Thursday, December 4, 2014

Teaching a New Class!

I'll be teaching an all-new online workshop for the CGSociety - "Animation for Crowds."  I'm really excited for this one!  It starts Feb 2nd!  Check it out:

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

"Penguins" Opens, Back to "Home" Once More

Man I really like this poster.  I joke that DreamWorks alternates between epic/artistic posters and very generic ones...and I'm always off that cycle.  But finally landed on a show with a beautiful poster that I'll like hanging up at the desk!

Penguins opens up today.  Doesn't feel that long since I was working on it!  Definitely the shortest gap from "shot work" to "premier" I've had on a film here at DW.  After all the crazy crunch time on that...I'm back onto "Home" for the third time.  It's the show that just keeps going.  Actually, there's been a lot of changes since I left, and more importantly the crew seems really in the groove and things are (mostly) running smooth these days.

It was a rather relaxed "release day" party at work.  But there was this amazing cake that one of our artist made of the four Penguins.  Also thought it'd be fun to share an "after" image of the cake :)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Meeting Animation Legend Glen Keane

Today at the studio, the one and only Glen Keane came to give a lunchtime presentation of his new short interactive animation "Duet"

It was a great presentation, and great to hear Glen's firsthand experiences and observations on the world of animation.  Also surreal to sit there watching a pencil test of "part of your world" from Little Mermaid with the guy who drew it!  Some great inspiration from a guy who just loves animating and drawing.

Later in the afternoon he walked around the studio for a bit and chatted with a bunch of us animators that were around.  Such a gracious, giving and talented guy.  Today was a good day.

If you haven't seen "Duet" check it out below.  What you should realize (that I didn't first time I watched it) is that it's made to be viewed on a smart phone.  So the action is happening, you can freely move the device around to view other parts of the story.  So in this case, you can follow either the boy or the girl - and their stories happen in parallel.  Really fascinating - so you're only seeing about half of the animation in this cut.  Oh, and he animated it at 60 fps!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween at DreamWorks

Today my whole family got to come join in the Halloween party at DreamWorks.  It's been 7 years that I've watched all the families and cute kids parading around the studio - so I'm super excited to have all 4 of us at last!  In honor of William's nursery theme, we went full "Harry Potter" as Harry, Professor Lupin, Draco, and Hermoine. 

It was also our first Halloween as homeowners, in an actual neighborhood, with actual trick-or-treating.  Just the perfect Halloween anyone could ask for.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Busy Week!

Well, because my motto in life is "Never a Dull Moment" - I give as an example this week:


 We managed to wrangle a babysitter and got to attend the crew screening of Big Hero 6.  It was held at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood - where the Academy Awards are held each year.  The directors, along with Ed Catmull and John Lasseter gave almost an hour of speeches.  The film was great, the party was fun.  An amazing night - and so proud of my wife and everyone at Disney for making just a stunning film.


Penguins had a special lunch over in Studio City to celebrate the crew's work on the film.  It was a lot of fun...and as Crowds *often* does, we closed out the place (and the bar).  It was a great way to celebrate the craziness that was Penguins.  Especially since it was a cross-site show, it was our only chance to see many of our cohorts face-to-face.


DreamWorks every 2 or 3 years holds a creative update.  It's a chance to get to see what films are in production and what's ahead.  It's always a great day - and this year they held it at the famous Chinese Theater in Hollywood (the one with handprints in cement out front).  

After the 3+ hour show and tell they held a party at a club up in the Hollywood & Highland complex.  It was awesome.  Great food, free drink, and dancing Boov aliens and Penguins on the dance floor :)   Because this wasn't a crazy enough day, my friend Allen and I had to bail out early to run down Hollywood Blvd to go see a touring production of "Pippin" at the Pantages Theater (where, incidentally, is where I proposed to my wife).

Never a dull moment :)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Heather Teaching Again

Once again, I'm super proud of my wife.  She just started to teach an online advanced matte painting class through CG Society  She loves teaching, and it's been fun to eavesdrop in a bit and she her in action.  From everything I've seen - it looks like a stellar class, and an insane amount of infomation she's getting out to the students!

