Saturday, December 27, 2008

Jay Fabares rising up

Many of our students who've become successful in the animation business and in other areas of their art became assistant instructors with us first, after spending enough time in our program to qualify by virtue of the quality of their work and the professional standards they develop and exhibit. The latest I'm happy to say is Jay Fabares.

Jay's been with us for several semesters now. She's been a dedicated and diligent student, and starting with our next semester on January 6, 2009 she'll be inspiring and assisting other students with the basics of Visual Development.

Here's a small sample of the work she's created the past few weeks through in class assignments and on her own. Clicking on the image will give you a better view.

To see what Jay's been up to, visit her blog through this link:

Congratulations, Jay!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas !!!

Peace On Earth, Goodwill To All Mankind

As we contemplate 2008 and everything that's been accomplished this past year, we're more excited than ever about what the future will bring to our students and friends. The Animation Academy will continue to help individuals develop their creative skills and affect lives in very positive ways as we have for nearly 11 years. There's nothing more joyous for us than seeing good people reach their potential and achieve great things with their art.

Thank you to our colleagues, associates and the many folks who've helped make our school a shining light in the creative community. May all your days be bright, and may all your dreams come true!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Kristen Sych visits the Academy

Our final class of the year was completed last night, and this makes for a good opportunity to post an update about a recent guest we had at the school.

Kristen Sych hails from Canada and was personally committed at a young age to pursue a career as a character animator. He eventually wound up in Los Angeles and enrolled at the Academy early in our history. His strengths as an artist, an animator and as a communicator made him an ideal candidate for an animation instructor, so Kristen filled that role for us for a long time.

Here he is in the company of some of our students and staff. He's the fellow in the center in front of the dark band in the curtain.

Kristen related how his foundation in traditional hand drawn animation and the fundamentals therein made him a stronger computer animator when he made the jump to CGI. He also spoke about how the medium of computer animation has made him a better animator by freeing him from worrying about every nuance of his drawing and focusing instead on the action, activity and performance of the character he's animating. He's currently an animator at Activision.

Kristen doesn't maintain a website or blog. He's in solid demand and hasn't had the chance to develop his Web presence yet. When he does, I'll be sure to post a link.

Thanks for spending time with us Kristen. Your visit was educational, inspiring, informative and entertaining. We hope to see you again very soon.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Walt Disney's Grave

In honor of Walt Disney's birthday, I took it upon myself to visit his final resting place. It's discreetly hidden at Forest Lawn Cemetary in Glendale, California, the town next to Burbank. A friend of mine who used to work there knew where to find it, so we ventured forth this past Monday to pay our respects.

And here it is, a rare look at the garden area where Walt and his wife Lillian are intered. Click on the photo for a better view.

For more photos from my visit and info about Walt's gravesite, there's a topic in progress on the AnimationNation Forums.

Follow this link:;f=1;t=013389

Friday, December 05, 2008

It's Walt Disney's Birthday!

Today is December 5, Walt Disney was born in Chicago, Illinois on this date in 1901. At the Academy, there's noboby in the art of animation whose memory we honor more than that of Walt Disney. Follow the link below to see a moving video tribute to this great man.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Kelsey Mann from the archives

Some recent reorganization of the Academy's archives has uncovered a treasure trove of artwork from individuals who were once students here and have gone on to great success in the animation business. Among the discovered images are those created by Kelsey Mann.

Kelsey enrolled at the Academy as a new arrival to the LA area coming here from Minneapolis, Minnesota. He quickly made an impact with his art as he took right to the fundamentals we were teaching and incorporated these principles into his work. The samples below are from his time in our Background Design class, the first dated November 18, 2002 and the next dated November 19, 2002. The assignment was to come up with concept sketches for a cave exterior.

After some concepts were explored, Kelsey committed to a final design and created this composition the following day. Clicking on the art will give you a better view.

Kelsey went on to become an instructor with us and spent a few semesters in that capacity. It wasn't long before he was picked up by a major studio and his career went flying into the stratosphere.

For more info on Kelsey Mann and to see what he's been up to since his days at The Animation Academy, follow this link to his blog:

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thomas Perkins from the archives

While organizing some archival artwork, these designs were rediscovered. Tom Perkins was a student at the Academy several years ago and distinguished himself as a powerful and unique character designer and as an artist with inimitable visions. The samples are from Visual Development. They were class assignments that Tom completed in Photoshop. Clicking on the image will enhance the view.

