a professional standard with their art. Among those at the head of the pack is Savannah Dittman. Savannah has been with us for a few months now completing Character Design 1 and 2 and is currently embarked upon conquering Visual Development. When Savannah started with us I could see she had promise right from the get go. Here's something she created at the very beginning of her experience with Character Design 1... 

Take a look at the improved quality of her work and in the confidence of her drawing and design appeal as a result of her dedicated efforts...

Savannah continues to move ahead with her design abilities and basic skills as she embraces more sophisticated and complex subjects...

I'm happy to have this opportunity to share Savannah's work and introduce her to the community via the Academy's blog. I'm excited about her prospects and looking forward to what we'll be seeing from her in the future. You can follow her progress by visiting Savannah Dittman's blog at this this link.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Richard Chavez has a website

One of the industry's great Visual Development artists finally has a website available for all to see and enjoy. I've known Richard Chavez since he was a 19 year old kid way back in our days at Hallmark Cards in Kansas City, Missouri. Since that time he's grown to become one of the greatest design talents of the modern animation industry. If a "Who's Who" exists in this business for super artists in our community he would be a name at the top of the list.

He's been behind the creative scene in a great many of the biggest and most significant animated productions of our time. One of the original 5 Disney artists invited by Jeffrey Katzenberg to form DreamWorks Feature Animation in 1994. His production credits are stellar in a career that's spanned more than 30 years.

And finally... He has a website!

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The Importance of Creative Productivity

Hello to our visitors here on the Academy's blog!

I've been recording videos lately for our venues and have started to share them on the Academy's Facebook page as well as on the AnimationNation Forums. They're intended to mentally prepare incoming students as well as motivate our current students and anyone else who may view the videos. This is the first in the upcoming series. It concerns an all important topic. That being your commitment to Creative Productivity as a means of advancing your art and your career. It got a great response on FB so let's feature it here too. I hope you find this helpful!

Charles Zembillas
The Animation Academy
Burbank California

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Andre Medina - Visual Development - Sony's "Cloudy 2"

It's always a personal thrill when I can feature the creative and professional success of an Academy alumni. This time the spotlight falls on Andre Medina who is currently a Character Designer and Visual Development Artist at Sony Pictures Animation. Andre attended the Academy a few years ago and made an impact as he embraced our program. His skills quickly grew and through the imaginative subjects he created he developed his own unique style that eventually led him to CalArts. Afterwards he entered into a training program at Walt Disney Feature Animation where he worked on their Oscar winning short "Paperman". That in turn paved the way for a position at Sony where he is happily immersed in motion picture production.

Andre stays in touch and shared this video of his latest project. Sony's "Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs 2" will be released this coming September 2013 and much of what you see in the trailer contains his work. Congratulations Andre! Looking forward to the movie and to what you'll be coming up with in the future! 

You can visit Andre's blog here.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Einav Deri - Character Designer

We've had many students who've come to The Animation Academy and made an impact but few can compare to Einav Deri. On two occasions we had the pleasure of having her enrolled in our program. She came all the way from Israel with the humblest of artistic beginnings. About as raw as you can get when it comes to her skills and she went on to amazing success in a very short period of time.

She's been featured before on the Academy's blog.

Einav Deri Before and After   - November 15 2010

Einav Deri B&A Revisited - June 13 2011

Einav Deri's progress -  October 4 2011

Einav Deri - Rising Star - May 21 2012

Einav came here with the intent and determination to be a Character Designer in video games. Today she is happily employed at Flaregames Studios in Karlsruhe, Germany creating terrific work of the highest quality and contributing greatly to the success of the Flaregames team. She also continues to make an impact in her home country as her characters are featured in nationally televised commercials such as the one below.

You can visit Einav's blog at this link.

