The 3rd Annual SCAD Animation Fest

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This past weekend, Thrust team members, Adrian, Taylor, and Shaunak attended the third annual SCAD Animation Fest held by SCADshow in the heart of Midtown! The festival introduces students (and art nuts like us) to the cutting edge of art, animation, and storytelling with presenters from all over the industry like Pixar Animation Studios, Google Creative Lab, and DreamWorks Animation! 

Thursday, September 26th 

Animating Your Storyworld: The Powerful Pen of Transmedia 11 a.m.

Presented by: John Heinsen, producer, Bunnygraph Entertainment

The first talk we watched was Animating Your Storyworld: The Powerful Pen of Transmedia, presented by John Heinsen, a producer at Bunnygraph Entertainment. John walked us through the evolving world of transmedia, a word that describes when Intellectual Property (IP) is spread across multiple platforms. Transmedia is a way to tell your story not just by porting a game or a show to other devices, but by creating new experiences using your IP's world, characters and story.

A Conversation with Lucas Grabeel 12:30 p.m

Moderated by: D.W. Moffett, SCAD chair of film and television.

Following our chat on Transmedia, we then sat in for a talk with the talented Lucas Grabeel, who was recently cast as the main character in the new Netflix/Nickelodeon show Pinky Malinky. After a half-hour of viewing one of the most high energy kids’ shows we’ve ever seen, Lucas talked with SCAD about his journey to becoming a voice actor and differences between voice and filmed performance. 


'Toy Story 4' Behind the Scenes: A Journey Alongside Team Bo 2:30 p.m.

Presented by: Becki Tower (M.F.A., animation, 2009; B.F.A., computer art, 2004), Directing Animator, Pixar

Next, it was Becki Tower, a SCAD graduate and Pixar team lead. She showed us a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of Bo Peep for the film Toy Story 4. A lot more than you’d expect goes into building a character for a feature-length animated film. They went through what seemed like hundreds of iterations before finding the perfect portrayal of Bo Peep. Getting to see how such a large team works so efficiently and diligently to bring life to a character was pretty inspiring. 


Industry Insights Panel 3:30 p.m.

Panelists: John Heinsen, producer, Bunnygraph Entertainment; Jennifer Magee-Cook, head of production, Dreamscape Immersive; Mark McCray, senior manager of programming operations, Adult Swim; Ken Fountain, animation supervisor, Baobab Studios; Beth Sasseen, university relations, Pixar

After a quick sushi lunch break, Shaunak and Adrian were back in the whirlwind for an Industry Insights Panel. We got to listen in on a panel of industry leaders from Pixar, Adult Swim, Baobab studios and more. We talked about their process as producers and project managers. Managing such large teams can be difficult, and it made us grateful for our close-knit Atlanta team.  



Friday, September 27th 

New Approaches to Animation Magic 11:30 a.m.

Presented by: Sirr Less, senior product manager, Adobe

Friday started off with a bang! Adrian, Taylor, and Shaunak got a special treat from the senior product manager of Adobe. They were exclusively shown the ins and outs of Adobe’s newest child, Adobe Character Animator, that was released this past summer. Like most of us in this industry, becoming a specialist in a skill is sought after. Working at a growing studio, sometimes you find that you need to have full flexibility on a project to help the progression! Now with Character Animator, our game designers can import character designs directly from Photoshop then start puppet rigging the movements of the character. One of the coolest features of the program is the webcam-based motion capture. Just turn on your computer camera, set up points of recognition for your mouth, eyes, and head, and start recording to have your character mimic your exact movements and speech patterns. Pretty awesome stuff and needless to say, we are all downloading it ASAP! 


Motion Graphics at Google Creative Lab 2 p.m.

Presented by: J.R. Schmidt, lead motion designer, Google Creative Lab

A quick lunch downtown with the team then back to another session with the lead motion designer for Google Creative Lab. Ever wonder what the dream job for any creative would be (besides working at Thrust obviously?) It just might be working here. Never heard of it? That’s because it is a secret design “lab” with the leniency of cutting out client work and exclusively working on passion projects for Google. J.R. Schmidt was close to the most impressive display of talent than any of us have ever seen. Truly each one of our jaws was on the floor. The ability to create some of the coolest graphics and logos in just ONE DAY? We took close note to his endless skills so we could get on this dude’s level. 


Cinematic VR: Animated Storytelling in an Interactive Environment  3:30 p.m.

Presented by: Shannon Ryan, development producer, Baobab Studios; Ken Fountain, animation supervisor, Baobab Studios

Baobab Studios formed from two talented animation veterans, Shannon Ryan and Ken Fountain, who’s previous work experience was for a little ole’ studio called Dreamworks. After close to 10 years of working on some of the industry’s most impressive films, the two joined forces to start their own indie VR studio, thus paving the way for story-based VR experiences. With four VR experiences out and one on the way,  it brings into question the direction that VR can be taken. So many possibilities lie ahead, and the field is awaiting more innovations from talented folks. 


Designing for Animation: Costumes, Characters and Complexity 5 p.m.

Presented by: Kate Kirby-O'Connell (B.F.A., animation, 2013), technical animation supervisor, Disney Animation Studios; Neysa Bove, visual development artist, Disney Animation Studios

Character animation isn’t strictly limited to mannerisms, facial experiences, and movements. There is one more crucial element to a character’s overall feel beyond the human form- their costume design. We listened to some of Disney’s leading designers of character costume, SCAD graduate,  Kate Kirby-O'Connell, and Neysa Bove. We were given a glimpse into the process of creating some of Disney's most recent princesses and characters from Frozen 2, Moana and Ralph Breaks the Internet. Starting with historical context and expanding to the physical movement of fabrics and hair, a character can take several years to flesh out and many iterations to perfect. So much work and thoughtful design goes into every character to help create stories that stay with us for a lifetime.


The team didn’t make it to the Saturday sessions, but if you are in the Atlanta area coming September 2020, we highly recommend that you try to attend the 4th Annual SCAD Animation Fest. It was an impressive group of speakers and professionals from the animation scene. If you have any students or young animation enthusiasts, this is the event for them! It was a pleasure to see every session and hear each speaker’s insights. We look forward to 2020!

Thrust Admin