Monday, October 29, 2018

Kaye Visit Press

Check out the full article online HERE

‘Fortnite’ animator to Austin Peay animation students: Be humble, persist 
“Fortnite” lead technical animator Kaye Vassey’s art origin story involves her grandfather’s tractor doodles and, of course, Bob Ross. 
“My grandfather was a World War II Marine Corps vet – full on Marine Corps tattoo on the arm, the South Pacific war horror stories, the whole thing,” Vassey recalled to an animation class at Austin Peay State University. “But what he really wanted – his family were plumbers, so he became a plumber – was to be an artist. 
“When I was probably between 4 and 6, I’d always get him to doodle, and I would love it, and I would copy it,” she continued. “I’d always get him to doodle this little tractor, with this little guy in there, and it was every day. ‘Draw it. Draw the thing. Draw the thing.’” 
Later, the two watched Bob Ross’s “The Joy of Painting” together. 
“My grandfather and I tried to copy his paintings, to my great frustration,” Vassey said. “Fighting through that frustration, I just kept going and going and kept coming back for more and more punishment.”  
Vassey – who worked on such movies as “Shrek,” “Madagascar” and “How to Train Your Dragon” before joining Epic Games and the “Fortnite” team – visited APSU on Oct. 23 to give a public lecture about her work and artistic practice. She also gave two workshops in animation classes before the lecture.  
She was the second artist to visit during the Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts and the Department of Art + Design’s Visiting Artist Speaker Series.  

Vassey visited Austin Peay associate professor of animation Scott Raymond’s class the morning of the public lecture. The classroom and equipment in the new Art + Design Building impressed her. 
“You guys have an insane classroom,” Vassey said. “This is amazing. I’m super jealous. I’m blown away by this insanity. I was an art student in a basement.” 
Vassey and Raymond met while working on secondary animation, such as crowds, at DreamWorks Animation. They worked on “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted,” for example.  
“If you want to work in the industry, I would say the best thing that I could tell you is to be nimble, you have to be able to pivot,” Vassey said. “Get in, get your foot in the door, and work from there to get to where you want to be. Stay humble, it’s truly a team effort. 
“But enjoy every minute you have in this classroom,” she added before pointing at Raymond. “And you have an amazing resource who is awesome.” 
“Fortnite: Battle Royale” passed $1 billion in sales in less than a year from its September 2017 release. Most people know somebody who plays the game.  
“When you step into the creative endeavor, you never know what’s going to be a huge success,” Vassey said. “You hope you have successes. We’re super lucky to have ‘Fortnite’ to be such a huge success.  
“It feels good to work on something that other people enjoy so much.” 
Even though working on movies and on video games is similar – “Underneath it all, it’s 3D computer graphics” – working on video games offers a more constant pressure, Vassey said.  
“The video game model now is very much a living, breathing thing,” she said. “You have to keep it fresh, keep it relevant. 
“In movies you have a relationship with the audience for an hour and a half or two hours,” Vassey said. “Whereas video games, you have a long-term commitment to the player base, and you want to be sure they’re happy and having a good time.”  
For the record, Vassey isn’t a good “Fortnite” player.  
“Actually, when I started working in the video game industry, I didn’t play them anymore,” she said. “When I get home, I do not want to think about or see a video game.” 
After her grandfather died and Vassey and her family went through his belongings, she found a doodle of the tractor he used to draw for her when she was a child. 
“The drawing was folded up on a sheet of paper inside a city-delivered manual of how to survive a nuclear attack,” Vassey told the students. 
She held up her arm and pulled back her sleeve. 
“That’s the tractor,” Vassey said, displaying a tattoo on her inner wrist. “It’s colored in, those are actually crayon marks that were on the drawing I found. 
“That’s how I got started.”

Friday, October 5, 2018

APSU Animation + VFX Instagram

We started an Instagram account - check us out at:

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Visual Effects Class - Green Screen

This semester we are offering several new classes in Animation + Visual Effects - it's part of an effort to make the program more of a generalist approach.  So half the classes will focus on animation, and half will focus on visual effects.  I'm really excited to expand our focus!

