Friday, December 31, 2010

The Academy on Facebook

We've been so busy helping artists become the best they can be, some things had to wait. But we've finally activated the Facebook account for The Animation Academy. Thanks for your patience, folks. We're excited to be a part of this dynamic social network.

You're welcome to join us on Facebook. Like us, be a friend, tell your friends about us and help spread the word.

Just follow the link:

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas 2010

Wishing everyone at The Animation Academy, our students both past and present, to our instructors and friends, and to our friends the world over and to our visitors to the Academy's blog, to you and yours, a very Merry Christmas!

For educational purposes I thought I'd include the initial concept sketch for this year's Christmas card from the Academy.

After I scanned the sketch, I drew directly over it in Photoshop, using one of the original computers from the Academy's lab at our old building, and a small out of date Wacom tablet from 10 years ago. Built to last!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Fun promoting Online Classes

I have a huge inventory of creative content, much of which has never been seen by the public. What better way to begin showcasing it than in regards to promoting The Animation Academy's upcoming Online Program.

Here's some promotional art I'm putting together. The first features the school's brand and ArtShark...

Next up, I've taken some character designs from the development of Sony's "Jak and Daxter" video game series and arranged them in something of a narrative, where the characters are conversing with each other. I've also included informative and promotional text.

Clicking on these images will give you a better view.

I've made use of some concept designs from a project I was developing for a DisneyWorld attraction involving the Pixar animated feature "A Bug's Life". I did these drawings in 1996 or 1997. This is the very first time artwork from this project has been published or even seen by anyone. I've had it under wraps for almost 15 years.

I plan on having a lot of fun with this, showcasing both new work and vintage art from my personal archives.

If you have questions concerning the upcoming online classes, please feel free to get in touch with us either by phone or email. Contact info is available on the school's website.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Celebrating 12 years of ArtShark!

It's hard to belive that 12 years have gone by since ArtShark, the Academy's mascot, made his first public appearance. It was December, 1998 when he graced the cover of our schedules.

This is what he looked like back then, and this has since become part of the brand of The Animation Academy. The image was scanned from one of the original copies.

Few people realize there was a year of experimentation with characters before ArtShark came about as we know him today. In fact, this is the character and the artwork that appeared on the Academy's very first flyer back in December, 1997 as the school was getting ready to be launched.

As part of the celebration of the character who's served the Academy so well, I've started a topic on the Gallery Forum of which will serve as an exhibition of ArtShark artwork throughout the years. There's rare images I've posted from the first year of the Academy's existence before ArtShark came about, and the story of how the character was developed. I'll gradually be updating it until all of the ArtSharks that've been created will be on display.

You're welcome to follow the topic and enjoy the show by following the link below.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Online classes on the way

I'm happy and excited to announce that we're preparing for online classes at The Animation Academy.

We anticipate the launch of our online program by the first week of March, 2011.

We plan on offering a Masterclass Program in Character Design with yours truly as instructor, and a class in Photoshop Basics taught by Glen Moyes.

We plan on expanding the school online with a curriculum based upon our core classes in production design and development including at least two levels of Character Design and possibly three, Visual Development, and other key courses that would round out our current curriculum and build upon it.

More information will be forthcoming, but I wanted to take this opportunity to announce that our online classes are on the way.

Keep Creating!

Charles Zembillas

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Robert Gold's latest demo

Here's a class demonstration that our Background Design and Perspective instructor Robert Gold created a couple of weeks ago. He batted this out like it was effortless.

Robert came to the Academy as a student in 1999 and emerged as a great teacher. He's been with us ever since. He helped train many artists in BG Design and many of his students went on to professional careers.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Marietta Semerdjian - B & A

The Academy is a program for professional training, and we're open to teens that can show a portfolio of their work and exhibit a desire to learn what it is that we have to teach.

Here's a good example of how a talented teen can improve once they begin with us. This is the work of Marietta Semerdjian. The first sample is what she was doing just prior to enrolling this past summer.

And here's what she's doing after one semester, approximately two months later.

Marietta still shows some anime influence in her art, but it's developed into a more sophisticated approach. Her attention to form is much better and her drawing is more solid. She's distinguishing herself with a unique style instead of mimicking one. All in all, she's done a fine job of taking her first significant steps towards professionalism.

