Development Director at Reel FX
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Specialties:Making stuff up. Making up stories. Making up characters. Investing in make believe. Inspiring others to invest in make believe. Creating patterns from random bits of chaos. Inspiring a team to see the same patterns. Encouraging others to creatively engage with these patterns. Reverse engineering make believe things.
I love my job!
(I should- I made it up :)
LEFT TERN is an animated feature in development at 20th Cent Fox/ Blue Sky Animation. The story is an original concept I co-wrote with my writing partner, S.F. Marengo. We started with the high concept - "Home Alone with Birds" and found the our way from there. Fox went on to engage us to write the treatment, and also to supervise the writing. I am attached to direct the feature. As of this fall, we are 3 drafts with the brilliant Laurie Craig (Ramona and Beezus, Ella Enchanted), subsequent draft Jenny Bicks (Sex and The City).
I have had the honor to work with some of my favorite artists at Blue Sky on this- the talented Greg Couch (whom I had the pleasure of introducing to Blue Sky many years ago from the world of print illustration), Kyle MacNaughton- a phenomenally talented designer, and the superb Willie Real, who besides being an artistic force, should be famous if only for his incredible name :) I also invited several other artists to join development on the feature from the world of illustration- artists such as Christopher Denise and the phenomenal Barry Root have both done astonishingly beautiful work.
Best of all, this project allows for the opportunity for me to work with my good friend and mentor, the oscar winning visionary writer and director- Mr. Christopher Wedge.
Updates in development - see http://pro.imdb.com/title/tt1539999/
"J" in development at Larger Than Life Productions
This project has been an opportunity for me to work with another legend in the film world- Gary Ross. Yes, he is the guy directing HUNGER GAMES (!), yes the same 4 time oscar nominated writer director of SEA BISCUIT (!), yes, that guy! But ironically, all I can think about every time I meet with him is- omg, this is the guy who wrote BIG !! :)
The other amazing person on this is Allison Thomas, the producer of this project (and also Tales of Desperaux). She has incredible story sense, knows her way around in feature animation, and she happens to have a highly refined aesthetic sensibility- all very rare (and SO important) abilities for a producer to have in feature animation. I love working with these guys!
Staci Marengo and I were hired to help outline the story, and define the main characters. Once this was done, I able to create the designs. These were shared with the folks at Paramount (who were engaged in initial exploration at the time). My designs inspired more interest, from there I was tasked with creating a budget proposal to deliver all eight characters modeled in 3D, posed and painted in color for presentation, create an original title design for movie, a poster image for movie, along with 10 full color scenes marking the progression of the story narrative moments- full color characters in environments), and I was also responsible for selecting and hiring the artists (and support as needed) and somehow miraculously deliver it all- for a meeting in THREE weeks. I learned that working around Gary Ross, you discover that achieving the impossible on a daily basis is just the new normal.
Three weeks later, on time, and under budget, we had everything in hand. Done Perfectly.
Many thanks to my team- peerless Rob Russell on titles design, phenomenal Mike Defeo- mad genius modeler, Barry Root- amazing color keys narrative moments, the tireless Scott Fasset, and the wonderful Ann Lee for BG paintings.
Had the honor to work with the Oscar winning director Steve Box doing visual development, creating narrative scenes to establish the look of a story that Steve is in the process of creating.
I was initially engaged to travel to Tibet to consult on story and character design for TIBETAN ROCK DOG, an animated feature that is being developed for worldwide distribution by Beijing based Mandoo Pictures, in affiliation with the Shanghai Film Commission. I was also engaged to tour and evaluate animation production companies throughout mainland China. My search for production ready studios capable of producing the highest quality content led me to introduce Mandoo to facilities all around the world such as- ReelFx, Mac Guff, Duncan Studios, Rainmaker, and Core.
Many thanks to "Michael" Jheng Jun, the Chinese Pop star who created ROCK DOG, and Amber Wang, his partner in Mandoo Pictures, for insisting we must all travel to Tibet (!) to start to development process. Not only was it an unforgettable adventure, but I also had the pleasure of getting to know three really great people; the steadfastly cheerful and sanguine producer- Martha Chang, the hilarious and unflappable Jon Sherman (Frazier,Royal Pains), and last but not least, the sassy and famously particular Rita Hsaio (Mulan, Toy Story).
May all my projects come with at least three new friends and an exotic trip to a new location.
I was honored that Chris Meledandri personally recommended me to his friend- the hilariously astute John Goldwyn and his legendary producing partner on this project- none other than the legendary Lorne Michaels (!) Enough said.