So today in Visual Effects I, we brought out for the first time the green screen.  Student Myles Johnson was a good sport and stood in while we talked about lighting for green screen, and about how to match lighting to the shot from the film "Paul" you see in the background.   Over the next week we'll learn how to composite Myles into the shot.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Look I'm On A Wall

Maybe you remember the photo from last year that APSU took to accompany a press release.  Well, a student told me it was up on the wall in the Student Services building on campus, across from the Financial Aid Office.  So I took a trip to see for myself, and yup - apparently Matthias and I make for good stock photo material :)

Monday, September 10, 2018

Animation + Visual Effects Brochure

The official Art+Design Department brochure showed up today...and the image of Matthias and I was utilized once again! I'm happy I was wearing one of my most professorial cardigans that day :)

Monday, July 2, 2018

More TN Art Conference Photos

The conference posted a huge selection of photos taken by the talented Karen Orozco (who I also had as a student once!).  Fun seeing all the reactions to people trying VR for the first time.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

VR at TN Arts Conference

This past week I had the awesome chance to hold several VR workshops for the artists and art educators at the Tennessee Arts Commission’s 2018 Tennessee Arts and Arts Education Conference.  The event was titled "Design Thinking: A Pathway for Innovation in the Arts" and was held at APSU this year.  It was a lot of fun to have people explore virtual painting, sculpting and animation for the first time and talk about the possibilities that VR opens up for students. APSU featured us in a video and press release that you can read below or HERE

APSU’s CECA highlights art innovations on campus during state conference 
More than 200 art educators, administrators and artists from across the state visited the Austin Peay State University campus this month to discover new, innovative ways to teach and advocate for the arts in the coming year. Austin Peay’s Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts (CECA) hosted the Tennessee Arts Commission’s 2018 Tennessee Arts and Arts Education Conference, which allowed CECA to show off the groundbreaking projects taking place at Austin Peay. 
“It was an honor to host this conference at Austin Peay and be able to showcase our amazing facilities and faculty, many of whom were session presenters,” Dr. Janice Crews, CECA director, said. “Providing meaningful resources to arts professionals and getting such positive feedback made it all worthwhile.” 
Scott Raymond, APSU assistant professor of art + design and former DreamWorks animator, unpacked two of the University’s new virtual reality systems so attendees could walk through 3D virtual paintings they made. 
“Coming from digital animation, virtual reality is really taking off,” Raymond said. “They’re making interactive cartoons and shorts. And for artists, you can now paint and sculpt in a three-dimensional space.”   
Educators from public and private schools took turns donning the VR headsets and hand controllers, and then they created wild, three-dimensional works in their own personal worlds. Down the hall in the APSU Art + Design Building, a group of music teachers huddled in a classroom, learning to play the Beatles’ “Let It Be” on ukuleles. 
Other sessions included incorporating visual arts in elementary music, presented by APSU music professor Eric Branscome, and improv for everyone, led by APSU theater professor Talon Beeson. Arts administrators participated in sessions on grant writing, strategic planning and more. 
The three-day event, titled “Design Thinking: A Pathway for Innovation in the Arts,” marked the first time APSU has hosted a Tennessee Arts Commission Conference.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Highway Rat at Annecy

The Highway Rat is screening at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival this year - and has been nominated in the TV Films category!  Congrats to the whole Triggerfish crew who put together some amazing animation.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Random Madagascar 2 Shot

It's always interesting when something you worked on turns up in a random place.  Like the one time we're waiting for our plane in a Chicago airport and my wife looks at the giant United Airlines mural starting back at us and goes "wait - I painted that!"

Well, surfing through my news app the other day I ran across this image in an Engadget article about the latest cut of VLC media player.  And there is one of my earlier shots from Madagascar 2 staring at me.  The "dance fight" sequence in Mad2 was my second crowds sequence at DreamWorks, and probably one of the highest number of shots in any overall sequence during my time there.  So, there was a lot of care and consistency going into those 3 lions you see on the right side of the screen :)

Friday, May 18, 2018

Updated Reel

Summer break is always a good time to update the ol' animation reel.  It includes new shots from The Highway Rat, Planet Blue, and Racing Legends.  Check it out!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Jackson Alley Film Festival Screening

Darren Michael and Talon Beeson introductions
Tonight was the screening of the First Annual Jackson Alley Film Festival!

We had 4 submitted final films, around 20 students participating, 6 faculty mentors, and almost 100 people show up for the Festival screening.  We held the screening in the lecture hall of the Art + Design building, and it was great to see everyone's hard work on the big screen.  The films were enthusiastically received by everyone and it was just a really fun night.