Imagine what she'll be capable of in a couple more years when she's graduated from high school.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Celebrating Anthony Price

In the early years of the Academy, we had a standout student by the name of Anthony Price. He made his mark with us, then life happened and he went his way. Recently, Anthony has returned to the Academy and we're glad he did. He is now an assistant instructor in Character Design II and his presence is helping to make our students even stronger.

Here's something Anthony created recently. He rendered his design on toned paper, which gives him a middle value to work his lights and darks off of.

Anthony is an artist of exceptional ability, able to design in a variety of styles.

His excellence as an instructor has also positioned him as my assistant for the course I teach at Cal State University Northridge. Anthony is a professional in every sense of the word. You can see more of his work by visiting his blog.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Einav Deri - Before and After

I gauge a student's progress based upon the artwork they create when they start with us, and then compare it with what they're doing a short while later. Here's a good example of how an individual can grow as a result of their participation in our program.

Einav Deri came all the way from Israel to take classes at the Academy. She was particularly interested in Character Design. On the left is a drawing she did the very first day of her class in September, 2009. On the right is what she's doing today.

Another example of Einav's creative growth. On the left, a character she drew prior to attending classes. On the right, something recent.

Here's a study of a head design she came up with for Visual Development, rendered tonally in grays and in color.

Currently Einav is attending animation school in her country and is a standout student thanks to her dedication, determination and the time she spent getting her fundamental skills down at The Animation Academy in Burbank. Her peers flock to her to pick her brain as to what she knows about design and drawing. The Academy helped put her on a solid path to professionalism. She's a rising star and there's little doubt as to the success she'll be experiencing in her career.

To see more of what Einav is up to creatively, visit her blog at

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Joel Valdez turns it on

It's always a thrill for me to introduce new talent to the animation community. This past semester we welcomed Joel Valdez into our program. Joel came to the Academy from Tucson, Arizona and is wrapping up his work in Character Design I. Here's a class assignment he just completed. Click on the image and you'll get a better view.

At the Academy, we emphasize the important of a good character designer being able to handle a basic five pose rotation for the characters they create. It's a necessary skill, especially in a production situation. I'm happy to showcase one of Joel's attempts at completing something that even professional character designers are challenged by. Joel is among the many exceptional students we have at the Academy at any given time, and a big reason why our legacy looms large in the industry.

Looking forward to more great things from Joel Valdez.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Izzy does it again

One of our most talented teen students, this is her latest from Visual Development. An innovative and delightful composition rendered in markers and color pencils. The Academy's legacy continues to grow with students like Izzy who create magic at every session.

Clicking on the image will give you a better view.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Thursday classes on the way

Hello everyone, especially current and former Academy students, and also to folks out there considering enrolling in our program.

The Animation Academy started in the back room of a local restaurant in Burbank in January, 1998. I launched the business with an investment of $15 that was used for stamps and envelopes to mail out announcements the month before. Since that time, we've had students into the thousands who've taken classes with us. We've literally changed the face of the animation industry with the quality of our training and with the success of a great many of our students.

For years, we were located in a large facility down the street from Disney Studios, NBC and Warner Brothers on Olive Avenue in Burbank, which turned out to be a building that Don Bluth was previously occupying for production purposes. The building was in a redevelopment zone and we were successful in garnering community support and convincing the Burbank City Council to approve the construction of a proposed complex on behalf of our landlord.

We were to be tenants within the complex once it was completed and moved to the Burbank Association of Realtors building on Tuesday evenings, in anticipation of this project. Unfortunately, when the economy tanked a couple of years ago, so did the project.

We've always planned on expanding our program again and I'm happy to announce that as of this coming November, we'll be offering Thursday evening sessions for the first time since we left our building.

Classes will be held in Burbank, close to where we operate on Tuesdays. We have a nice room reserved that is perfectly suited for what we do. My plan is to make Thursday evenings available for students who want to take more than one class with us. The primary focus of the class will be on advanced subjects such as Visual Development and/or Storyboarding. Enrollment will be limited to approximately 6 students in very concerted and specialized sessions.

There'll be 6 sessions over 2 months, and pricing will be consistent with what we already charge, which is pretty darn great considering the excellence of the education that's offered.

This is the first notice about the Thursday evening sessions, and I'll be posting more info through the Academy's venues. Meantime, feel free to contact us if you'd like to get in on it.

Our office number is 818-848-6590 or you can reach us by email through our website.

