Animation Mentor Graduation and CTN 2014 Recap

Whew! What a busy couple of months it has been! I have not been able to get as much content on the blog lately as I would have liked but all for good reasons. One being that I have been very busy animating away for work and the other being that I was traveling to Burbank, California for the Animation Mentor graduation ceremonies and CTN Animation Conference.

This post is going to be a recap of the events and exciting things that I did while out in LA. First off, let me say this, CTN is one of the most inspiring, fun, exciting, educational things I have ever attended. I cannot put in to accurate words how amazing the experience was. Getting to be surround by other people all with the same love and passion for animation that I have was just awesome. On top of that, getting to hang out with, discuss, and attend lectures with many of my animation heroes was incredible. I likely will not be able to hit on everything I did, but I wanted to at least touch on some of the most memorable and impactful things that took place in the four days I was at the conference.

Day 1:
Walt Disney Animation Studios Tour and Q&A with AM Alumni
The first thing I did after checking into the hotel was to head over to Walt Disney Animation studios and was lucky enough to participate in a special tour for AM alumni. We got to tour the animation studio and see a ton of top-secret behind the scenes stuff. We also got to see the various film stages and back lots of the studio where many of the movies and television shows you see are filmed. After the tour we then got to sit in the famous on-studio theatre and have a Q&A session and hear the stories from some fellow AM alumni who have all gone on to become Animators at Disney! It was a truly inspiring experience and something I will never forget. The Disney Animation Studios is a pretty magical place.



Animation Mentor Graduation!
I finished the Animation Mentor program back in March of 2014, but the official graduation ceremonies for the graduates did not take place until just this month. AM wanted to hold them at the same time and venue as the CTN conference (awesome idea). The graduation ceremony was not your typical sit in a giant theatre and walk across a stage in some dorky outfit (been there, done that) instead, it was an informal party with an excellent speech by all three of the founders of the school (Bobby Beck, Shawn Kelly and Carlos Baena).


Signed Diploma by Bobby Beck and Shawn Kelly!

Signed Diploma by Bobby Beck and Shawn Kelly!

Then, to top it all off they managed to get the legendary GLEN KEANE to be our commencement speaker! Let me say that again, GLEN KEAN – the man who is know for animating some of the most iconic disney characters of my generation (Ariel and The Beast to name a couple). Glen is truly one of the greats, he is so sincere with both his animation and his talks. It was really an amazing experience. I managed to snap a picture of him while he gave his commencement speech.

After the speeches, it was time to party! I was able to mingle and have drinks with so many of my friends from school who up until that night I had only ever talked to online! It was amazing to meet everyone in real life. I got to meet friends from school who came all the way from the other side of the world including, Brazil, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Vienna and so many other places!

Day 2:
This was the first official day of the conference and it was a packed day for sure. It started off with a keynote speech by Glen Keane and he showed off his beautiful short film he created called ‘Duet’. If you not seen it, go to youtube right now and watch it! It is a beautiful piece of art. He also gave an awesome behind-the-scenes look at the making of it.

After the keynote, I had to head to my first demo reel critique session I had scheduled. I was paired with Ruben Aquino – who is a retired 2D Disney Animator, he played a big part in the animation of Ursula on the little mermaid! I was nervous to show him my work, but he was such a nice, and genuine person! He really enjoyed my demo reel and gave me some excellent feedback and notes.

Later that day, I happened to run into Bobby Beck, Shawn Kelly and Carlos Baena just sitting outside and offering to critique people’s demo reels. I immediately got in line and was able to have Shawn look at my reel! It was a great feeling to see him watch my reel and actually laugh out loud at one of my more comedic shots! It’s truly a pretty awesome experience to see your artwork evoke an emotion in someone else; especially, when they are a Supervising Animator at ILM! Shawn also had a lot of really positive things to say about my work and gave me some really great advice on how to improve and what to add to it!

That night I got a chance to meet up with a bunch of my friends and fellow alumni from Purdue who have since moved out to LA and are all working at various major studios around town. It was awesome getting to reunite with a lot of good friends whom I haven’t seen since graduating college back in 2012! It’s also awesome to see that so many of my friends have gone on to do work on some really awesome video games and films!