We got great responses from our student participants and learned a lot ourselves along the way.  We've agreed to start earlier next year with the Festival and will adjust the format a bit based on this year's experience.  Next year we'll have a budget, some visiting artists from Screen Actors Guild, and hoping to get some animation/visual effects students involved.  We'll be putting the films online soon and I'll post a link when those are up.

Student diretor Juan Romero Q&A

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

End of Third Year at APSU

It's the end of another year here at Austin Peay.  Today was the last day of regular classes and it was a busy day around the Art + Design Department!  We held a BBQ for students and faculty out in the green space outside our building.  As part of the department committee putting it on, I was running around most the day getting food and supplies.

That led right into the 50th Annual Student Show - which is the last gallery show of the year and is curated from student submissions.  I'm proud that we had some animation representation in the show this year.  It's always really fun to see everyone come out for it - students, faculty, parents, siblings, etc.

And if that wasn't enough, the graphic design students also had their senior showcase happening at the same time in the main hallway of the building.  About 15 students spent the semester coming up with a full branding assignment and set up display tables of their work.

So that wraps up yet another year.  It's been going by fast.  This was a big year with the new building and getting the Animation Lab space all set up and functional.  Next year should be even bigger and better - we have new toys to play with finally ready to go (MoCap suits and Oculus Rifts) and I'm offering two brand new classes in the fall (Digital 3D and Visual Effects).  Time to rest up over summer!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Bink Storyboards

Eric Miller posted the original storyboards for Bink on his YouTube channel.  It's a fun chance to see behind the scenes and see what we start with as animators.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Orlando Mayor Talks Wizard The Frog

Here's a video from the local Fox News 35 interviewing Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer about voicing the blue dart frog in Planet Blue.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

FLASHBACK: Madagascar 2 Halfway Party

Entering the party grounds
So I believe it's been about 10 years since this occurred.  PDI was an amazing place.  It sounds like a cliche' but it really was like a family there.  I only had one brief year before I transferred down to the Glendale campus - but one of the surreal highlights was definately the Madagascar 2 "halfway party" they threw for us for hitting the 50% mark on the film that spring.  It was also one of my first experiences seeing the fun and crazy parties the company likes to throw.  And it was a heck of a party...

There was a petting zoo with zebras.  They brought in lemurs (to "move it move it").  There was a fake volcano that erupted after a few words from the co-directors of the film.  They had a golf cart that took guests on a safari.  It was all held in the beautiful outdoor common area of Redwood Shores behind the studio.  And of course tons of food, drinks, and friends. 

Directors Tom McGrath and Eric Darnell

Look - crowd characters printed out life size!

A younger me petting a zebra

So damn cute

My first "real" job involves a confetti volcano

Friday, March 23, 2018

Jackson Alley Film Festival

This year, a bunch of us faculty at APSU decided we needed a film festival.  The result of lots of brainstorming with the departments of Theatre, Communications, and Art+Design is the Jackson Alley Film Festival!   (Jackson Alley is the name of the city street that defines the "arts" area of campus)

We have about 35 students on 6 teams competing in this first year!  We've been holding some workshops and really trying to get the students to collaborate outside their usual department influence.  Today we announced the teams as well as the theme for this year's films.  Now the teams have one month to film a short film that will premier during the Festival on April 26th!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Highway Rat Wins At NYCIFF

The Highway Rat just won the Audience Award (age 3-6) at the New York International Children's Film Festival.   It was also it's North American premier.  Congrats to Jeroen Jaspaert and everyone at Triggerfish!

Monday, March 19, 2018

MoCap Arrives At APSU

Here's a video with Professor Talon Beeson from Theatre and I talking about the five new motion capture suits we co-wrote a grant for.  We received a Faculty Innovation Grant to purchase the Smart Suit Pros from the Rokoko company in Denmark.  We just got the suits about a month ago and are starting to play with them.  This is super exciting - and is a great way for the theatre and animation students to interact!

Here's an updated video including footage from Ed Tech day!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Crew Gift Maquettes

Our house now has a new home for all our studio statues.  This was always one of the best perks of working on an animated film was the crew gift maquette.  Of course, there's a few movies that didn't have enough budget left for a full maquette (Peabody, Megamind).  But we have Madagascar 2, Madagascar 3, Turbo, Home, Shrek Forever After, Moana, How To Train Your Dragon, and Kung Fu Panda 3.  I also have a Mr Toad statue thrown in to fill in the space.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Here's the final animation of Wizard the Frog for Planet Blue.  Lots of fun animating this little guy. 