You can check out the details here

Monday, October 6, 2014

I ain't afraid of no ghosts!

Well, now that Penguins is wrapped, I had a few weeks of slow inventory at work.  So I took this chance to reach out to the team working on B.O.O to see if they needed any help.  It's been a fun way to spend a little downtime, and perfect for getting into the Halloween spirit.  An interesting twist is my supervision anim lead is Sean Sexton - who was my final mentor at Animation Mentor.  Nice to finally get to work on the same show as him.

Monday, September 15, 2014


Well, it was bound to happen on Penguins, but official overtime has begun.  It's actually the first time I've done OT since Shrek 4 I believe.  The timing couldn't have been better though - Heather is a superstar watching both boys at night and a little extra cash always helps.

I always love walking across this DreamWorks campus at night.  It feels like an entirely different place.  The place is mostly deserted, other than a few other straggling artists and the cleaning crew.  All the fountains are still going, and are lit up.  It reminds me of college days - walking back across UNL Campus (through the sculpture garden) around midnight after pulling a long Saturday in the Architecture Lab, or after a big day of light hang or a first tech rehearsal in Theater Departments Temple Building.  

As always, it makes for a nice serene end to a chaotic day.  Especially when you know it all starts over again in the morning...

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

University of Nebraska Visit to DreamWorks!

Paul Steger, Steve Kolbe, Sandy Veneziano, me, Sharon Teo-Gooding

Today was a good day.  I got to host some familiar faces from University of Nebraska-Lincoln on the DreamWorks campus!  It was great catching up and hearing how much the Film & New Media program has grown since I was in the first graduating class 11 years ago.

They were able to get a quick tour of the studio and the chance to meet some of the most influential artists here.  It was a fun, albeit surreal experience, to see some of my theater/film mentors meet my animation mentors.  A fascinating time, so much to soak up, and welcome Nebraskan-presence in my little Burbank world :)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Back to Work & Penguins

Well, it's back to work.  It's been less than two weeks since I last sat down at this desk.  Crazy how much can happen in two weeks.  It was hard even remembering which shot I left off at - seems like a year since I had stayed till 10pm trying to get a penguin animation ready for the following days rounds.  Little did I know that my wife had been having contractions since dinner time, and didn't want to "freak me out" while I was trying to finish up stuff at work.

Lots of energy around the studio trying to get Penguins across the finish line.  Some fun publicity out of a Comic-Con panel with the stars Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich.  As a huge "Sherlock" fan - gotta say I'm super excited to be working on the same movie as B.C. :)

Voice of Skipper Tom McGrath, North Wind leader B.C. and villian Malkovich
UPDATE 8/7:  New Trailer also out!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

FLASHBACK: Graduate Thesis Film

Today marks 7 years since Heather and I presented our Final Thesis Project at the Academy of Art University.  It was a crazy rush to the finish, as expected.  It turned out great, our advisors seemed thrilled, and we were officially done with grad school!  Memories of the following 48 hours are a hazy mix of sleep, take-out food, and both reading the final Harry Potter book that had just been released :)

"The Tempest"
Short film, 35mm, 2007
Co-created with Heather Abels
Premiered at Siggraph 2008 Space/Time Exhibition

Behind-the-scenes stills:

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Newest Addition to the Family!

A week ago, little William Oliver Raymond was born!  The little guy is 9lbs 7oz!  Both baby and mom are doing great and we're already home.  Here's a super chill baby, and is making our lives as new parents (again) relatively easy :)

It's amazing to have a newborn around again - so many little details I've forgot in just the last year and a half since Wesley was this size.  The big brother is taking to the new addition pretty well - he's big on hugging his little bro whenever he's within reach!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Bad Moon Rising

I see a bad moon arisin'
I see trouble on the way
I see earthquakes and lightnin'
I see bad times today

Lest I have this blog look like the animation industry is all puppy dogs and unicorns frolicking around the's time to take stock of the last month here at ol' DreamWorks.