Day 3:

I started off Day 3 with another demo reel critique from Disney. This time it was with one of their CG animators. This critique session was part of their booth in the exhibition hall. I got a chance to get some really great feedback from a current CG animator at Disney. After that, I headed to one of my favorite workshops of the whole conference. It was a very small workshop with Freelance Animator – Ken Fountain.

Ken is a veteran DreamWorks animator who has since gone out on his own as a freelancer and he gave a super informative and inspiring talk about life as a freelancer and independent animator. It was some excellent information for me and super relevant to a lot of the stuff I have had to learn over the past 9 months starting my career as a freelancer. After his presentation I got a chance to hang out and talk to him in the hallway for a bit and we bonded over both being originally from Chicago, in-fact he grew up about 20min from where I did and we had a lot of stuff in common. I was able to get him my business card and really hope to stay in touch with him and seek his advice when I can!

That night, I attended a wonderful talk by Andreas Deja, who is another legendary animator like Glen Keane. Andreas worked on films like Roger Rabbit, and then onto be the lead animator for many famous disney villians, such as Jaffar, Scar and more! After the talk, I ended up staying up until 2am just hanging out at the hotel bar and the outside lounge just talking and meeting other AM and CTN attendees. One of the coolest experiences was hanging out with some fellow AM students and having Bobby Beck and Shawn Kelly wonder over to us and just sit down at the fire pits and hang out with us and we all just geeked out about animation, drank and stayed up talking late into the night! It was a really memorable night!

Day 4
The final day of CTN was filled with more workshops and critiques. I got another walk-up critique by a DreamWorks animator Mike Safianoff which was awesome, and really helpful. I also ran into some of my mentors from AM just walking around the conference, Nicole Herr (class 5), Aaron Hartline (class 1) and Sean Sexton (class 6) were there!

Finally, I ended the night back at Walt Disney Animation Studios with a special on the lot screening of Big Hero 6. Afterwards there was a special Q&A with the Head of Story for BH6 – Paul Briggs and the Director of the short film ‘Feast’ – Patrick Osbourne. It was a fantastic film and made even more special by watching it at the studio where it was all created!

Here is a pretty awesome vine video from the screening that Darrin Butters (Disney Animator and moderator of the Q&A) took.

Now that it is all over, I have returned home and to work, even more inspired and excited to be apart of this truly amazing industry. I learned so much, met so many great people and cannot wait to attend CTN again in the future!

New shots and updates!

Well, it has been a little while since I’ve posted some new work so I thought I better get around to sharing what I’ve been up to! I’ve been dedicating some of my free time from animating for work to continue to animate on some personal tests. The type of animation I do for work is a much different style than that typically found at the feature film level of animation. While still very fun and challenging, I want to be as well rounded as animator as I can be and continue to push myself in all styles. A while back, I posted up a blocking pass for a subtle acting shot I had started. I can now say that it is finally at a point that I’m going to call it done. The main purpose of this shot was to improve my subtle acting and facial performance skills. I purposely chose to use a more complex rig that would allow me for more facial articulation and enable me to get more nuance into the performance.

I learned a lot working on this shot, and have already taken the lessons I’ve learned and started applying them to another shot that I am in the early stages of blocking on. I was fortunate enough to have a good friend of mine from Purdue, Andrew Kennedy light and render my shot for me to make it a little more polished and pretty for my demo reel. Andrew is super talented and you can find more of his work at his website (

On another note, I was graciously asked by the Purdue SIGGRAPH Student Chapter to skype in and give a talk about my experiences so far as a professional animator and my journey from being a student to now. It was a really fun experience getting to chat to the current students there. It feels like just yesterday that I was in their same shoes, sitting in the familiar labs of Knoy Hall of Technology and listening to other alumni who have gone on to work in the industry. It was a great experience and I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did. Hopefully some day, I’ll get a chance to make it back to campus, I sure do miss it!

I think that is enough rambling for now, I’ll leave you with TWO shots. The first one is my final version of my facial acting shot and the other is a look at my first pass of blocking on my next personal shot I’ve begun working on using the super awesome “Mery” rig.

“Past Doesn’t Matter – Final”


“I’m Hot – First Pass Blocking”

Quick Run Cycle Test

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 8.24.48 PM


Wow, it has been too long since I have posted on here!  After animating all day for work, it is sometimes hard to get the motivation to put in more hours on my personal shots. I am still in the process of refining my acting shot using the Argus rig from Long Winter Studios. I actually just got the studio library/pose library for his rig which should help a lot getting my lipsync pass roughed in on him.

