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Academy Explores “The Development of the Digital Animator” On May 21

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Computer-generated motion picture animation from “Vertigo” to “Toy Story” to the 3D spectacles of today will be explored during “The Development of the Digital Animator,” the latest installment of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Marc Davis Celebration of Animation, on Monday, May 21, at 7:30 p.m. at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. Several pioneers of digital animation will revisit the long path from laboratory to cineplex during a panel moderated by animator and historian Tom Sito.

When “Toy Story” burst onto the scene in 1995, computer-generated imagery was, for many, a bold new technique in animation. However, its lengthy and meticulous development can be traced back to its first public exposure with the mesmerizing title sequence for “Vertigo” (1958). Of equal importance to the technical developments were the influential animators and designers who devised artistic uses for engineering advances.

Scheduled panelists include:

  • Rebecca Allen, an experimental filmmaker who has worked at the New York Institute of Technology and MIT. She collaborated on “the Catherine Wheel” with Twyla Tharp and made landmark music videos for Kraftwerk, Mark Mothersbaugh and Peter Gabriel. She currently holds a professorship in the Department of Design|Media Arts at UCLA.
  • Philippe Bergeron, a CG animator and landscape designer who teamed up with Daniel Langlois and two other directors to create one of the first CG characters in the 1985 short “Tony de Peltrie.”  He has worked at Digital Productions and Whitney/Demos Productions and is president of PaintScaping, Inc.
  • David Em, who began producing digital art in the 1970s and has worked as an independent artist in such research laboratories as the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Apple Computer’s Advanced Technology Group. He is the first digital artist to have his papers collected and preserved by the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art.
  • Tim Johnson, a director and animator who began his career at Chicago’s Post Effects. In the 1980s, while at Pacific Data Images, he animated the first digital Pillsbury Doughboy. His directing credits include “Antz,” “Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas” and “Over the Hedge.”
  • Jeff Kleiser, the co-founder of Digital Effects, New York’s first CG house. Kleiser later co-founded both Kleiser-Walczak Construction Company and Synthespian Studios. His credits include “Tron,” “Honey, I Blew Up the Kid,” “Stargate” and “X-Men The Last Stand.”
  • Bill Kroyer, an animator and director whose credits include “Tron,” “FernGully: The Last Rainforest” and “Scooby-Doo.”  Kroyer received an Academy Award® nomination for his 1988 short film “Technological Threat.”  He is currently Director of Digital Arts at the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts at Chapman University.
  • John Lasseter, the Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney Feature Animation and Pixar Animation Studios, whose credits include Pixar’s first short, the Academy Award-winning “Luxo Jr.,” and the feature films “Toy Story,” “A Bug’s Life,” “Toy Story 2,” “Cars” and “Cars 2.”
  • Tom Sito, a veteran Hollywood animator and historian whose credits include “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King,” “Shrek” and “Hop.”
  • Phil Tippett, an Academy Award-winning visual effects animation director whose credits include “Star Wars,” “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” “Jurassic Park,” “The Spiderwick Chronicles” and several films in the “Twilight Saga.”
  • Diana Walczak, the CG animator and director who co-founded Kleiser-Walczak Construction Company and Synthespian Studios. With Jeff Kleiser, she created the first female Synthespian performer, Dozo, for the 1989 music video “Don’t Touch Me.”  Her credits include the digital opera “Monsters of Grace” and the feature films “X-Men” and “Surrogates.”

Tickets for “The Development of the Digital Animator” are on sale now. Tickets are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with valid ID. They may be purchased online at Oscars.org, by mail, or in person at the Academy during regular business hours or, depending on availability, on the night of the program when the doors open at 6:30 p.m. The Samuel Goldwyn Theater is located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. For more information, call (310) 247-3600 or visit Oscars.org.

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