A)  How to Train Your Dragon 2 Underperforms at Box Office:
Well, so much for our great summer sequel hope.  Going into summer, most analysts thought that Dragon 2 would likely be the top grossing film of the season - somewhere about 300 million domestic gross, half a billion worldwide.  We were all optimistic at work...its a sequel to the one film everyone (even our critics) agree is a great movie, it has almost no competition in the family market, and got an impressive 92% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  But comes out with a relatively weak opening weekend.  And the falloff week to week has been higher than everyone anticipated.  Forecast are now that it'll end up between 150-180 million domestically.  While this is a respectable number, and arguable a hit - we needed something epic to make up for our latest string of misses.  It's more of a double when we wanted a home run.  To put it in perspective, in adjusted ticket prices, Over the Hedge and Shark Tale are more successful DreamWorks films.
Forbes has a great article asking "Why Didn't How To Train Your Dragon 2 Fly Higher?" that has some great thoughts and conclusions.

B) Layoffs:
About 40-50 folks were let go in the weeks after Dragon 2's opening.  While this is supposedly unrelated, it's hard to imagine the weak opening didn't have some impact.  Some were folks who's contract was up, and with a new show schedule, the timing just didn't work out.  Some were the most senior people in their department.  Including the Animation Guild's current union president.

C)  Show Swapping Schedules:
With basically no notice, the studio announced it was swapping "Home" with "Penguins of Madagascar"  This also means the crews on these films, as well as the others in production, are all swapping around like crazy.  It also meant we had about 3 weeks of slowdown while the management figured out how to organize all this.  Because if there's one thing you want to give nervous employees, it's three weeks of sitting around twiddling their thumbs.  If you compare our now announced release dates...a bunch of other films has moved around as well.  

D) Wage Fixing Controversy:
Where to start with this one.  A lawsuit from last year accussed Google, Apple, Pixar, and ILM of breaking anti-trust laws by entering into "no poaching" agreements with each other.  This was intended to keep employee salaries lower than what the free market would pay for their skill naturally.  So far it was reported as a Bay Area/Sillicon Valley issue.  Well news broke this week that DreamWorks was possibly also involved.  You can read the great article over at PandoDaily, as well as a follow up about Sony resistance.  

Anecdotally, most folk around have stories of interviews with competing studios coming to a dead stop when they learn of the current employer.  And it's just accepted in this industry that ILM, Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks pay way less than other studios.  But it's always been chalked up to "well, everyone wants to work there, so I'll take a pay cut for better films / hours / environment"  It'll be interesting to see how this all pans out...

But last Friday they brought in puppies!!!  No, really.  A local pet adoption group had a pen of about 10 puppies frolicking in the grass during lunchtime.  They were, needless to say, adorable.  And then some celebrity - Lassie also came for lunch.  She posed for some gesture drawing, and then posed for pictures.  So, the business model may be crumbling, but hey we got puppies!  Let's see if we get a unicorn on campus next week....

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Switching Films Amid Studio Changes

Well, things are always changing around here at DreamWorks.  With the swap of release dates between "Home" and "The Penguins" movie means a crew swap as well.  So I am one of those making the move over to Penguins for the rest of the summer.  Just starting to watch some of the sequences now...really excited to move onto this one.  Sounds like a great way to spend the summer.

Unfortunately, not everyone at the company is included in this new schedule.  Some extremely smart and talented people are getting let go this week.  Really hard to see.  Let's hope Penguins is a home run and we reverse this seemingly yearly trend...

Friday, June 13, 2014

First Trailer for "Home"

Along with the opening of Dragons 2 today, the trailer for "Home" has premiered!  This movie is charming as hell, and I'm glad that even with the new later release date, that they're getting this trailer out there.  

The tone of this trailer reminds me a bit of the "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" film - and that's a very good thing in my mind :)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

"Better Bot" Racking up National Ad Awards

Well, the fun little robot my wife and I helped create has ended up having quite an exciting life.

First it won a AAF Nebraska Professional Gold ADDY Award.  And several AAF District 9 awards.  As well as several Webby awards (including Best of Show).  Now it's apparently also won 2 National ADDY Awards!  You can read the main ad agency's press release here.