Keep Creating!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Robert Negrete's turn

Here's another head rotation that was created at a recent session of the Academy. Robert Negrete, a new student to our program enrolled in Character Design I, came up with this as part of his class assignment. For his first attempt, he did a fine job. Clicking on the image will improve the view.

As I've mentioned before, rotations are a key aspect of our Character Design curriculum. It's an essential skill that anyone who aspires to be a professional character designer should master. Even if you're not going in that direction with your art or career, rotations are an an excellent exercise in further developing your basic draughtsmanship.

Robert Negrete is a promising artist that we'll be seeing more of in days ahead. To view more of his work, follow the link below.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Presenting Ernesto Ochoa

It's been awhile since I've featured new artwork coming from students at the Academy. My schedule has precluded me from doing so much of the time, but in spite of that, excellent art continues to be generated through our program I'm very proud to say.

Here's a couple of samples of what's been happening this semester. This is the art of Ernesto Ochoa. These are class assignments from our basic introductory class, Character Design I. The first example of his work is a classic representation of character development through fundamental design. Ernesto is taking the time to build out the look of his character in many ways. He establishes the anatomy, fully constructs the head, even takes the time to explore the hands. Clicking on the image will give you an enhanced view.

In addition to design exploration in the concept phase of development, we have our students immerse themselves in rotations as soon as they have an image that's ready to go to models. Head rotations of their characters prepares them for full body rotations which follow in the course of their assignments.

Here's Ernesto's head rotation for one of the characters he developed for his project. It's absolutely professional in every aspect. Again, clicking on the image will enhance the view.

Notice in these samples, how he takes his time and gives his drawings all the attention they need. As with much of the work that our students create, it can be just as good or better than similar work being generated at many animation studios, with all due respect of course.

Ernesto's art is a great example of why The Animation Academy enjoys the excellent reputation that it has, and why many in the industry routinely recommend our school for appropriate training in design and related subjects. Our legacy continues to grow thanks to outstanding artists like Ernesto Ochoa and many more of our students as well.

To see more of Ernesto's work, follow the link to his blog:

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Monthly enrollment at the Academy

Hello everyone, I hope this entry to the Academy's blog finds you well.

This year, we've experimented with mid-semester, or monthly enrollment. For many years the Academy offered six semesters per calendar year, with the opportunity to enter the program every other month. A few months ago, we decided to try something different by allowing students to enroll at the begining of each month.

I'm happy to report that this has been a very successful change. By overlapping our semesters, we've been able to welcome both new and returning students sooner, without having to wait an additional month for the chance to join us. This system has also been beneficial in better managing the new students that enter our program. Monthly enrollment has helped solved a periodic problem we've faced. That is, the volume of new students we would normally get as a result of bi-monthly enrollment. We've been able to spread new student enrollment more evenly throughout the year, thus enabling us to better facilitate new student groups.

The next window for enrolling at the Academy will be September 7, 2010.

The Animation Academy continues to enhance its legacy through the great creative success of our students. If you're looking to improve upon your basic skills as they apply to animation, you're welcome to contact us and discuss how the Academy can help you to grow.

Our office line is 818-848-6590.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

William Ruzicka's storyboard

Last fall, William Ruzicka enrolled in the Storyboarding class I conduct. I knew him from Cal State University Northridge where we was a standout student in the Animation Drawing class I teach there.

The storyboard he created at the Academy is one of the best ever done by a student at the school. I've been waiting for him to get me copy of it so I could feature his work on the Academy's blog. In this case, through a link to the Gallery section of the new forums at

The method I use for teaching storyboards is different than what most may experience, and I get great results as a result. In the case of Will's work, I used a live action script from a Clint Eastwood move "In the Line of Fire" and had him board the first couple of pages. Thanks to the technology of AN's new forums, I was able to easily upload his work. Click on the first image, and a bigger window will appear that will allow you to go through all 25 pages of his storyboard. A link to William's blog is at the end of the images on the actual topic. By the way, he's currently working as a professional storyboard artist thanks in large part to the storyboard he created in class.

Enjoy William's board...

Here's a link to his blog...

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Evan Cooper before and after

This is the 200th post on the Academy's blog, and I can't think of a better way to celebrate than by showcasing Evan Cooper once again. He was featured in my entry of December 28, 2009.

Follow this link to the Gallery of and you'll see the remarkable improvement in Evan's work since he enrolled with us.;f=3;t=002564

Evan's progress is indicative of how much our students grow as a result of our program. This can happen to you as well if you're dedicated, focused, and creatively productive.

