Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Kelly McGraw at the Academy

At the last session of the Academy we had a very special guest speaker. Kelly McGraw, long time Disney Feature Animation background painter and currently visual development artist. This was Kelly's first time ever making a public appearance to discuss his art and career.

Kelly is remarkable. One of my first students from when I began teaching in the LA area. He started from humble beginnings taking figure drawing classes at local schools and workshops, developing his fundamental drawing and painting skills, to become a fixture at Disney.

He had a captive audience in the students and instructors present. Kelly gave great advice for achieving a successful career in the very competitive world of animation, even in the face of dramatic changes that may affect the industry from time to time.

A huge thank you to Mr. McGraw for the time he spent with us.

We're lining up guest speakers into the spring at the Academy. Next semester will begin January 8, 2008 and will mark the 10th anniversary of the school.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Lilo & Stitch Night - 2002

An occasion of historical significance from September, 2002. This photo and several others were recently discovered and sent in to us by the photographer of the event.

It's from Lilo and Stitch Night at The Animation Academy in Burbank, at the height of popularity for the film. Organized through the enthusiastic efforts of former student and then instructor John Nevarez.

Pictured below, from left to right.

Dean DuBlois, Director.
Paul Felix, Production Designer
Chris Sanders, Creator, Director, Writer and Voice of Stitch
Jim Schlenker, Developing the TV Series

As far as I know, there has never been another occasion where the head creative staff of Disney's Lilo and Stitch team came together for an educational gathering such as the one that took place at the Academy in September, 2002. I'll be adding this to the school's archives along with the rest of the photos and follow up a little later with more pictures from that special night.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Anthony Nevarez stepping up

We've had the pleasure of enjoying the company of Anthony Nevarez for several years. First as a teen student, now an adult emerging into more sophisticated subjects and style. In a recent class assignment seen here, Anthony delves into character design and female anatomy, using a classic form construction method. Clicking on the image will give you a better view.

I'm happy to be featuring Anthony's work on the Academy's blog for the first time. Looking forward to the exciting images he'll be creating in the future.

Friday, November 16, 2007

David Colman returns

The 52nd semester of the Academy is under way and we had a very welcome returning visitor with us at our most recent session.

David Colman, Emmy Award winning character designer, author of "The Art of Animal Character Design" and currently working visual development at Disney Feature Animation. Here he is after his presentation helping a student who wants to specialize in animal character design, while a group of students immerse themselves around his portfolio.

Thanks David! Everyone learns when you're with us at class. Always an inspiration and a good time in your company.

To see more of David Colman's work feel free to visit his blog:

Friday, November 09, 2007

Jorge Merino's rotation

I've mentioned many times before on the Academy's blog the importance of creating a rotation of a character in relation to the animation production process. It's an aspect of our program which we strongly emphasize.

Here's an outstanding rotation from Jorge Merino. Jorge did this as a class assignment during his first semester with us. He's currently in his second semester. This was his first character model rotation. Clicking on the image will give you a better view.

Talented students always get better when they spend time at The Animation Academy. Whether a beginner, intermediate or advanced, we always get very positive results and can continually showcase excellent artists such as Jorge Merino.

Jorge is challenging himself with new works he's creating in class and building on his affinity to rotate his concepts. Imagine what he'll be coming up with a few short weeks from now.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Spyro going to the movies!

The Hollywood Reporter, Variety and many other entertainment media news outlets have reported that the popular video game character "Spyro the Dragon" will be heading to the big screen as a feature animated film. Here's a link to the announcement on Variety's site:

I designed and developed Spyro for Insomniac Games and Universal Studios in early 1997. Needless to say, I'm happy to see the character make it all the way to the top of the animation market. The Spyro video game franchise has had more than $500 million in sales. The character is one of the most widely recognized video game personalities in the world. Here's a sketch I created of Spyro as a class demonstration in 2002. I used black line, color markers and some coloring pencil.