Tom went on to become an instructor with us and has since established himself as one of the industry's leading designers. His blog is high on the list of must sees. Follow the link below:

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Joshua Lam lights it up

This semester we're happy to have back with us Joshua Lam. He was a student at the Academy back in its earliest days. Since then he's had a successful career in the graphics department at Warner Bros Studios, has started his own company, got married and is raising a family.

His return has been notable for the exceptional work he's doing in class. Here's an example of his latest. In Visual Development, one of the things we strive to do is have our students explain form through the use of a light source. In Joshua's case he's taken his assignment to a masterful level by lighting the subject from three different angles. The first is from above, the second from above right, the third from below right. Click on the image for an enhanced view.

His approach in this light study along with his attention to the dimensionality of the design is very conducive to 3D modeling. His attention to form would translate very well into a computer generated image.

It's great to have Joshua Lam back, especially when he's creating studies as compelling as this. To see more of his work, visit his blog through the link below:

Monday, November 03, 2008

Carl Aspuria explores

A recent student to the Academy, Carl Aspuria is getting into his assignments for Visual Development. In this sample from class, he's taken a single design image and has used it to experiment with gray tones, color and form relative to a light source. Clicking on the image will enhance the view.

A healthy approach to developing basic skills, Carl's marker studies are an excellent example of how to efficiently utilize an image for maximizing one's creative experiences relative to one's artistic growth.

Visit Carl's DeviantArt page by following the link below:

Looking forward to many more impressive works coming from Carl.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Gary Clair stops by

A fixture at the Academy for many years, and one of the original founding students of the school, Gary Clair's professional responsibilities as of late have denied us the pleasure of his company until our last session this week, where he made a surprise visit. Here he is mobbed by his many fans.

Gary's visit prompted a reach into the archives to feature this design he created a few years ago which was published in our schedule. Clicking on the image will give you a better view.

Follow this link to enjoy Gary's blog:

It was great seeing Gary again and we look forward to many more visits from him in days to come.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Recent guest speakers

Hello everyone, and thanks for your patience with updates to the Academy's blog. It's been a very active time the past couple of months, but things are settling down enough to share recent news.

Former Academy student Josh Leiberman has sold a series concept to Cartoon Network and is in production on the 7 minute pilot. He stopped by last week to say hello and everyone enjoyed an excellent presentation from him as our guest speaker for the evening. Definitely one of the best presentations we've ever had as far as insight and advice goes about pitching show concepts and studio internships.

Here's Josh with some of his fans.

To visit Josh Lieberman's blog and find out more of what he's up to, follow this link:

Bridget McCarty started with us when she was in high school. She's since gone on to establish her own Internet business selling fine miniatures. She makes a good enough living from her business that she can support herself completely through her art.

In the next two shots, students get a closer look at Bridget's samples and write ups about her work while she explains her marketing techniques as well as sharing practicle business advice for artists.

Visit Bridget's site through this link:

A big thanks to Bridget McCarty and Josh Lieberman. Everyone gained from their time with us. We hope to see Bridget and Josh again in the near future and we wish them continued success in all their endeavors.

Monday, September 08, 2008

"Controlling Illusion" is here!

Hello everyone, students, associates and friends of The Animation Academy. I'm very happy, excited and proud to present my first book, Controlling Illusion.

Controlling Illusion is a compilation of many of the class demonstrations I've done throughout my career as an art educator, with most of them originating from the sessions I've taught at the Academy. Much of the art stems from my Visual Development course, along with some work from Character Design. Here's the front cover, clicking on the image will give you a better view.

The art spans a 22 year period, and the book itself took two years to assemble and write. I decided at the outset that I would gear Controlling Illusion towards an educational experience by describing the lesson from each demonstration. The book is being used a reference text in class and so far, the results in our students' work really shows the difference that Controlling Illusion is making with their design and rendering skills.

You can purchase Controlling Illusion online through a special site I've created for that purpose. Follow the links below for info about the book, along with a view at some Sample Pages and also to see some of the early Reviews the book is getting.

To Purchase:

Sample Pages:


Initial response to the book has been extremely positive acrosss the board. Controlling Illusion will help make a good artist better and a better artist great. Each page offers useful information and insights about each demo in a way that will walk you through the progressive stages of Vis Dev fundamentals. It's an educational anthology in art through an animation design and development venue that will inspire you to create. I'm very confident you'll enjoy it as a learning tool as much as you will its entertainment value.

Authoring is a lot of fun as I'm finding out, and I'm working on a second book as a result of my experience with this. Meantime, I hope you'll take a moment to take a look at the Controlling Illusion links and get a glimpse into this unique endeavour.