Here's the full list:

National ADDY Award 2014
Silver in Digital Advertising: Advertising and Promotion
Silver in Elements of Animation: Visual

AAF District 9 AAA (ADDY) Gold Winner 2014
Elements of Advertising: Animation or Special Effects
Digital Advertising: Banners, Rich Media

AAF Nebraska Professional ADDY Award 2014
Professional Gold in Digital Advertising
Professional Silver in Elements of Advertising
Professional Silver in Integrated Campaign

Internet Advertising Competition "Webby Awards" 2014
Best of Show: Rich Media Online Ad
Best Financial Services: Rich Media Online Ad

And don't forget to watch the whole video we made with Outpost 12 for Bailey Lauerman here!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Competition :)

Wanted to post a link to this new trailer for "Big Hero 6".  My wife Heather is working on this currently over at Disney.  It's great to finally get to see what she's already been putting the long hours in for.  I can't wait to see more of this one!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

New Release Dates!

Well, things got interesting.  DreamWorks is swapping release dates of "Home" and "Penguins of Madagascar" films.  So now Home will come out on March 27, 2015.  No idea yet how this impacts the crew...if it means I'll be on the show a bit longer or not.  We'll find out more in the coming weeks.

Personally, I'm happy with this move.  I think Home is a really charming fun film, but had a danger of getting lost in all the hoopla of big epic holiday films this year.  It'll also means my wife's animated film over at Disney won't have a face-to-face showdown with mine after all :)

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Focus on Home

My short gig on KFP3 has wrapped up.  Those were a fun and fast five weeks!  But, to quote the Head of Animation Dan Wagner - "It's time for you to go back Home now"

It's always interested coming back onto a show.  Even after just over a month away, a lot has changed on "Home".  I think there's a bit more energy to the show now - the short really galvanized the crew, and it's been really fun seeing everyone's response to it.  It's even informing some decisions on the feature film now.  So I'll be on this one until the show wraps....or my new son is born - whichever comes first!

And speaking of Family and Home.  The big event this week is my family will be moving into our very first house!  In a very frantic month, we managed to find and purchase a home in Burbank that we really fell in love with.  It'll be great to have a yard for the dog and kid(s) to play in, and a place to finally call our own.  Also, it'll be the first time in over nine years in this industry where I won't have to drive an hour to work!

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Shot from "Peabody"

In honor of Peabody hitting #1 at the box office in its second week, I thought I'd post a shot I worked on from the film.  I animated the front seven kids in this shot. Still haven't seen the finished film myself yet - it's been a busy spring!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

"Almost Home" Short Attached to Peabody

Released in front of Peabody this weekend is a fun little short film called "Almost Home".  This is a bit of a prequel to our feature film "Home" that I've been working on for almost a year.  It stars Steve Martin as the Captain Smek - leader of the poor Boov aliens as they search for a new planet to call home.

I'm really excited how DreamWorks decided to handle this rollout - and produce a really fun and exciting short than trying to cobble together a regular trailer.  It's a much better introduction to the world.  Quite a bit of crowds work for a short, so I was able to contribute a lot of animation...and it was done in record time!

Here's also a link to some behind the scenes stories.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Peabody & Sherman Opens Today!

It feels like a looong time ago that I worked on this movie.  Heck, I remember trying to finish my big animation shot in time before Wesleys due date!

We had a fun day on campus to celebrate - seems like spirits are definitely up more this year.  The movie's been getting some great reviews too.  I can't wait to see the finished version - last time I saw it was a year and a half ago when 2/3rds of it was still in storyboards!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Working on Kung Fu Panda 3

For at least a little while.  Really excited to finally get the chance to work in the Panda's world for a little bit.  It's the only DreamWorks franchise that I haven't had the chance to work on yet!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

VFX Protest at Academy Awards

These are pictures of the VFX protest this year from my friend Paul Rivera.  Even in the rain, almost 500 people came out to protest the sad state of the VFX industry in a town were those effects have been indispensable to 49 out of the top 50 films ever made.