At the Academy we emphasize the importance of a marquis character or characters in the establishment of a character based franchise in animation and Spyro has turned out to be a wonderful example of that lesson.

The original development drawings of Spyro the Dragon have been online since 2004 in a presentation hosted by the school. This presentation has had continuous virtually non stop traffic since then with no promotion or advertising behind it, a testament to the popularity of Spyro and perhaps the educational value of the body of work. To view the Spyro presentation follow this link:

The Animation Academy is a world leader in the subject of character design training and intellectual property development. Insomniac Games enrolled their production crew into our program in 1998 early in the Academy's history. The Animation Academy has been influential in the animation industry on many levels.

Spyro is scheduled to be released sometime in 2009. Here's to hoping that the script is strong, the production values are high, and the film proves to be as succesful as the video games.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Demo at CSUN

The Animation Academy enjoys a special relationship with California State University in Northridge. Located in the north San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, Cal State Northridge (CSUN) has an excellent art and animation department with a long history of successful graduates throughout the animation industry. I currently teach at CSUN in addition to the weekly sessions of The Animation Academy.

This is a quick demonstration I created at yesterday's class. The image was sketched in blue pencil first, then followed up with black line and broad tip markers. I blended blue pencil with tissue paper for the blue tones and picked out highlights with an eraser. Clicking on the image will give you a better view.

These demos were also also created at the same session, in the spirit of Halloween, using a similar technique as the demonstration above.

If you're looking for a degree granting program in animation, fine art, graphics, photography and more that is of excellent quality and affordable, check out Cal State Northridge. Here's a link to CSUN's home page:

This link will take you to their art department:

Supplement your education at The Animation Academy, or prepare for CSUN with us and your skills will skyrocket.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Manny Aguiler's narrative art

We recently introduced a new course for advanced students. The class is called Narrative Illustration and is geared towards making the most of Character Design, Background Design and Visual Development skills acquired through the Academy's program. Ongoing students can focus these skills into compositions intended to exhibit storytelling elements.

We've enjoyed a long relationship with Manny Aguiler, an associate instructor who also continues his education with us. His work has been featured before on the Academy's blog on April 12, 2006. Our associate instructors were at one time our students but they go on learning with us to challenge themselves creatively. Here's a recent example of Manny Aguiler's work from Narrative Illustration. He used graphite on paper to come up with this scene from "Jack and the Beanstalk". Click on the image for a better view.

Manny's dynamic composition features a good balance of shapes and tonality to capture the interest of the viewer and push the element of depth of field within his drawing. There's confidence in his draftsmanship and his work creates excitement and enthusiam with students looking to emulate his example.

Our sessions are attended by a host of excellent artists who've been with us for years and are generous with their knowledge and encouraging with their artistic experience. The Academy's next semester, our 52nd consecutive one, will begin next week on October 23. Manny Aguiler will of course be present.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

An Emmy for David Colman

I'm very happy to announce that David Colman has won an Emmy for his character design work on Cartoon Network's "Class of 3000". Here he is pictured with his fiance at the award ceremony.

A former student of The Animation Academy and an accomplished author with his book "The Art of Animal Character Design", David has done remarkable things so far in his career. He is currently working in development at Disney Feature Animation in Burbank.

David Colman is scheduled to return as a guest speaker this coming semester on November 13, 2007 where we'll have an opportunity to congratulate him in person. You can see pictures of David's earlier visit to the school by referring to the blog archives and the entry on June 13, 2007. You can also visit David's blog by following this link.

Friday, October 05, 2007

John Watkiss visits the Academy

It was a very exciting session at The Animation Academy last Tuesday as special guest speaker John Watkiss joined us and blew our collective minds with his incredible art. John is a master whose experience involves the visual development of several Disney feature films including Tarzan, Kingdom of the Sun (Emperor's New Groove), Atlantis and Treasure Planet.

He gave us an extraordinary insight and detailed accounts about how many of the Disney features he worked on came to be, especially Tarzan. Here he is working with a group towards the end of class, relating his views on art and sharing a peek at development work few people outside the studio have ever seen.