Controlling Illusion is a specialty art education book sold exclusively through The Animation Academy.

Thanks to all, and Keep Creating! That's the key.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Honoring Ollie Johnston

The creative legacy of the Walt Disney Studios was pioneered by great artists and animators. Among the greatest was Ollie Johnston, one of the legendary "Nine Old Men" and co-author of "The Illusion of Life" which helped resurrect the fine art of animation by educating and inspiring a new generation of talent in the 1980's and beyond.

On August 18, 2008 at the Sheraton Universal in Hollywood, the family of Ollie Johnston hosted a reception in his memory as he had passed away on April 14 of this year at the age of 95. I was invited to help set up for this event and while at the hotel, I met one of Ollie Johnston's sons, Ken Johnston. I had the opportunity to express to him my appreciation for his father and he was gracious enough to pose for the photo below.

The framed picture you see next to him is a remarkable image which the Johnston family brought along as a centerpiece for the memorial event. It's a shot of his father, in the company of he lady who would become Mrs. Ollie Johnston, his mother, at the Hollywood premiere of "Fantasia" in 1940.

More photos are featured on the AnimationNation forums. Follow this link to view them:;f=1;t=013237

It was a great honor being part of Ollie Johnston's memorial and representing The Animation Academy in this way.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Andre Medina's first publication

Since the foundation of the school, The Animation Academy has always encouraged creative enterprise, entreprenuership and independence in one's career, even if the artist is employed at a studio. You see this in many of our most successful students.

I'm excited to be introducing yet another one. Andre Medina worked on "Barnyard the Movie" and is currently on "The Simpsons" crew. He's been a long time student of the Academy and is one of our recent standouts.

At our last session, Andre debuted his first publication. A 16 page collection of some of the sketches and artwork he'd been creating in class. They were quickly bought up at $5 each.

Here's the cover. Click on the image for an enhanced view.

Check out Andre's blog and you'll get an idea of how talented he is:

Why limit your portfolio to studio submissions only, when you can package your portfolio and sell it. With this kind of creative excellence, an artist can prepare their portfolio as a publication and begin to build their own independent economy and fan based community.

I'm sure this won't be the last time we see something in print from him. Andre's very dedicated and will be entering Cal Arts this coming fall. Another Academy student on their way to Cal Arts.

Great things are on the way from Andre Medina.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Checking in...

Hello there students and friends of The Animation Academy. Thanks for stopping by. It's been several weeks since I've posted on the Academy's blog, but not for lack of activity with our school. On the contrary, there's been a lot happening.

I've just returned from Fresno, California where I was the lead instructor for the first three days at the California State University Summer Arts Program 2008, a college credit workshop in the arts that is sponosred by the Cal State University system, the largest state university system in the country. I launched the two week long animation workshop and gave a public lecture as well. The workshop began with a seminar in character design and is now taken over by the 3D modeling and animation instructors. It'll wrap up on July 26. The Animation Academy was well represented not only by myself, but with Kevin Poythress, a former student and current instructor with us who's participating in the Summer Arts Program.

Now that the Summer Arts animation workshop is under way, I'm back in Burbank where we'll be hosting the great Photoshop artist Snakebite as he returns to spend an evening in our company this coming Tuesday, July 22.

Also worth mentioning, at the end of the month, my very first book is scheduled to be shipped. A special publication that I'm excited to be offering. It's being published by The Animation Academy, and when it arrives, I'll provide more information as to the nature of the book and where it can be purchased. Just a few more days to go.

Thanks again for checking in, folks. Wishing you well and as always, Keep Creating!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Spiderman Night Spectacular!

We had the pleasure of hosting Spectacular Spiderman Night at the Academy last week, as four artists from the crew of Sony's popular animated TV series were in attendance as guest speakers. There was a great turnout, with a crowd that rivaled what we had on Animation Day last April 1.

The group included (from right to left) Walter Gatus (Character Designer and Academy alumni), Paul Harmon (Storyboard), Sean "Cheeks" Galloway (Character Design Supervisor), and Jeff Johnson (Storyboard).

When Q&A was over, everyone rushed the tables to check out their work.

Paul Harmon chatting with Academy students.

Jeff Johnson, Cheeks and the rest of our special guests talking with the crowd, while the Academy's videographer is busy catching some of the conversations.

Cheeks, up close and personal. He brought a printout of his upcoming book, the third one Cheeks will be publishing. Academy students were the first to get a sneak peek at what to expect.