I can't say enough good things about Einav Deri so I'll leave it at that. Suffice it to say that we were more than happy to have someone as innately talented and creatively motivated as her as a student and we're grateful and appreciative for her contributions to the legacy of The Animation Academy in Burbank by virtue of her participation with us and her subsequent success. Flaregames is fortunate to have her as an employee and anyone that works with Einav can be guaranteed they're dealing with a skilled professional of the highest level.

Congratulations and good luck Einav! Keep Creating!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Narek Chopuryan's Progress

A student from a local high school who enjoys drawing sports cars recently enrolled in the Academy's program. Narek Chopuryan started with Character Design 1. Although his interest lies in subjects other than characters, he dedicated himself to learning something new. A discipline essential to his artistic progress and for moving forward with us. By focusing on fundamentals, Narek made amazing strides. In just a few short weeks he went from about as raw as you can get to a level that stuns everyone who sees his current work.

This is what Narek created in the very beginning of his class.

And this is what Narek came up with in his most recent session of Character Design 1.

If you didn't know it there's little chance that anyone would think these two sets of drawings were done by the same person. This is indicative of the progress that our students routinely make. If you're looking to build a strong foundation for your art even at an advanced level you'll find The Animation Academy very beneficial in this regard. We accept new student enrollment on a monthly basis. 

Congratulations Narek on your admirable progress!

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Haomin Lo - Before and After

Here's another example of the remarkable progress our students routinely  make on fundamental levels developing a foundation that will serve them artistically for the rest of their lives. Haomin Lo has recently completed Character Design 1. Here's what he created when he started the class and prior to any direction or instruction.

This is what Haomin came up with at the most recent session he attended last week as he wrapped up his assignments to complete the course.

A truly dramatic change in a short period of time. It's exciting to imagine what he'll be doing in the future as he continues to build upon the momentum he has going with his art. You can follow the progress Haomin made in the class by accessing his blog. Congrats on how far you've come in just one enrolled subject Haomin!

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

'Don't Work For Free' goes viral

For many years I've been discouraging my students from working for free and encouraging them to arrange an appropriate deal or compensation for the work they're asked to do. The epidemic of expecting artists especially students to work for free started a long time ago. I was addressing this way back when from the earliest days of the founding of the Academy and before.

When I began my career in animation working for free even at a student level was unheard of. Training programs at the studios were all paid internships. Today unpaid internships are the norm. When students were asked to work on a project it was expected that there would be financial compensation. That was the standard and the norm. Today that is not the case. Working for free in exchange for credit on the project or professional experience has become what most people expect from artists who are looking to break into the biz and even artists who are established. For example, it's become standard practice to require artists who are applying for a studio position to take a test and not be compensated for their time. Free test taking occurs even with seasoned veterans of the animation industry and nothing has been done about it. Even at a union level here in the Los Angeles market.

I first met Stephen Silver when he enrolled in my Visual Development class at a school I was teaching at in 1996 and 1997. It was called Associates In Art located in Sherman Oaks just down the road from Burbank. After I started The Animation Academy he joined my Character Design class in 1999 and soon afterwards began teaching here. Stephen went on to great things in animation picking up on our philosophy of developing an independent aspect to your career in addition to your studio employment. And he didn't achieve his success by working for free. While he was with us the subject of working for free was a highly discussed topic among our students. 

Last week Stephen contacted me with a request to help spread the word about his latest YouTube video. It contains much of what we were talking about at the Academy back in the day when working for free was becoming more and more prevalent. Since last week his video has become viral with animation media picking up on it. Hopefully this will get the message across to everyone. Take a look and a listen to what Stephen Silver has to say about the subject. You don't have to work for free and if everyone in the community of artists both student and professional just said NO THANK YOU things will be much different and hopefully the idea of expecting artists to work for no compensation will finally fade away.

It's up to us to make that change.


Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Moon over The Animation Academy Burbank

Thought I'd share something different with friends and followers of the Academy's blog. This is our conference room in Burbank California. Yes it is nice. It's even nicer than it appears in these photos. Chance Raspberry of The Simpsons was visiting the other night and we had a meeting at the conference room. It's the highest point in the Magnolia Park area in central Burbank. Kind of looks like an ancient temple. He took these shots during our meeting with his iPhone.