John Watkiss is an artist's artist. What he can do with a Sharpie and black Prismacolor pencil is astounding, not to mention his absolute mastery of acrylic painting. He trained artists at Richard Williams Studio in London during the production of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, he taught at the Royal Academy of Art in London, and he is without question one of the most incredible artists I've ever met.

It was a real honor and priviledge for us to host Mr. Watkiss and I hope he'll return again before too long. To see more of John Watkiss' work, visit his blog.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Great Burbank Rainbow of 2007

A few days ago a heavy rainstorm passed through the Los Angeles area. I happened to be at the Academy's offices when I looked out the window to see a magnificent rainbow that was anchored almost exactly upon the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. I went to the roof of the building to capture the image you see below. The white object at the furthest point of the lower right hand corner of the photo just above the tree line is the water tower at the Disney lot. Clicking on the shot will give you a better view.

As the gigantic rainbow reached its apex, I took a series of photos to create this composite image. The rainbow is anchored to the right at Disney, to the left on Cartoon Network. In between the arch left of center is where Nickelodeon is located and at right of center is DreamWorks.

This is a very rare occurence. Who knows when it will be seen again if ever. I hope you enjoy these special photos of the animation rainbow in Burbank and that it brightens your day.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Alan Simmons at the Academy

At the last session of the Academy we enjoyed the company of guest speaker Alan Simmons. Alan is known for his amazing work on the WB's Batman, Superman and Batman Beyond series. He's currently a Background Designer at Marvel Lionsgate.

An enthusiastic audience for Alan's lecture and presentation, the Academy's students and staff get a close up and personal view of his portfolio.

Alan's work is incredible in its precision, vision and skill. Check out the post on August 9, 2007 in the blog's archives to get an idea of the level that he creates at. Alan Simmons is also a dedicated social activist who educates others with his ideas of improving the human condition. Afterwards, he stayed on for the evening assisting students with their perspective and design issues.

Many thanks to Mr. Simmons for sharing his thoughts, knowledge and experience with us. It was great to have him in our company. Looking forward to the next time he stops by for a visit.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Bridget McCarty's success

Some years ago a memorable student enrolled in the Academy's Teen Program. Bridget McCarty was in high school when she started with us. She soon began to distinguish herself with the unique and charming style she was developing to her art. This is from a class assignment she created while a student with us. It was painted in acrylics. Click on the image for a better view.

We recently heard from Bridget, now a grown woman and on her own. She started a line of miniature collectables which she sells on the Internet. She's been very successful with this endeavor and has caught the attention of a major corporation which is looking to license her product. This link will take you to her site.

We're very happy for Bridget and proud to feature her as yet another successful artist who's been associated with The Animation Academy. We wish her continued good fortune.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Antoine Christopher's MJ masterpiece

That is a fitting description of this absolutely fantastic work of art unveiled for the first time at The Animation Academy in Burbank, California the evening of September 4, 2007, the occasion of the start of our latest semester, and featured online for the first time on the school's blog. This is a photograph of the original which I took in class. Clicking on the picture will give you a better view.

The artist is Antoine Christopher. He was with us in the early days of the school. A natural born inbetweener and animation clean up artist, I've never seen anyone like him that good who loved to work that way. Antoine was more than capable of working on a feature level.

Unfortunately, with the disbanding of the traditional process at local studios involved in features in favor of 3D, he never got his chance to prove just how good he really was. But that didn't stop him from creating. After several years on his own, Antoine reconnected with us. He unveiled the work you see here to the astonishment of everyone in attendance.

The original is about 2 1/2 x 3 1/2 feet. A large work, drawn from reference by hand, no tracing or projectors... in pastels!

The arrow that you see at the bottom right of the picture is what makes Antoine's creation all the more special. That's Michael Jordan's signature! He showed it to him, he liked it and signed it by scratching into the pastel. There's a little blue seal at the tip of the arrow I've drawn that authenticates the signature as that of Michael Jordan.