The little kids drawing at the lower right are Walter Gatus' children, inspired and getting started early.

Two very special and very talented visitors from Cal Arts were with us for Spiderman Night. Kristen Campbell on the right in the company of Kris Anka, an Academy alumni and winner of the first Warner Bros Hanna Barbera Scholarship in 2007.

A Big thanks to our guest artists from Sony! It was another spectacular experience at our school.

We're booking seats for classes scheduled for July 1, 2008. It's going to be another well attended semester coming up. If you'd like to enroll, get in touch with us.

Until then, Keep Creating! It's good for ya.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Hannah McCully makes Innerspark!

Celebrating more good news. Hannah McCully, a student from our Teen Program, has been accepted into Innerspark 2008 at Cal Arts. Innerspark is a special curriculum that Cal Arts sponsors each summer for exceptionally talented teen artists. Hannah is the latest in a long list of students from the Academy to make it into Cal Arts in some capacity.

Congratulations to Hannah McCully on her achievement! We're very happy and proud!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Eddie Nieves turns it on

A new student to the Academy this semester, Eddie Nieves continues our tradition of excellence with these 2 assignments he completed, his 5 pose character rotations from concept sketches he developed earlier in class.

Clicking on the artwork will give you a better view.

Eddie's skills were commendable when he started, but they've really taken off as result of his time with us. We're happy to share his creative accomplishments with the community here on the Academy's blog, and look forward to the great things he'll be doing in the very near future. Keep up the good work, Eddie.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Animation Day 2008 a Hit!

In early 1999, The Animation Academy started a revolution in the industry by launching, a forum for animation professionals. A tradition has since grown whereby every April 1, there would be a workday gathering of the pros. A day of unity.

For the 10th year in a row, the event has occured in its most recent form as Animation Day.

Here's the turnout on Tuesday evening, April 1, with a crowd of about 100 attending and stopping by. Click on the photo for a better view.

A highly inspiring occasion with glowing words of review appearing at several places on the Web. A week later, the positive energy in the animation community is still riding the wave.

For more info, pictures and to follow the account of Animation Day 08, click on this link:;f=1;t=013021;p=1

This year's theme of "The Future" was fitting since a big number of young people showed up, outnumbering the veterans. Groups from the Animation Design Center in Torrance and students in the Bachelors Degree program at California State University in Northridge swelled the numbers.

The Animation Academy continues to influence the industry.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Nelson Boles makes it 2 in a row !

I'm very pleased, proud and excited to share the news with the Academy's community.

For the second year in a row, and in only the second year of the existence of this prestigious national recognition for high school students, the 2nd Annual Warner Bros Hanna Barbera Scholarship has been won by a student from The Animation Academy!

Last year it was Kris Anka. This year, it's Nelson Boles!

Nelson came to the Academy and enrolled in our Teen Program after his family and had been flooded out of their home in New Orleans, Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Nelson came to Los Angeles to stay with relatives and spent two semesters with us while he was here. He returned to New Orleans and continued with his life, drawing and animating films.

Last week, he was contacted by phone and notified by representatives of Warner Bros that he was the recipient of this year's scholarship - $10,000 to go to Cal Arts and a paid internship to Warner Bros Animation Studios.

This link will take you to a YouTube video of the film that won it for Nelson.

A huge congratulations going out to Nelson from everyone here at The Animation Academy in Burbank, California with our very best wishes for his continued success. We're looking forward to a great career from this very talented young artist, animator and filmmaker.

Keep Creating, Nelson!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Lopez brothers double up

Recently enrolled into the Academy's program, twin brothers Donovan and Dorian Lopez made a strong statement in their first semester studying Character Design I. Below is Donovan's initial attempt at his 5 pose character rotation.

This is Dorian's first character rotation. Clicking on the images will give you a better view.

The Lopez brothers contribute to the Academy's legacy of excellence in art training for the animation industry by virtue of the commendable job they did with this all important assignment. Their character rotations are professional quality and would rival many designers already working in the business.

Donovan and Dorian have a bright creative future ahead of them and we're looking forward to what they'll be accomplishing next.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Three's a charm

It was an excellent occasion at the last session of the Academy as we celebrated 2 surpise guest speakers in addition to our scheduled guest, Walter Gatus.

We had the pleasure of a visit from Snakebite, (third from the left) as well as Andres Alvarez (next to Snakebite on the right). Snakebite is a former student and instructor and a world class Photoshop artist. Andres is a former student of the Academy who went on to become an instructor with us and then founded his own school, The Animation Design Center in Torrance, California, which is in the South Bay area of Los Angeles.