Pictured with Paul is Craig Barron - who was my wife's first employer at Matte World Digital almost a decade ago.  Matte World shut its door shortly after working on (the award winning) Hugo.

Friday, February 28, 2014

"Life After Pi" Documentary

Must watch documentary about the fall of my wife's company Rhythm & Hues last year.  It's part of a larger film coming out soon about the mass exodus of work from Hollywood.  Check out the full site at

This is really well done, as well as heartbreaking.  Rhythm was the last bastion of hope for folks in VFX in this country that also wanted to raise a family and create a home.

It was a scary 2013.  Here's hoping the industry can set itself straight...and soon before it disappears completely from this country!

Monday, February 24, 2014

An Animation Family

Today my wife is starting a new job at Disney Feature Animation!  I couldn't be more proud or excited for her.  I think she's been stellar in live-action...working on Oscar winning VFX films, learning from the master matte painters that worked on all the 80s films we became obsessed with, getting the chance to work in New Zealand on the most profitable film in history.  But I know her heart has always been in animation, and I can't think of anyone who deserves to "work for the mouse" more than her!

Sunday, February 23, 2014


An article ran in today's LA Times about a Shrek attraction opening up in London in 2015.  The image accompanying the article was a fun blast from the past.  This crowd shot I worked on ended up as one of the main publicity stills from the movie...and it keeps popping up from time to time.

I'm really proud to have worked on a Shrek film.  For most folks, the big CG revolution to them was Toy Story.  Hate to admit it, but that movie never did much for me.  Shrek however...

In the summer of 2001 I worked the summer as part of the Walt Disney World College Program.  Specifically, I got to work the gift shops for Star Tours and the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular.  I was a theatre design major back then, and most of my colleagues were doing internships in summer Shakespeare and touring shows.  I wore Indy hats and fought little kids with lightsabers for minimum wage.  I was in heaven.  Now, I worked all day at the parks, had dinner with friends at Downtown Disney, and then went home to Disney owned apartments.  It was Disney day in and day out.  And everyone in the College Program are crazed Disney fans already.

Now, in the middle of this summer, Shrek was released.  I remember seeing it at the brand new all digital projection system at the big Downtown Disney cineplex.  Seeing this movie, digitally projected, blew me away.  And all the subtle and especially the not-so-subtle stabs at Disney was therapeutic after a long day working the "magic" in the parks.  I remember cheers in the audience as birds exploded and Shrek crashed through queue lines outside Duloc.  Not a single employee I met that summer hadn't seen it and had the same reaction.

So, when I began working up at PDI - the actual folks behind the first Shrek, it really felt like I had started to come full circle with the first true impression CG animation ever had on me.  In the lobby at PDI they have the original model of Shrek's swamp house.  Walking past that on orientation day really sent chills down my back.  So in 2008 my wife got an offer down in Los Angeles, where I knew they were ramping up production on Shrek Forever After (the poor PDI folks had worked on movies 1, 2, and 3 as well as a 4d attraction at Universal park and a christmas special in only six years - the Shrek spell had worn off).  I was the first crowds artist on the film (other than my awesome boss), and really got to own the first couple of sequences out of the gate.  One of which is the shot above.  "Shreks Perfect Day" was the sequence title.  I just loved getting to open a shot in our animation program and seeing good ol' Shrek staring back at me.  It'd be a long time coming....

Friday, January 24, 2014

Visiting Daddy at DreamWorks

He seems happy about the free lunch
With temp babysitters D'Lun and David

I got to have my son Wesley over for lunch at work today.  Normally him (and his mommy) are way down south - but today they made the trek up to the valley.  It was a blast having him hang around for the afternoon.  His favourite thing was walking around the edge of the fountain, again and again.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Final Peabody & Sherman Poster and Trailer

I really like the new poster for Peabody.  They've mostly been focusing on Peabody so far in all the teaser posters.  Even just branding it as "Peabody" - I like that this brings the focus back onto Sherman too.  Lots of the fun characters in this movie made the poster too.  Although, I heard a rumor that one of my favorite cameos got cut from the film since I last saw it...