To see more of Antoine Christopher's unbelievable artwork, check out his website and prepare to be blown away.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Ariel Acosta's latest

After studying with us extensively in Character Design, Background Design and Visual Development, Ariel Acosta is now a leading student at the prestigious Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. We had the pleasure of his company at the last session of the Academy as he stopped by to share with us his his most recent works. Ariel's been featured before on the Academy's blog on December 15, 2006.

This is an illustration Ariel created in Photoshop. Click on the image for a better view.

Ariel is producing very impressive art and is developing a portfolio that is as unique as it is exceptional.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Walter Gatus visits the Academy

We had a surprise guest speaker at the last session of the semester this week. Walter Gatus stopped by and helped enlighten our students with his talent and experience.

Walter enrolled at the Academy full time in our early days. He came to us from another major art school after being disappointed with them. He turned out to be one of the most significant students we've ever had. Starting out at Neopets as a character designer, he went on to Warner Bros and made a solid reputation for himself in salvaging the designs for the high profile and controversial Loonatics series. Currently he's a lead designer at Mike Young Productions in Woodland Hills, California.

Walter shared his experiences and portfolio with the class, giving them a lot of good advice as to what it takes to succeed in the industry. It was great having Walter as our guest and he made the evening a special one. Here's a link to his blog if you'd like to see what he does.

The next semester will begin September 4, 2007. We're anticipating another excellent turnout. We're lining up additional guest speakers and from the affirmative responses we've received so far it looks like we'll be hosting more of the industry's outstanding talent for the benefit of our students as a continuing aspect of our program.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Celebrating Kris Anka

Everyone at the Academy is excited to see the success of one of the youngest and most talented students we've had at the school. Kris Anka started out with us in the Teen Program as a little kid. He was younger than the cutoff age of 13 when he began. Now he's 18 years old, a high school graduate and the winner of the first Warner Bros / Hanna Barbera Scholarship.

Kris was celebrated as a guest speaker this past week. Even while his presentation was in progress he was drawing. Please excuse the quality of the photos. I had the camera on the wrong setting and didn't realize it.

Kris featured art from his portfolio which thoroughly impressed our adult students. Remarkable work for anyone at any age much less a teenager.

As part of the terms of his scholarship, Kris is working as an intern at Warner Bros Animation. He chose to continue his full time college education at Cal Arts this coming fall where he'll be enrolled as a freshman in their character animation program.

We all wish Kris the best of luck and continued success in his creative and professional endeavors. We're looking forward with pride and enthusiasm to the great accomplishments he'll be achieving in the future.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Gary Montalbano visits the Academy

Continuing with our special guest speakers for this, the 50th semester of The Animation Academy, we had the pleasure of Gary Montalbano's company at our most recent session of the Adult Program.

Gary has been a visual development artist in animation for many years as well as an established self publisher of his fine artwork. He brought along some of his original paintings which he displayed as part of his presentation. They're partially visable to the left and right of this picture of Gary as he works with our students while going through his portfolio.

Gary's lecture was informative and inspiring, offering up lots of useful career advice for our students.

We're thankful that Gary took the time out of his busy schedule to join us and share his thoughts and creativity with us. It was very much appreciated by all. I'm sure we'll be seeing him again down the line sometime. Meanwhile, check out Gary's incredible art by visiting his website:

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The brilliance of Alan Simmons

There aren't many artists who have as high a command over perspective and ingenuity in their background designs as Alan Simmons. Alan has been a long time friend, associate and periodically an instructor at the Academy. He stopped by the other day with these examples of a design he recently completed and gave permission to have it featured on our blog.

This is Alan's concept sketch in which he established the nature of his composition through a three point perspective grid. Clicking on the pictures will enhance the view.

This is Alan's final line of the high tech futuristic background design he envisioned in the above sketch.

