Thursday, 2 January 2020

Back to DreamWorks

DreamWorks Animation
Jeffrey Katzenberg may have left DreamWorks animation, the studio he founded back in the late 1990s, but the old place feels much the same, and just as busy as ever.

I was there recently visiting Stuart Sumida, the paleontologist-turned-movie consultant, who has advised on the science behind animal locomotion and behaviour since The Lion King back in 1993.

Stuart Sumida
Stuart Sumida
Stuart is a world expert on animal anatomy and creature locomotion, widely consulted for his technical expertise on animated feature films like “Spirit”- Stallion of the Cimarron”, "Beauty and the Beast" “Lion King”, "Zootopia" and and “How to Train Your Dragon”.  

Stuart describes himself as a “paleontologist who gets to work with animators” and, while his day job is to teach anatomy to medical students, he also consults on movies for Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks. Right now he is at DreamWorks, working on a number of animated film projects for the company's new owners, NBC/Universal.

Hanging out with Po at DreamWorks
Paleontology meets animation
Stuart has visited us in London on a number of occasions, helping UK-based animators to better understand the science behind how animals and creatures move.

I got to work with Stuart on Lion King (1993) and Spirit (1999), when his job was to advise the animation crew on the anatomy and science behind the animal locomotion.

DreamWorks Animation
I was lucky enough to work at DreamWorks for four years, from 1998 to 2002, working as an animator on a number of projects including The Road to El Dorado, Spirit - Stallion of the Cimarron, and Sinbad.

Most of the crew who worked there with me have since moved on, but a few remain. Head of animation Kristof Serrand and lead animator William Salazar are both still at DreamWorks, working on new animated film projects. Last year William directed his first short film "Bird Karma".

DreamWorks Glendale Campus
DreamWorks Glendale Campus
The DreamWorks studio is a beautiful place to work. It has  fountains, a small "lake" complete with carp, herons and ducks, and paved avenues lined with trees.

Katzenberg spared little expense to create what feels like a small Italian Renaissance town, complete with campanile, olive groves - and of course an excellent restaurant, which has the added advantage of being free.

Me and Shrek - together at last
DreamWorks Europe
And, increasingly, DreamWorks projects are coming to London.  Jellyfish Animation, where a number of our Escapees work, has been working on some co-productions with DreamWorks, at their studio in London and also at their new studio in Sheffield.

My job at Animation Apprentice is to make sure that all my students are properly trained and job-ready, such as Henry Fenwick, currently working at Jellyfish in London.

To find out more about Animation Apprentice, click here for a link to Frequently Asked Questions. To sign up for our next classroom at Animation Apprentice, follow this link.

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