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Finding Your Creative Signature While Sharing the Canvas

Finding Your Creative Signature While Sharing the Canvas

Description: Whether a newcomer who has graduated college and entered the studio system or a veteran professional, it can be difficult for us to find creative voice within a crew of 500. At the end of the project where do these creatives find authorship, where do they point and say “I did that!”. As creative talents we are used to being the masters of our own art but to earn “a living” we  suddenly find ourselves as work for hire and  in the pursuit of fulfilling another’s vision. In a transition that is almost a ‘rite of passage’ into the world of production where do we get seen and how do we make ourselves heard. Listen to some of the strongest creative voices in the industry and from a range of disciplines as they share their passion on a subject that is rarely discussed.

Andy Gaskill was drafted out of art school to work at the Disney studio when he was twenty-one. He flew out to Los Angeles from Philadelphia and he has lived in the movie capital ever since.

He participated in the first animation training program at Disney, supervised by veteran animator Eric Larson. Other veteran animators still working there at the time included Milt Kahl, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, John Lounsberry and Les Clark. Andy recalls, at the time he didn’t appreciate the amazing artistic resource these men offered, and only in maturity did he realize these men actually shaped his childhood. At age five, Andy saw Lady and the Tramp and was so moved by the spaghetti scene that he acted it out over and over with his friends! Later in life, he discovered Frank Thomas had animated that scene, thereby conferring a sort of honorary parenthood on Frank, (or was it perpetual childhood for Andy?)
Disney became a baseline for Andy for many years, culminating in art direction credits for Lion King, Hercules and Treasure Planet. The crash of hand-drawn animation in the early 2000’s sent many artists scurrying to learn 3d skills, and Andy was one of them. Today he works at Sony Pictures Animation, performing visual development and art direction functions.

There is a message Andy wants to communicate to anyone who is new to the business: no matter what technique animation might employ; hand-drawn or CG, the most important attributes of a movie have nothing to do with technique. The two most important attributes are: Story and design. Get good at those.

Duncan Marjoribanks is one of the greatest, most original animators of all time and was one of the first people in the second generation to begin to use his own acting methods and expressions in his work. He was born in 1953 and attended the Sheridan Institute of Technology in the 1970s before joining Hannah-Barbara in 1978. There he instantly became a star and worked on many projects including the feature Heidi’s Song. After Heidi’s Song Marjoribanks began to work at many studios including John Dorman’s studio and Marvel. Duncan then worked on the Amazing Stories Episode, American Dog, directed by Brad Bird. Bird told his friend John Musker of the animator’s greatness inspiring Musker and Ron Clements to bring Marjoribanks to Disney where he supervised Sebastian in the Little Mermaid. He would then go on to be a supervising animator on Rescuers Down Under(McLeach), Aladdin(Abu), and Pocahontas(Ratcliffe.) After Pocahontas Duncan again decided to try something new and went to work for DreamWorks and Warner Brothers before coming back to Disney for about 7 years. Now Duncan Marjoribanks is using his talents in freelance work, including projects with Duncan Studio. He’s one of the best in the business and his originality as well as intelligence, sensitivity, acting skills, and sincerity show in every frame of his work.

Fergal Reilly was five he had his imagination ignited by a master storyteller, his grandmother. She would sit by the fire and tell the ‘most amazing ghost stories ever.’ He learned from her that the best storytellers search the mists of the imagination and are not afraid to get lost. His grandmother also gave him his first book of magic.

He remembers drawing characters and stories on the back of old used typing paper his mother would bring home from the office, and tearing open cereal boxes creating dioramas with a ‘bic’ pen for his fantasy cardboard characters.

Fergal arrived in Hollywood from Ireland at the age of nineteen to work as an inbetweener and animation apprentice for the Disney feature The Rescuers Down Under. Since then he has worked as an animator, designer, director and story artist in live-action, traditional and CG animated feature films.

He has worked as a storyboard artist for Walt Disney Pictures, Warner Bros, and Sony/Columbia Pictures, with such directors as Sam Raimi, Brad Bird, Jon Favreau, Barry Levinson, Rob Minkoff and the Farrelly Brothers.

He has also taught advanced story development at the California Institute of the Arts, and has lectured on visual storytelling at the Rhode Island School of Art and Design and Ringling College of Art and Design.

His film credits include The Iron Giant, Spiderman 2, Stuart Little, Walt Disney’s The Haunted Mansion and Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs. Fergal currently works as head of story and director in development at Sony Pictures Animation, and he still performs magic.

Jeff Snow is an award-winning animator who was noted in elementary and high school for being an amazing cartoonist. However, his formal training is as a jazz musician. After earning his degree in jazz performance at the University of North Texas, and spending some time playing in the band on cruise ships, Jeff decided to return to his true avocation of drawing amazing cartoons. So he went to Southern California and knocked on a lot of studio doors.

After an initial stint as key animator for the noted “Batman” series on Fox in the early 1990′s, Jeff continued to work for television series for studios like Film Roman, Warner Brothers, and Marvel. He broke into feature animation in the mid-1990′s and worked for the Walt Disney Studios as a storyboard artist on a number of features. These included “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Mu-Lan,” “Hercules,” and “Tarzan.” He left Disney in 1998 to work at DreamWorks, where he was nominated for an Annie award for his work on “The Road to El Dorado.” His most recent DreamWorks credits include story credits on “Shrek II” and “Shark Tale.” He is currently Head of Story for an upcoming DreamWorks animated feature.

Jeff’s strengths in drawing and in developing strong stories are obvious in “Beasts in the Closet,” which has been gathering enthusiastic reviews from all around the country.

Nate Wragg, a CalArts Character Animation Grad, has worked as an Illustrator, Art Director and Character Designer for both Pixar and Dreamworks Animation studios on various projects-including RatatouilleToy Story 3 and  Puss and Boots. In addition to working in Feature Animation, Nate’s illustrations can be seen in on the pages of several children’s books including Too Many Cooks for Disney Publishing.  His work is also making it’s way into art galleries and group illustration showcases spanning from Los Angeles to New York, most recently his successful solo show (LOCALS) was exhibited here in Southern California at Gallery Nucleus.

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