Anyways, something my mentor had recommended for me prior to finishing up AM was to practice some cycle animation. I have wanted to get my hands dirty with some cycles and video game style animation for a while now. They seem like the perfect kind of exercises to practice body mechanics and for my limited free time because they often are very quick animations in general typically less than 100 frames. I also have been looking for an excuse to try out this awesome free rig called “SAM” from

This is just a quick post to share the run cycle I created today in just a few hours worth of work. I’m sure there are things I can improve on it, but in effort to keep completing small shots I figured I’d call this one done for now and move on to a new exercise.

Check it out, let me know what you think!

New shot and some much needed updates!

Wow! The last couple of months have been a very exciting and busy time for me. I finished Animation Mentor at the end of March and immediately hit the ground running to try and find my first  job as an animator. I was extremely lucky in my timing and was fortunate enough to land a position as a Character Animator for Wizart Animation! I am under an NDA so I am not legally allowed to say very much about what I am working on. But, what I can say is that I am working remotely for the TVShows department on an upcoming children’s television show titled “Yoko”. I am extremely fortunate to have this opportunity to work on such an awesome project while living in an area with essentially ZERO animation industry. I am working alongside so many talented animators and it has been inspiring every day to work and learn from each one of them.

During my off-hours I have been slowly starting to work on a new personal shot for my demo reel. One thing I learned while at Animation Mentor was to continue to improve and stay hungry, even after you get your first job. It can be very easy to get comfortable just animating in the style that your job or current show requires. However, in order to stay relevant and competitive for future jobs you need to constantly be improving and working in various styles. It is important to show you can animate in a wide variety of ways because every project is different and you don’t always know what your next project will be. Since the show I’m working on is a much different style of animation from feature film quality work, I have began a new acting shot using a brand new rig from Long Winter Studios called “Argus”. I am really hoping to improve my close-up acting and facial performance with this shot. It has been a ton of fun working with this new rig, and I am really enjoying it so far.

Below is my very first pass of blocking; I have done very little animation on the face, only enough to show eye-direction and get a general idea of some of the blinks. I wanted to get the subtle body animation worked in first. I am learning that animating such a subtle piece is actually quite hard. As animators we often want to have things move a lot, but it is pretty difficult to keep a character still and make sure that they feel alive at the same time. With this shot, I’m already learning how difficult it can be to keep a character alive during a long silence. I know I will learn a great deal from this piece. Stay tuned for a new update, hopefully next week!

First-Pass Blocking:

Animation Mentor: Complete!

blog_picThat’s all folks! 18 months, came and went at lightening speed! It is hard to believe that it is already over. I had such an amazing experience attending Animation Mentor. I met so many inspiring people and was fortunate to learn from the best in the industry. Animators from the most respected studios around the world. Each and every mentor I had brought new and unique views to the art of animation. I learned more in this last year and half about animation as art but also as an industry that I ever imagined. If you have been following my blog from the beginning then you saw as we started with the most basic of exercises the “bouncing ball” and as I progressed through the program we finally finished with multiple character acting shots.

As I prepare to attend my final Q&A session tomorrow evening, I’m reflecting on all that I learned and all the areas where I still need to learn more. Animation Mentor really taught me how to animate. Prior to coming to Animation Mentor, I knew I wasn’t ready to animate professionally, but I didn’t realize just HOW far away from that goal I was. After going through this program, I feel like I finally have a real solid foundation to work with. I plan to start searching for jobs and I am willing to take any sort of paid opportunity I can get my hands on. However, I know that I still have a lot of room to grow as animator and there are so many topics that I wish to delve into and explore. Things, like creature animation, video game animation, and of course always improving my acting shots. One of things about pursuing animation is that you are ALWAYS a student. There is always something to learn, and even many students at Animation Mentor were professional working animators. This industry is always progressing, the characters get more complex, the movies and games get more detailed and that requires that the animators continue to keep learning and pushing the art form forward.