I was invited to into story development by Paramount execs- Hillary Marx and Erin David to riff with the comic genius of the Miller Brothers (the story was based on their original concept I believe). If only it was this much fun on every movie :) From our story outline, I then went on to creat a cast of characters (think Muppets on acid (!) that was to be voiced by Andy Samberg, Justin Timberlake, Jorma Taccone, and Seth Rogen- with Akiva Schaefer attached to direct.
Movie parked when Disney pre-empted with Jason Segel's version of the Muppets movie. Too bad- this movie was insane! Shaeffer is a phenomenal director and Samberg is ridiculously funny- I would love to work with these guys again.
Character design for stop motion characters for feature film FERGUS CRANE. I was brought in by Mike Johnson, David Berenbaum wrote screenplay.
worked with Barry Josephon ( produced Enchanted- Kevin Lima's fantastic movie) and Thor Frudenthal (Wimpy Kid) on his early version of the effects hybrid ALIENS IN THE ATTIC. Thor is a genius-I would love to work with him again.
also during this time I stepped in as a favor (I know, what a maroon!) and stepped right into the high stakes drama that was ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS. Yes, I did succeed in landing those damn chipmunks that anchored the franchise. And I can also say I learned a tremendous amount about diplomacy, integrity, and anger management along the way :)
Had the pleasure to Work directly with director Sarah Smith and writer Peter Baynham (Borat). I created the lead character (Arthur) as well as designs and concepts for several other principal characters for ARTHUR CHRISTMAS.
In my first meeting with Sarah, she pitched me the readers' digest version in about 5 minutes with no visuals at all. As soon as I heard it I knew why Sony wanted to make this movie- I think it is hands down one of the best concepts for an animated feature I have ever heard.
I was brought in as an overall consultant to the visual development department by Bill Damashke. I worked in this advisory capacity alongside Carlos Grangel as well as Carter Goodrich, two of my good friends who also both happen to be legends of the animation design realm. What a time that was.
I was invited in at the start on a project that was generating a tremendous amount of excitement in the vis dev department at the time- KUNG FU PANDA. I worked alongside my friend, the amazing and incredibly gifted designer, Nicola Marlet. I created the initial character designs for the lead (Po), Tigress, and Snake, as well as many other supporting characters. I am very proud of this movie, I believe Po is one of the more successful designs I have helped create for a lead character.
For OVER THE HEDGE, I created principal designs for the leads- RJ and VERNE, among many others. Nico also worked on OTH, doing some really fantastic, award winning designs for many of the principal characters as well.
On MADAGASCAR, I worked in concert with Carlos Grangel and Nicola Marlet to establish the look for the lead characters. I loved designing on this project. In the search for the right designer for production, I remembered a few years prior to this when I was over working at Disney (leading character design on an upcoming CG movie called WILDLIFE), I had used a story artist to help design some additional misc. characters for us, and the guy had done some great stuff. I put his name (the insanely brilliant Craig Kellman) in the hat for MADAGASCAR. The rest is history :) (he won an Annie for design on that I believe)
I had the great honor to be invited in to work with John Lasseter on his passion project- CARS. As a result of this invitation, I got a chance to work (all too briefly) with one of my personal heroes- the late, great, Joe Ranft. Joe was trying to warn me not to argue with John about the placement of the eyes on the car designs. In hindsight, I think I should have listened a little more to Joe, and not been so stubborn about my opinion :)
Around this same time period I got a call from Jan Pinkava, to come and talk to him about a project he was setting up at Pixar. I met with Jan, and he pitched this crazy idea for a story about a rat who wants to be a gourmet chef. I remember thinking it was the most outrageous concept I had ever heard of. It seemed like such a preposterous challenge, but at the same time, Jan was so thoroughly convincing in his confidence of the idea that I found myself starting to believe it was possible this thing would actually get made into a movie! I created early versions of the principal characters for RATATOUILLE; Gaston, Linguini, Remy (see my site for examples) as well as a variety of other rat family members, as well as overall visual development.
In addition to this I worked on several other feature ideas at Pixar doing visual development.
Worked as development art director to establish the look on the initial launch to 20th cent Fox for ROBOTS. I worked with Mike Defeo (head of modeling at that time) to establish a logic for designing the lead character (Rodney). I advised Chris Wedge and Jerry Davis, helped select the artists,and then lead character design and as well as the entire vis dev effort (my major accomplishment was to pull the young prodigy Dice Tsutsumi away from Ice Age 2 BG painting, and give him his first shot at vis dev on a feature film!)
Did visual development and sequence color scripting/ color design for ICE AGE. Also did character color, primarily the fur color layers for Manny and for Sid.
Character design on ANTZ, exploration on other projects in development
principal character design and visual development for
TARZAN with Kevin Lima and Chris Buck
DINOSAUR with Eric Leighton and Ralph Zondag
EMPEROR'S NEW GROOVE with Roger Allers
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