Here they are in the company of a few of our admiring group.

Walter Gatus, another former student who made it big in the animation biz, stopped by to share his portfolio and recent work he's been doing as a character designer on the upcoming series "The Spectacular Spiderman" scheduled to air next month from Sony TV Animation. Walter is in the dark blue shirt to the left of the table.

The action at the Academy as Walter spends extra time with a group of students while others are channeling their inspiration by busting out their own artwork.

Andres Alvarez topped off the evening with a showing of his own, a collection of his work and those of his students from the Animation Design Center. He's the guy with the big smile on the left.

It's been an exceptional and memorable semester these past few weeks as we enjoyed the 10th anniversary of the school and a big turnout in students and creative activity. Thanks to everyone who's been a part of it. The next semester, 11.2 will begin March 4. Hope to see you there.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

10 Years, Big Week

The 10th Anniversary of The Animation Academy was celebrated on Saturday, January 19, 2008 at a special animation event at the Burbank Public Library, on the date of the school's first class in 1998. The event included screenings, portfolios reviews and a panel discussion with the audience. It was a terrific afternoon. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves. The event was a huge success.

The panel of guest speakers included several from the Academy. From the left on the microphone, that's Walter Gatus from Sony's upcoming Spiderman series. Next to him is Bob Harper from Cartoon Network. Next to him is Gary Clair from Threshold Enterainment. Chance Raspberry from Starz Media is the second person over from him with the black t-shirt. Not pictured but to the left of Walter Gatus is Joe Pearson, renowned independent animation producer.

The panel looking from the other side, included guests from Tokyo Pop. The person on the opposite side of the table in the distance by the podium is Joe Pearson.

Here's a look at part of the crowd in attendance.

After the question and answer session of the event, the group spread out to speak one on one with visitors. Here's Gary Clair from the upcoming film "Food Fight", Chance Raspberry from "The Simpsons" and Walter Gatus from the upcoming "Spiderman" TV series. Three of The Animation Academy's many famous former students.

Looking the other way along the head table, the visitors gathering to speak with Walter Gatus, Chance Raspberry and Gary Clair.

In class this week, our first guest speaker of the year was someone very much distinguished in the animation industry. Tad Stones took time to stop by and talk with our students. An incredible guest, he spoke at length about his experiences in animation. An amazing career spanning the Disney Studios through more than 3 decades.

Tad's career from his time with Disney's training program in its earliest days through recent history and all the projects and shows he's developed captivated our group. Afterwards, students gathered round to speak with him personally.

Here's Tad being thanked by a couple of Academy students who were grateful for his visit and inspired by his talk.

The IMDb database gives a glimpse into Tad's extensive and intriguing career.


A big thanks to Mr. Stones. He left a huge impression on everyone. Thankful for the generosity of his time and wishing him the best in all things.

We're tentatively scheduling our next speaker for this semester on February 12. When the final word comes in it will be announced on the Academy's home page.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

10 Years Old Today!

Hello everyone and thank you for visiting the Academy's blog. A very Happy 2008 to you! It's been hectic recently with a large group of new students entering our program this semester and being caught up with preparing my first book which I'll disclose more info about later. So please excuse the delay in posting updates about what's been happening at The Animation Academy.

Today is a special day. It was 10 years ago that we held our very first class in the back room of the Coral Cafe Restaurant in Burbank, California on January 19, 1998.

It began at the suggestion of my friend, John Leousis, the owner of the Coral Cafe. I booked the back room of his restaurant and sent 35 flyers out to friends and former students whose addresses I had as part of a Christmas card mailing list. I had room for 20 students and sold out all the seats.

I spent $15 on stamps and envelopes. With that, a new business and a new educational endeavor was launched in Burbank for the community and the industry.

To everyone who's been a part of the school over the past 10 years, thank you! I hope you've enjoyed your experiences as much as I've enjoyed your company. If the school's helped make you a better artist, if it's helped with your career and creativity, if it's helped make the animation business more accessible and more fun for you, if it's helped make the world a little bit better place, then it's been worth the effort.

We'll be at the Burbank Public Library today, two stoplights up the street from the Disney Studios celebrating with a special animation event the library is sponsoring. Photos from the event will be posted soon.

Here's to the next 10 years and to the continued success of our students, instructors, associates and friends. Thanks again and God bless.

Keep Creating!