Aside from all the technical and artistic knowledge I learned from AM, I got to make a TON of new friends with fellow animators and artists from around the world! I always loved being in class and seeing animators from India, Brazil, Norway, Germany, USA and countless other countries. This art truly is global and animation can communicate at so many levels. The community at AM is the most helpful, friendly, supportive and inspiring group of people I’ve ever been around. Everyone is always offering feedback, and advice on how to improve or how to fix a problem with a shot or even just sharing great animation with each other. Even though it was an online school, it never really felt that solitary. There were so many opportunities to hop into video chats on google+ and talk with your friends while animating to the wee hours of the morning.

I am eagerly awaiting when I get to meet all my classmates in-person at our graduation in November. The graduation is going to take place at the same time as the CTNx Animation Expo in Burbank, California! I cannot wait to get out there and celebrate and meet everyone.

I am more inspired and more eager then ever to keep animating. I already have tons ideas that I want to animate and get to work on to improve my reel. Getting into this industry can be extremely tough and it takes a lot of determination and hard-work. I plan to keep treating this blog as I did while I was in school. I am going to keep posting regular updates on my new shots as I develop them, because I enjoy doing it and it keeps me accountable and motivated!

I could probably go on for days about my experience at Animation Mentor, but I don’t want to keep rambling and I’m sure you are all eager to see my graduation demo reel! I just wanted to thank Animation Mentor and all my mentors for such a great learning experience. I also couldn’t have done it without my super supportive fiance who has put up with all my late-night classes and days spent animating. Finally, my awesome parents and sister who have always supported my dreams and goals.

Finally.. here it is, my graduation reel (I highly recommend you watch it on vimeo in HD):
Also – the 2 person acting shot was lit by a good friend of mine from Purdue, Andrew Kennedy – check out his work at
[vimeo w=720&h=405]

AM Class 6 – Polishing


First let me say, time sure flies here at Animation Mentor! It is already the end of week 9, which means I only have two more weeks until Class 6 is complete and I am officially done with the Classic Character Animation track at Animation Mentor! This past week was spent really focusing on cleaning up my arcs, refining the face, tweaking the lip-sync, and addressing a lot of the arm issues I was having in the previous weeks. Based on my mentor’s feedback I still need to push the smile during the laugh to really sell it, and I still have some spacing issues that need to be cleaned up with the head near the beginning of the shot. One of the goals I have had for this class was to improve my facial animation. My mentor, Sean, has been doing an awesome job in helping me really get the most out of my facial poses. He always has such great advice and tips on how to push my poses even more and it has really forced me to improve on my facial animation a lot in a short amount of time.

Once I tackle my mentor’s notes and make sure they are all reading, I want to start working in some more subtle hand and finger movements, and I am also going to be testing out Animation Layers to try and incorporate some more shoulder overlap and torso squash and stretch. I’m hoping this will help get the laughs to read more in the body and not just in the face. I have also been keeping track of my hours on this shot to stay updated on my workflow process and in total I clocked around 32 hours from the blocking stage until now.

Here is the progress for this week. Be sure to check back soon for another update and eventually a my finished demo reel!

[vimeo w=720&h=405]

AM Class 6 – Refining Pass

Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 5.14.09 PM

This was another fast, yet productive week! I took my shot into the next stage – refining. I moved out of stepped keys and into splined and got to see the real power of the workflow that my mentor has me using. It was really eye-opening to see my shot in splined curves without a lot of guess work needing to be done on my part. By having the shot blocked on 4’s it really limits the computer’s ability to give you bad breakdowns and in-betweens. It still happens but, it certainly make the clean-up and refinement process a lot smoother. Based on my mentors advice, I need to exaggerate some of the posing and timing but for the most part needed to stick to my reference and focus on cleaning up the motion and curves.

As for my workflow in the cleanup/refining stage, I started with the core and center of gravity controls of the character, then worked up through to the head and out to the arms. I still have some issues with the arms that need to be worked out. It is rather difficult to get nice smooth off-set circular motion with FK arms because it requires a lot of counter-animation between the shoulder and elbows. I’m thinking switching the arms to IK this week and seeing how successful I am with it. I then also did another pass at the face and lip-sync working in more detail into the brows, eyes, and mouth. In keeping up with my workflow journaling, I also spent a total of 14 hours cleaning it up this week. I’m hoping to get pretty close to final by the end of this coming week so that I can focus on some really detailed polish work and finessing some more of my older shots.

That is all for this post, take a look and let me know what you think!
[vimeo https// w=720&h=405]