Alan is currently on staff at Marvel Lions Gate Studio (MLG) and is scheduled to join us as a guest speaker next semester on September 18.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Academy at the ComicCon 07

By virtue of our illustrious alumni and associates, The Animation Academy was well represented ay the 2007 ComicCon in San Diego, California. Thanks to Kevin Poythress, former student and current assistant instructor, for these photos.

Richard Chavez, head of Visual Development at Sony Pictures Animation with Chance Raspberry, staff artist on The Simpsons.

David Colman from Cartoon Network, author of "The Art of Animal Character Design".

Former student and current assistant instructor James Lavelle Brown.

Jose Lopez, an original founding student of the Academy, character designer and author of "Mariachi Samurai".

Patrick Morgan, creator of "WhaleBoy".

John Nevarez of the Disney Studios.

Stephen Silver, author, educator and character designer.

Development artist Gary Montalbano and wife.

Last but not certainly not least, Kevin Poythress and company.

To see the blog that Kevin created of his 07 ComicCon experience, follow this link:

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Alexis Arciniaga's latest sketch

It's important to stay creatively poroductive, even if you're not currently taking classes. That's the situtation with 14 year old Alexis Arciniaga, a teen student previously enrolled at the Academy. She's stayed in touch with us by sending in a current drawing from the sketchbook she maintains, which is worth featuring here on the Academy's blog. Click on the image for a better view.

Alexis did a nice job with her conceptual design of this composition, especially in her rendering of the character's lapel and areas of clothing which exhibit a high degree of sophistication. She used markers for color and a fine pen for her line work. Alexis is another of the up and coming stars involved with our program. As with the rest of our talented students, we look forward with anticipation as to what she'll be coming up with in days ahead.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

David Wolter's first publication

At the Academy we encourage our students to consider self publication as a means of promotion, personal franchise development and sharing one's work with a creative community anxious to see something new. David Wolter did just that with his very first collection of drawings and designs, many of which he came up with as a student in our Character Design class this year. On the left is the cover, on the right a page from his book. Clicking on the image will give you a better view.

David prepared this initial publication of his to distribute at the annual San Diego ComicCon taking place this weekend. I'm certain he'll get a very favorable response. We'll be hearing more about David Wolter in days ahead. Meanwhile feel free to visit his blog and see what's happening with this very talented artist.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Sean Galloway visits the Academy

We welcomed our latest guest speaker to a full house on Tuesday evening. Sean "Cheeks" Galloway was at the Academy. Cheeks is an outstanding character designer and self published artist currently working on the upcoming animated TV series for 2008 "The Spectacular Spiderman" at Sony.

During the course of his presentation Sean created a series of demo sketches. Much of what he was explaining as far as his methods and approaches go were completely consistent with what we emphasize through our program, underscoring the importance of strong fundamental skills.

Sean Galloway was well received and everyone learned from the time he spent with the class as he shared his secrets to success in the industry and in art.

To experience more of Sean's work be sure to visit his blog:

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Demos make a difference

Whenever possible our instructors utilize demonstrations for educational purposes. Here's something I created for a group at the last session of Character Design I for adults. I used blue pencil for the initial construction and layout, red pencil to commit to the design, black pen for the final pass and blue pencil again for tone. Clicking on the image will give you a better view.

This quick sketch served to illustrate the process of developing a character in the classic animated style, with a full explanation of depth of field suitable for 3D modeling if needed. I judge the effectiveness of a demonstration by the difference it makes with our student's approach to their own work. If I see an immediate improvement, then I know that the demo has done was it was intended to do. With that criteria in mind, this little demo was a success.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Patrick Morgan from the archives

It's fun to go back into the Academy's archived work. There's always a surprise to be found. In this case, it's something from Patrick Morgan's early days as a student in our program.

Patrick was featured on the Academy's blog a few weeks ago on May 26, 2007 when he paid us a visit as a special guest speaker and shared his latest endeavors. It goes without saying that he's come a long way since his time at our school. Back then he was one of many talented and promising artists. He continued to develop a franchise around his creativity. An inspiring role model for students to follow.

To see what's new with Patrick, visit: