Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Final Panda Trailer

One last final full trailer for KFP3.  Really excited to see how this turned out, it's looking great.  Some real nice moments in there since the screening I saw looong long ago.  I have to give a special shout out to Tyler Phillips for a hilarious "Chitty chitty chat chat" animation on Po!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Student Animations - Fall 2015

I was putting together some student examples from my Animation class this semester, and I thought it'd be nice to post them.  It was a face paced semester, as my students had to learn how to be animators, directors, writers, editors and actors in 15 weeks.  All while trying to learn to animate in Flash.  I am happy to no longer have to teach Flash - we just got Toon Boom Harmony purchased for next semester!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

End of First Semester

I took this picture walking to my car after my last finals of the semester. I remember walking up to this building in August not sure what to expect. I have to say it was as fun, exhausting, exciting, stressful, and fulfilling as I had hoped.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Waterpik Freelance Project

The freelance project I did with my wife, Heather, is online.  It was a promotional video for Waterpik Clearview system and we did all the computer graphics for the video.  I did the rigging and animation, while my wife handled all the modeling, surfacing, and overall wrangling of this surprisingly large job.  It was fun to work together on a project again, but there were a lot of client redo's and it took a bit longer than we had wished.  A good project on the learning curve as we become full-time freelance artists while still balancing the homelife we moved to TN to have.

The full company page on the product can be seen HERE.

Friday, November 27, 2015

His and Her Movie Posters

So this is random but fun.  We were going out to dinner and a movie for our anniversary (Hunger Games Mockingjay Part II - quite enjoyable) and while we picking up our movie tickets we saw some new standees.  We found ones for each of our next movies coming out, and had to take a moment to be nerds and snap a photo.  It'll be interesting to see which one does better - although my money is on Zootopia.  The last time we had two films coming out around the same time (Big Hero 6 vs. Penguins of Madagascar), Heather's movie won by leaps and bounds. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Workshop Black Friday Sale!

My Animation for Non-Animators workshop is taking part in CGSociety's Black Friday sale this year!  A nice chance to take these workshops at a pretty nice discount. Offer is valid through Monday.

Click HERE for more details!

Monday, November 9, 2015

New Animation Workshop Goes Live!

I can't wait to get started on this class!  I approached CG Society about a class teaching animation fundamentals (and tips & tricks) geared towards professionals or students from other CG disciplines that could benefit from better animation knowledge.  Cameras, props, fx, dynamics, layout - everyone can benefit from either more polished animation or a more efficient workflow and approach to animation.

I learned this first hand as a crowds simulation artist at DreamWorks.  Just a few animation tips from my mentor, Kevin Vassey, and immediately my crowds were more polished, believable, and just "felt" more properly animated.  I think this will help fill a huge gap in animation education - a whole demographic that is truly interested in animation, but doesn't want to spend 9 months learning how to make a flour-sack jump.  Class starts at the first of the year!

Friday, November 6, 2015

New Kung Fu Panda 3 Trailer

This gives a nice feel for the film.  It's been through a lot of changes since the last work-in-progress screening I saw, but this captures the spirit better than any of the other trailers so far.  I'm so excited to see how the final film turns out.  Seems like they're sprinting to the finish line on this one, I see all my old co-workers on Facebook are working Saturdays to wrap up in time.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

High School Visits

Kenwood High School
Northeast High School

This Fall I talked to three Clarksville high schools.  While this was partly a recruiting effort, I approached it as a chance to talk about making a living as an artist. My lecture was titled “Art & Animation: Visual Storytelling” and was geared to appeal and inform a very general audience. So whether a student was interested in computer science or traditional art, they would find something inspiring to take away. After each visit, several students would approach after the presentation to talk further. Often they would share their own character designs and even personal animation. This is a good reminder that the technical hurdle (and obstacle of access) that I remember at that age no longer exists. These kids are already creating animations on their Nintendo DS, posting it to YouTube, and getting feedback from around the world. It’s a whole new game out there, and it’s always helpful to be reminded of that. 

Flyer at Northwest High School

Monday, October 26, 2015

Kung Fu Panda 3 Credit!

This is a nice surprise.  My old colleagues sent me this image today of the posted crew list for Panda 3 at DreamWorks.  The studio is always a little fuzzy on how long you need to spend on a movie before you're granted credit, so I wasn't sure if I'd make the cut or not.

It's always fun to see the credit list posted.  It's been a long haul for these folks, I believe I did my stint on Panda way back in early 2014.  That was two houses and one baby ago....just for some perspective.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Conference Panel at ETSU

Today I had a wonderful chance to speak at a panel as part of the iDMAa conference at Eastern State Tennessee University.  The panel was "Entrepreneurship and Professional Practice: What They Don't Teach You in School" - and was I believe a very valuable discussion.

Having just made the transition from the Professional World to Academics, I see the difference between the perceived job environment out there and the reality.  So it was a great chance to share some insights and give some pragmatic viewpoints.  I've always felt that schools are very concerned with teaching students how to get jobs, but not necessarily how to be great employees and keep those jobs.  One of the most helpful classes I had back in undergrad at UNL was a "Business of Theatre" class that William Kenyon, the lighting professor taught one semester.  It covered freelance strategies, taxes for artists, getting covered by insurance, contracts, etc.  Talking to others at this conference, I think a "professional practices" class is essential for any arts program in this day and age.

Conference web site:

I have to add that I was only able to attend because my amazing wife, Heather Abels, stayed home with our two sick kids that day.  You'll notice that her name is on the panel poster as well.  One of us had to cancel, and she graciously as bowed out so that I could attend.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

New Art + Design Building

Today was the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Art + Design Building! The new plans look really nice, and this big parking lot and pile of dirt will be replaced my a nice green space in front of the building. A very grateful faculty is posing here with the University President, Provost, and Regents.

The new building will be ready for the Spring 17 semester.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

KFP3 "Star Wars" Teaser

Glad to see this finally get released. I saw this at the big company creative update about 10 months ago.  At that time, KFP3 was going to release the same weekend as the new Star Wars film...making this ad extra timely.  Since then DreamWorks pushed the date to some time in Feb, and then changed it again to the end of Jan.  I'm sure Star Wars will STILL be making an insane amount of money then. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

First Day of Classes

Today I begin teaching classes for the first time as a full-fledged Assistant Professor at Austin Peay State University in TN.  It's been an adventure already just getting the family moved across the country and getting settled in.  I've had a few weeks on campus already getting moved in and already having meetings.  But today is the first day of classes - I'll be teaching Electronic Imaging and Digital Media III: Animation this semester.  Not sure what the next 15 weeks will hold, but I'm certain it will be another adventure...

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Last Days at DreamWorks

Well, here it last few days at DreamWorks Animation.  It's been almost 8 years at this company, and there's been lots of great times there - but what I'm going to miss are all my great co-workers.  Of course, the last year has been a tough one, so of all the fine folk you see gathered in these photos only 2 actually remain employed at DreamWorks.  So it truly is the end of an era.

I was lucky to have the Crowds Dept all meet up for one last big hurrah.  Spencer, my supervisor on Monsters vs. Pumpkins and Kung Fu Panda 3 has been trying to get me to go out to the Tiki Ti (where he's a regular) for years.  Well, with only days left to spare it finally happened.  It was a great chance to see everyone last last time.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Kung Fu Panda 3 Trailer

Well, here's the first shots of Po meeting his father from KFP3.  I didn't work on this seq, I worked on a later one set in the noodle shop.  But really fun to see how Bryan Cranston is as Po's dad.  Smart move DreamWorks releasing this trailer over Father's Day weekend.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Heather's New Disney Animation Movie

This looks really fun!  Heather got to spend a few months working on this at the beginning of the year.  I had heard/seen the premise at the Disney Open House last year  - but it's great to see the look of the final product - even if it's just the teaser.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

KFP3 First Look

During a slowdown in production on "Home" I was loaned over to Kung Fu Panda 3 for about a month.  The story has had some fairly big changes since then, but still the central premise of the movie is Po meeting his panda Dad.  Today DreamWorks released the first publicity stills for the movie. Always fun to see the final look (even if they feel pretty heavily photoshopped here).

Monday, June 8, 2015

Trolls First Look

A big licensing/consumer-products convention starts this week - and with it comes the first public teaser image from "Trolls" that I'm currently working on.  I'll be really excited to see everyone's reaction to this film - it's going to definitely be a unique one in the DreamWorks canon, and I can't wait.

On a side note - it appears since "Home" we've changed the DreamWorks logo.  Seems to be official now...

Thursday, May 7, 2015


There's been many chances for some celebrity sightings on campus.  From walking past Paul Giamatti before learning he was cast in Turbo, to seeing Prince and his huge entourage led around campus by Katzenberg himself.  My favorite still is walking past Steven Spielberg as he got himself a soft-serve ice cream cone in the commissary. 

But the most epic had to be the Kung Fu Panda 2 press day on campus.  Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, and Gary Oldman spent the entire day in and around our building.  Walking outside to go get a soda, I saw a crowd of employees starting to look down at the lagoon area, only to see these to starting the meet and greet with reporters.  Later in the day, while walking out of the building, I stepped aside to let Jack Black and his DW guide walk past to another press event (taller than I imagined).  My lunch group also held the door open for Oldman.  The best story was my boss, Allen, who went to use the restroom before lunch, and was at the urinal next to Oldman.  Not everyday you get to pee next to Sirius Black himself....

Friday, May 1, 2015

Leaving Los Angeles

Jon Jackson's work "Adios LA"
The title is a bit misleading - we're actually leaving all of California!

Around the end of April I went to Clarksville, TN to interview at Austin Peay State University. I had actually applied way back in Jan when I could tell DreamWorks was in for a rough spell. Well, the University reached out recently and it was followed by an on-site interview.  The job is Assistant Professor of Animation within the Art Department.  What's really exciting is that they want to create a brand new animation program, so this role also comes with the chance to create this from the ground up.

Heather and I have been looking to escape the industry for a while.  We love our co-workers, and have each landed at great companies...but it comes at a cost.  Both our kids are in daycare 9 hours a day, we don't eat dinner till after 7, and we are so exhausted from it all we don't want to go out on the weekends.  And this is being at the two most "family friendly" companies in the industry.  It's a tough world out there these days - and if we were younger and didn't have kids (or a dog), it'd be a great adventure to be had.  But when the focus shifts from career ambition to a quality homelife - something has to give.  It's a frustrating industry in many ways.  We see the flood of old co-workers who have to sacrifice all their homelife and move away from their kids to another country for months at a time.  We don't want to ever be stuck in such a situation - so it's time to get out while the getting is good.  Something we actually see many former colleagues doing...

Heather's family is in TN, and will be just about 2 hours away.  My family is a (long) day's drive away.  So this means our two kids will see their grandparents more than a few times a year.  It means we can have a night off of parenting here and there.  It means our kids will get a giant backyard filled with trees.  It means Heather can stay home with the boys (never an option in crazy-housing-market LA) and I can be home for lunch each day with them.  It means being able to take family vacations.  It means a good life that we never have figured out how to have in Los Angeles.

I've always aspired to go into teaching full time.  It was always my 10 year plan...we are just bumping up the timetable a little bit.  And Heather and I always are up for a little adventure!

Monday, March 30, 2015

"Home" Opens with Huge Weekend!

Everyone is smiling!

Whew!  After a really tough year, and an even tougher last couple of months, we finally had a reason to celebrate today.  Home earned double what it was expected to this weekend.  We actually didn't hit 59mil, we came in more around 52mil.  To put that in perspective, it's the 3rd highest opening for an original title released by DreamWorks - trailing behind Kung Fu Panda and Monsters Vs Aliens.  BuzzFeed had some interesting charts illustrating this:

Our director Tim Johnson, seen above during the Mon lunchtime toast, said he asked Fox to give some examples of what those numbers mean.  It means 7 million people bought tickets this weekend.  Pretty great turnout for the little movie at DreamWorks that, honestly, most people weren't paying much attention to because seemingly everyone was churning away on Dragons2.

It was so great to see everyone at work smiling again.  Just look back at that picture of the producers, director, and Katzenberg - everyone can't help but be grinning ear to ear.  So they held a toast over lunch, brought back the Slushious machines and spiked them, and we all took a moment to appreciate some good news for a change.

Theaters should be selling this at screenings

Friday, March 27, 2015

"Home" Opening Day!

With Oh and Capt Smek
My co-worker Dave ready to try the Slushious drink
Bubbles and bouncy castles
Capt Smek takeover
After starting on the film more than 2 years ago..."Home" finally comes out today!  We had a great lunch at work to celebrate, with decorations from the crew party overtaking the campus, so free giveaways, and lots of snacks/desserts on hand.

As of right now, the movie is looking to open stronger than most people thought.  This would be great - not just for the company, but because it's a endearing beautiful film that deserves to find an audience.  Our director, Tim Johnson, is a great storyteller to have shepherding this film along.  More than any film I've worked on, this production really because a little family out here - and it's always a little nerve-wracking to send that baby into the world. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Heather Featured in Magazine

Once again I'm super proud of my wife Heather!  She was interviewed and featured in this months issue of Advanced Photoshop.  She talks about her approach and experiences creating Matte Paintings over the years.  We downloaded a digital copy earlier, but today arrived a hard copy we bought online.  Congrats hon!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

"Home" Wrap Party & Screening

Notice the Statue of Capt Smek
Co-workers Will and Tanner
The Wife
Sampling spiked lemonade from a toilet bowl
Had a great time at the Crew Screening and Wrap Party for "Home" tonight!  So great to actually see the film on the big screen, with all the final bells and whistles.  The film turned out great - and the final music really added that last layer.  The songs by Rhianna and JLo really help take this movie to a new level.  It was a bit bittersweet watching the credits role by, as I saw so many names of co-workers that are no longer at DreamWorks.

After the screening we all headed over to Hollywood where a fancy club was all decked out for the party.  Great food, desserts that looked like urinal cakes (um, go see the movie) and spiked beverages served out of toilet bowls (yeah, go see the movie).  Really great party, and I loved the chance to catch up with some folks that I hadn't seen in months.  With the grandparents in town to watch our little ones, we were free to party the night away.  We are very proud that in our sleep-deprived-parenthood state we lasted all the way to 10:30....

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Oscar Pics

Had a great Friday night taking the boys up to the new Disney Animation Studios up by the Burbank Airport.  They had a big celebration for winning the Best Animated Feature and Short Oscars this year.  Heather had William (who's a "production baby" on Big Hero 6) and Wesley join her for a photo with the film's producer.  A fun evening - there's such a great energy and excitement with everyone at Disney.  Also, I think this may be the first photo we have where both boys are smiling at the same time :)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

First Listen - "Home" Soundtrack

A few original tracks from "Home" were released today, by JLo and Rihanna - who both voice characters in the film. I really love how the music is used in this film, and these two tracks are my favorite ones. One of my first screening of the film had Hans Zimmer and the Rihanna's songwriting team in attendance...and I've been hearing temp versions of these songs for about 2 years :)

These are a good glimpse into the heart of this movie. I'm glad DreamWorks is pushing the emotional side of the film, and not just focusing on the goofy aliens in all the marketing. It's a charming sweet film, I really hope it finds it's success.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Starting (slowly) on a new show here at DreamWorks - "Trolls"

Based on the crazy haired little toys.  I'm very excited for this show - it's being directed by Mike Mitchell who I worked for on Shrek 4, and the Head of Animation is Dave Burgess, who was my first animation boss ever back on Turbo.  That's a helluva crew to join with :)

Should be a lot of fun.  It's pretty slow at this point, with the turmoil of the past month slowly wrapping up while they figure out who's working on what.  But starting on some animation tests and really looking forward to diving in on this one!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Class Starts Today!

