Saturday, June 28, 2008

Who was Justin Wright?

Sitting through the credits after Wall-E, I caught a line scrolling by something to the effect of, "In Loving Memory of Justin Wright, 1981-2008." I wondered who this person was, what was his affiliation with Pixar, what were the circumstances, etc. I guess I must have made a mental note of his name.

Well tonight, by what seemed like a complete fluke, I ran across his name and learned a little about Justin. I was scouring Michael Sporn's amazing blog, which at some point deep in the archives linked to Ronnie Del Carmen's blog, whereupon I scrolled down and was met with his post about Justin's passing. I would encourage you to read it (includes links to others' memories of Justin and some info on his memorial at Pixar) as well as Justin's Pacific Union College Alumni profile page.

That's right - PUC. I did a double-take when I saw that. Learning this and reading what people who knew him said about him kind of changed my view on the whole story. Of course it's always a tragedy when someone so young and full of potential is gone before it seems like they really had a chance to fulfill what they were capable of. But in the context of Justin's story and his own words it's actually quite inspiring and beautiful that he was able to achieve what he did in the time he had, and it's great to know he was really happy. I presume he grew up SDA as there was a comment from his youth pastor that mentioned his mom being a church school teacher. From what I gather he was a person of faith and most definitely made an impact on the lives of the people who knew him. I don't doubt that God placed Justin at Pixar - not only to fulfill his dreams and to see him happy, but as a witness to others by the example of his character. And I don't think it's any coincidence I stumbled upon the answer to the question that had sat in the back of my mind since yesterday.

Who was Justin Wright? Definitely someone I wish I'd known in this lifetime, but look forward to meeting one day. I'm really grateful to everyone who posted their memories of him for the benefit of those of us who weren't lucky enough to know him. Wandering the halls of Pixar strumming a guitar... that truly is the dream, and Justin lived it.

Friday, June 27, 2008


To quote from the movie Contact, "No words... they should have sent.. a poet. So beautiful... I had no idea..."

More to come as I recover.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

THE fat panda

Just got back from Kung Fu Panda. I was blown away. You know how a bad audience experience can ruin a good movie? Well I got in early and got the best seats, so of course everyone else plopped down all around me. And it wasn't because of my magnetic personality. So with the masses cackling about, kicking seats, spilling junk food in a surround-sound symphony of movie-spoiling mayhem, I was pleasantly surprised that once the film began it transcended all these unpleasantries and drew me in where it was warm and fuzzy (we're talking about a panda after all) and where no distractions could touch me. Zen... appropriately enough.

Kung Fu Panda is Dreamworks firing on all cylinders, perhaps for the first time. Everything was top-notch. There was a maturity to this film that I hope marks the beginning of a new era for all animated features. I kept wincing in expectation of a sudden break into song and dance or mindless frolicking around that usually crops up to fill time when the story is rice-paper thin. No, this thing is well-crafted from the get-go and the story is rich enough to sustain the entire timeslot.

Kudos to you, Dreamworks. Give me a call sometime why don'tcha?

Gamma rays

Can I just say one thing I'm excited about?

No more Emo Donnie Hulko Jake GyllenHulk*!

Mad props to Kevin Jackson, Emil Bidiuc, and Sean Amlaner for what I'm sure will be some awesome work on the new Hulk!

*That reference might seem unwaranted, but bonus points to anyone who sees the link. And of course no offense to anyone who worked on the 2003 Hulk!

Portrait of an Animator, Animated

Almost exactly 5 years ago, I was sent an unexpected birthday gift from my good buddy and soon-to-be-roommate-for-a-year Tim Sormin. Little did I realize how important an asset this gift would be and the critical timing in which I received it. What was this precious tome? Why none other than Richard Williams' Animator's Survival Kit. Tim and I had been "studying" animation in college for 3 years at that point, but the program was in its infancy and somewhat lacking in focus and depth. I had decided to spend the summer off-campus near the college while working a couple part-time web-related jobs affiliated with the school. I had also just got a new dual-processor workstation (sadly the very same I'm typing on right now), a Wacom tablet, and had come across a free version of Plastic Animation Paper - software that emulates traditional animation - so with some extra time on my hands, I was ready to crack open the A.S.K. and start mining the gold. It didn't take long to realize what an amazing find Richard Williams' book was and I yelled at Tim to get his own copy too. When the fall semester began, veteran Disney animation director Hendel Butoy graciously descended upon our humble school to help show us the way... and he brought with him none other than - you guessed it - the Survival Kit. That summer layer of exploration turned out to be the foundation of preparation for my animation reeducation.

Fast-forward to the present and I've come across something that gives me that same feeling of giddyness like standing on the edge of a vast chasm filled with treasure, though now the feeling is gift-wrapped in a warm blanket of nostalgia.

Behold - The Animator's Survival Kit - Animated!

A 16 DVD box set combining Williams' famous animation master class recorded at Blue Sky Studios with over 350 "specially animated examples" of the books' lessons that you can frame-by-frame. Of course the price is pretty steep for your average individual (nearly $1000 US thanks to our crappy economy), but I definitely would want to work at a studio that adds this set to its library. You can pre-order now and get 20% off, but it's not out until Nov 17th. Check out the promotional trailer. Props to Saul Ruiz for posting about this yesterday.