You can also see Wizard as part of the extended trailer at

You can learn more about the Planet Blue series at the Arrow Sky Media site:

Thursday, March 8, 2018

DreamWorks Pipeline Video

I showed this in class the other week - and had to laugh seeing all the old familiar faces.  I forgot they interviewed Allen Stetson and Adam Ely for this video!

It's actually a really great video.  It was the brainchild of Tim Ingersoll, one of the resident trainers at DreamWorks (and amateur magician) who was actually the first person to ever teach me animation during his "Animation for Non-Animators" workshop there.  He kept having to explain all the CG terms to executives and non-artist employees coming through DW Training Dept, he thought he needed a video to show.  He wrote it up and got Tom McGrath (voice of Skipper) on board.  Then it became a big official thing, and the studio got the DreamWorks India group working on it and it turned into a mini-movie.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Frog Ref

I always tell my students that animation is reference, reference, reference.  Well, putting my money where my mouth is I took the two boys down to the Nashville Zoo for the day.  We love the zoo and go often, but this time we spent an extra long time in the "Unseen New World" exhibit so Daddy could watch and record the poison dart frogs.  These are quick and tiny little buggers.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Taming Of The Shrew Opens

APSU's Taming Of The Shrew opens tonight!  We had a great animation crew helping out with the Prologue and Epilogue videos.  A huge shoutout to Heather, who took the lead with the students and giving them great feedback on their shots.  The sound designer did a great job too and it really adds to the overall video - I'm hoping to get a version of it posted online soon.  In the meantime, check out the program from the show!

Monday, February 19, 2018

New Trailer Gig

Heather and I have a new gig we're both working on!  We'll be working with this blue poison dart frog that's part of a series of trailers they've done for Planet Blue - a pilot series about the environment. It's a partnership between  Arrow Sky Media and Magnetic Dreams. We're both excited to work with Magnetic Dreams, and got to catch up with several former co-workers from DreamWorks Animation and Rhythm & Hues Studios when we had our meeting at their studio.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

APSU Article On Shrew Animation

APSU's theatre department's first show this spring is Taming Of The Shrew, and the director Talon Beeson approached me about having the framing device be an animated comic book.  One of our art students has done some amazing comic art for it, and a handful of student animators are currently working away and animating the panels.  Read the full article below or click HERE

Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” gets comic book makeover at APSU

In the late 1940s, shortly after World War II, American comic books took on the daring subject of love. Jack Kirby, co-creator of Captain America, helped popularize these soap opera-like tales with his comic “Young Romance.” The brightly colored covers—which would later inspire Roy Lichtenstein’s pop art creations—featured couples embracing or kissing, often with someone crying in the background.
            For Talon Beeson, Austin Peay State University assistant professor of acting and directing, these emotionally charged comics brought to mind another author of antic love stories—William Shakespeare. This February, Beeson is bringing the bard’s comedy “The Taming of the Shrew” to campus, and the new production will have a distinct comic book feel.
            “I’m placing it entirely in a Roy Lichtenstein/Jack Kirby word, where it’s all pop art,” Beeson said. “Everyone will be dressed in that style, with makeup that makes them look like pop art illustrations.”
            The play runs from Feb. 22-25 in the APSU Trahern Theater, with performances at 7:30 p.m. that Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and matinee performances at 2 p.m. that Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $5 for students, military and senior citizens.
            The play, about the wanted and unwanted romantic entanglements of two sisters, has been accused in recent years of being chauvinistic, but Beeson believes this is a misrepresentation of the popular work.
            “My interpretation of ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ has always been that it’s a feminist play,” he said. “There’s a framing device, in the original folio edition of the play, and I’ve always thought it changes the entire slant of the play from anti-feminist to feminist.”
            This framing device, know as the induction, is often omitted from modern productions of the play. In the opening scenes of the induction, a drunk is kicked out of a bar and ends up passed out on the street. An aristocrat, disgusted by the intoxicated man, decides to play a trick on him, and after the man wakes up, he is made to watch a play—what most audiences know as “The Taming of the Shrew.”
            Beeson wanted to include these induction scenes in his production, but he also wanted to find an innovative way to incorporate his pop art concept. That led him to Scott Raymond, APSU assistant professor of animation.
            “If this is a comic book that takes place in a comic world, how do I do the opening and closing scenes?” Beeson asked. “I have them animated.”
            The APSU production will begin and end with a motion comic projected onto a screen on stage. These moving images will cover the induction scenes, with the screen eventually giving way to the actual live-action play.
            The cast for this new production includes APSU students Zac Collum, Briana Finley, Briar Moroschak, Bret Carson, William Neblett, Tim Fearn, Aly Pace, Christian Sinclair, Katie Krantz, Brenna Greene, Lexi Putter, Jesse Adair, Quinton Tolbert, Alex Thomas, Madison Courrege and Treston Henderson.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