Link To Class Site
Excited to finally get this class underway.  It's been a lot of work getting a mini-crowds-pipeline up and running at home, and creating all the materials and lectures.  It's just been missing the students.  Should be a really great group!  I can't wait to see all that my students will bring to the class.

Friday, January 30, 2015


Standing by the tree on the right, with Adam Ely, who helped me land the interview at SIGGRAPH

Well today's the final day for a vast number of my co-workers.  The shockwave of closing the PDI branch is still being felt.  PDI alums across the industry are posting alumni-photos in a show of support.  Down here at the Glendale campus we did the same.  Crazy to see how many of us got our start up at scrappy PDI.

Having been at PDI, I know what a precious environment that was for everyone, and how close-knit that studio was as a whole.  Breaking that up - where Shrek was born and saved DreamWorks Animation - is heartbreaking.

Today we're losing some amazing talent and some rare friends.  The cuts were across the board.  Senior artists, executives, promising recent hires...a huge trove of talent that will now get disseminated to other companies and locales.

My department, which had 29 people in it this summer, is down to just 19 - if all of the PDI people decide to move (which is unlikely).  It's just a tough time in the industry, and at least DreamWorks held off longer than most.  But there's just not enough work to go around anymore.  Most folks are having to look to new cities or countries for work - or just get out of the industry all together.

Wish there was a silver lining to end this post on.  But times are just rough.  Even though I feel fortunate to see what DreamWorks 2.0 will become, I just keep thinking about all my co-workers (and their families) and hope everyone can land on their feet...

Friday, January 23, 2015

End of an Era

Well, the clock finally ran out on DreamWorks Animation.  After losing money on a string of misses (Penguins, Peabody, Turbo, and Guardians), something had to give.  Everyone at the company could feel it.  Shows in production were getting low on shot inventory.  Rumors were swirling that other shows were having some make-it-or-break-it screenings with Industry heavyweights.  We saw a fairly significant layoff happen right before the holiday break.  Many other co-workers were already leaving for other jobs.  So it was almost a relief to see a last minute company wide update show up on the calendar (around 1am the day of).  Something was up.

News had broken the weekend before of impending layoffs leaked from some "unknown source" in DreamWorks Management.  So by this point layoffs are a given.  Estimates in the press and around the lunch table are from 100-250.  One report thought 400, but that seemed pretty high.  But some rumors started to filter in about even closing PDI.  And the first reaction is, "hell no - how can they do that?  They created Shrek!". you sit on the though, and look at it from a financial standpoint, a new reactions surfaces "oh crap, that makes some sense".   Started to hear that Katzenberg was going to give the address from up at PDI today.  Oh crap.

And sure enough, a grave, and heavy-hearted Jefferey gave a humbling and shocking quick speech (read from a script, which is uncommon).  500 layoffs.  Down to 2 films a year from 3.  Closing PDI.  Apologies for letting his eye off the ball.

What followed was silence.  Folks started to slower leave and a few muffled conversations began.  Many just stayed outside at tables and discussed all the unknown details of what we just heard.   The reaction at PDI must have been crushing:

Just want to put this down, but I guess I'll never I forget it- On Thursday afternoon, when JK finally said the words "PDI will be closing it's doors", the sound, the weird exhalation, it was a physical thing, like the last breath of a huge animal. Jen said it best, it was like the spirit just rushed out of the place and was gone.
- Brian Newlin on PDI Alum Facebook Page
Now it's wait and see time.  Folks will have meetings within a week to find out their fate.  Everyone is beginning to handicap themselves and everyone else's chances of staying or going.  It's a strange time.  My work on Trolls is on hold for a bit while everyone picks up the pieces.  Strange times...and this industry just became a little harsher and cold today.