The Animation Academy trains great artists.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Academy has a new website

It's been a long time coming and I'm more than happy to announce that The Animation Academy finally has a new site.

Thanks a thousand times over to Adrian Foster for all of the work he's put into it as the site's webmaster, and to Snakebite for the design.

We're showcasing the artwork and galleries that were there from before. Now you can see some of the art when you go to the homepage, and we're also able to feature video. On the right is an interview with Chance Raspberry, below that is a trailer for a 12 minute movie we did in Flash from the time the Academy was located on Olive Ave. in Burbank. It was a production we were commissioned for. Below that is a video montage of student work. There's two more videos featuring animation that we'll be adding soon. You can see the additional videos by going to the Gallery section of the site.

We'll be creatively expanding the site now that we have this new resource. Meanwhile, we hope you'll enjoy the many things there are to see and be inspired by.

Keep Creating!

Charles Zembillas

Friday, March 26, 2010

Bryan Young's impact

It's really a thrill to see continuously impressive work being created by our students. Take for example Bryan Young. He was enrolled in Character Design I last semester and made a big impact with his art. Check out his rotations and two facial expression models he generated as part of his class requirements. Clicking on the images will give you a better view.

Bryan did an exceptional job needless to say. His artwork inspired other students to excel. This is what makes the Academy a unique and valuable experience for all. When one student creates outstanding artwork we all benefit from it.

Looking forward to more exciting design work from Bryan Young in days ahead.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Eric Yac - Before and After

Here's a great example of the kind of progress our students make in a short period of time at the Academy.

Eric Yac started with us last semester in January, 2010. He enrolled in Character Design I, which is a foundation class for our program. This is his first attempt at incorporating basic fundamentals into his drawing. He created these sketches on January 5, the first day of class as you can see from the date he wrote on the page.

Now take a look at what Eric was doing only 17 days later, while working on an assignment at home. Clicking on the images will give you a better view.

It's hard to believe this was done by the same artist, but it was, and in only 2 weeks and 3 days after his initial class sketches. His later drawings show even more improvement. Now Eric is drawing with so much confidence, he's teaching others on his own.

Eric is indicative of why The Animation Academy enjoys such a great reputation in our industry. We can look forward to many more interesting works from Eric in the days ahead.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Academy is 12 years old today!

Happy Birthday to us!!!

On this date in 1998 The Animation Academy held it's very first class! It was in the back room of the Coral Cafe, a local restaurant in Burbank. I started the school with an investment of $15 which was used for buying postage stamps and envelopes. I had a mailing list of about 35 names, most of them students from classes I had taught previously at other schools. I used the list for sending out Christmas cards, and in December of 1997, I sent out flyers announcing the flagship class for a new school. I called it "The Animation Academy" because I couldn't think of any other name.

There was room for 20 students. I figured I'd get somewhere between 5 and 10 enrolled, but as it turned out, all 20 seats were booked and the Academy began with a capacity class.

Over the years we've had students into the thousands, and I figure along with those I've taught at other schools, the number of students I've personally instructed numbers around 3000.

Many lives have been changed by the program at the Academy, and our humble beginnings underscore just how significant the school's been not only in the careers of our students and friends, but in the direction that animation has taken as well. Academy students are at studios throughout the industry including Pixar, Disney, DreamWorks, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and many more. We're closely associated with the program at Cal State Northridge, a major university, and we continue to attract artists from the industry and from outside the US as well. The Academy inspired industry reform through and continues to encourage artists to excel.

Thanks to everyone who's currently involved with the school and thanks to the many people who've been involved with us in the past.

Here's to our future, and to your future as well!

Keep Creating!

Charles Zembillas

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Amber Kenneson returns

Happy New Year to all! Here's wishing that 2010 is a great creative experience for everyone associated with the Academy.

We got the year off to a strong start by launching Semester 13.1 this week, and among the good things we're celebrating is the return of Amber Kenneson. Amber enrolled in our program earlier in 2009 and has come back to continue her work. Here's an example of a class assignment she created previously in Visual Development. An intriguing study for a background in which she made use of full tonal ranges as well as some unusual design elements for a unique composition that is a hallmark of her style. She used blue pencil and graphite. Click on the artwork for a better view.

Feel free to visit Amber's blog by following the link below:

Looking forward to more great art from Amber in the weeks ahead.