Here's another view of the January night sky with a full moon as our lamp. You can see the lights of downtown Burbank way off along the horizon. The conference room is on the fourth floor of a three story building above the tree line.

Chance is a former student of the Academy and is one of many who've gone on to become stars in the biz. He's recently succeeded with a Kickstarter campaign to fund the production of his Little Billy project. We were having a strategy pow wow for the project. The Academy is located at the geographical center of the capital of the animation industry. A great place to be. Wanted to share this beautiful view. Thanks for the photos Chance!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Animation Academy Celebrates 15 Years

Why is ArtShark so happy today?

If you answered that he's pretty much always happy you'd be correct of course. 
But today he is exceptionally upbeat and exuberant. 
That's because today is...

January 19 is a key day each year for ArtShark but this year it's especially signifcant...

That's because today marks the 15th Anniversary of The Animation Academy in Burbank !!!

It was 15 years ago today on the evening of Monday, January 19, 1998 in the back room of the Coral Cafe in Burbank that we held our very first class. Speaking of 15 that's how much money it took for me to start the business. I spent $15 on stamps and envelopes to mail flyers I printed from a little 486 PC and sent out to 35 former students and friends on a Christmas card list. I sold all 20 available seats and from then on it was history in the making as they say.

The Academy has been a hugely influential school since that time and continues to affect the animation industry to this day. It's had a big impact in the lives of a great many people who've gone on to significant achievements with their art and careers. I'm very proud of what's been accomplished since January 19, 1998.

So here's to the future of the Academy as we celebrate its past and head into the future! I hope it continues to be a positive influence for all!

Thanks to our students past and present, instructors, associates and friends as we celebrate the milestone of our 15th anniversary!


Charles Zembillas
President / Founder / Director
The Animation Academy
Burbank California

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Assorted student work

Happy New Year to our current and former students, to our instructors, associates and all our friends from The Animation Academy  in Burbank, California!

A good way to get 2013 off to a great start would be to showcase some of the artwork our students have been creating lately. Let's begin with something Kristen Robertson came up with as a result of a project she's been developing in her Visual Development class. Kristen is an Instructor-in-training with us and has been doing a nice job in assisting students in Character Design 1 with their fundamentals. In this sample she's created an unusual and fun character which she skillfully rendered in Photoshop. 

Maia Gross is a new student to our program and has already made an impact with her impressive work. This is an assignment from Character Design 1 in which she turned the subject in a three pose rotation appropriate for digital modeling. Clicking on the image will give you a better view.

Marietta Semerdjian continues to progress with her art in Visual Development as she prepares her portfolio for submission to a fashion design college upon her graduation from high school. She created the composition using one color of acrylic paint to practice her all important tonal rendering.

Also from the Visual Development class is some of the latest class work from Margo Akopov. Margo is attending the Academy courtesy of a scholarship from Major League Baseball and the Boys and Girls Club of Burbank. She's developing a unique style that is becoming more evident in assignments such as this tonal rendering exercise in acrylics.

Last but certainly not least is a recent work from Joel Valdez. Santa was good to him this Christmas as he has a new Cintiq to create with which he used in this composition along with Sketchbook Pro digital drawing and illustration software. Joel is also an Instructor-in-training.

This is just a small sampling of the artwork our students generate at the Academy on a daily basis. Creative vitality, diversity, exploration and discovery are par for the course within our program as everything is built upon a foundation of fundamentals. With a solid base in the basics artists are able to do things they never thought possible. Strong fundamentals gives our students the strength, confidence and freedom to go on to marvelous things.

Wishing you and yours health, happiness, prosperity and all the good things in life for 2013 and beyond!  

Charles Zembillas
The Animation Academy
Burbank California