APSU Press Release On Highway Rat

Austin Peay ran a press release about my work on The Highway Rat.  I was interviewed and they came to take photos of my Animation II class.  The official APSU link is HERE, and some of the local online papers also posted it HERE and HERE.

Here's the article:

APSU professor contributes to BBC animated special, “The Highway Rat”

On Christmas day, when four million Britons saw a talking rat on the telly, they also glimpsed the creative work of an Austin Peay State University professor. That evening, BBC One broadcast the animated special “The Highway Rat,” based on a popular British children’s book, and Scott Raymond, APSU assistant professor of animation and former DreamWorks animator, contributed about 20 seconds to the movie.
“Toward the end of the film, in the final sequence, there are three shots I did with the Highway Rat and a couple of other characters,” Raymond said. “I animated the characters—make them move, give them expressions, look around. I’m one cog in this whole process.”
The Daily Telegraph gave the film four stars, saying it was “Delightfully told by Magic Light Pictures.” That company partnered with Triggerfish Animation, a South African animation studio that recently earned a Best Animated Short Film Oscar nomination, to produce the film staring famed British actors David Tennant and Rob Brydon. Triggerfish contacted Raymond last summer to help them finish the 30-minute film.
“What happens with most freelance work I get is, deadlines are approaching and the studio needs some overflow work,” Raymond said. “It’s real short term. We call it ‘911 work.’ For me, it was only about three weeks.”
The project came at a time when Raymond was preparing for the fall semester and moving into a new office and animation studio in the recently finished Art + Design Building. During this busy period, he spent about eight hours a day figuring out how the characters would move and react to certain situations. Then he animated those performances.
“In my Animation One class, I tell my students that as an animator, you’re a director, an actor, a screenwriter and a cinematographer,” he said.
Raymond came to APSU in 2015 to help build the Department of Art + Design’s animation program. He was a good fit, considering he’s worked on animated features, such as “Trolls” and “Kung Fu Panda 3.” Since arriving at Austin Peay, he has also animated on a spot for Nickelodeon’s Kids’ Choice Awards and a ride at the PortAventura Theme Park.
At Austin Peay, the animation program continues to grow, with the University offering its new visual effects and digital 3D classes next fall. The Department of Art + Design is working to eventually offer a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in animation.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Shrew Crew Work Party

On Sunday we had a crew "work party" for the animators working on Shrew animations.  It's a lot for the students to take on in a very short week - so a hands on afternoon with them seemed to be the best way we could help.  And we fed them lunch.  Our two boys had to come up to the animation studio with us, and "helped" on the computers as well :)

Sunday, February 11, 2018

College Art + Design Day

This Saturday APSU Art + Design hosted a College Art + Design Day.  We had about 50 high school students and their parents come spend the day on campus, and basically get to be a college student for a day.  We had some presentations, fed them lunch, and hosted several workshops.  My animation one was popular enough we actually hosted it twice.  In just a quick hour and a half, the students learned Toon Boom Harmony software, made a bouncing ball animation, and some character animation with a bird.  It's pretty impressive to see what this generation can do in such a short time - many of them already had some experience with different animation programs. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Highway Rat Shots!

Here's my shots from The Highway Rat!  Enjoy!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Highway Rat Credits

It was a nice surprise to see that I was in the credits for The Highway Rat!  All of us who came in for the last month got credit - which is very cool of Triggerfish to include us with everyone who worked so hard for the past year.

I finally got to see the final film - and it was really adorable and looked amazing.  I'm hoping to post my shots soon.