Academy of Art University Alumni Bring Magic to the Summer Screen

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Summer means burning sun and beaches, vacations and fun; but it also means great summertime movies. This season, Toy Story 4 and Spiderman: Far From Home are topping the box offices as the choice summer movies to view.

Opening on June 21, 2019, Toy Story 4 topped that weekend’s box office receipts with $118 million. As of August 5, 2019, its domestic total was a respectable $373.6 million USD. It has become the fifth largest Pixar release domestically ever, globally topping the $771 million mark.

Debuting on July 2, 2019, Spiderman: Far From Home delivered the largest six-day opening ever for a Tuesday release, entering the weekend with over $91 million already in its coffers, and over the three-day weekend it topped that figure, bringing in an estimated $93.6 million for a six-day start totaling over $185 million. By August 5, 2019, the global earnings were just shy of $880.2 million USD after 17 days of release.

Movies and VFX

What these two great movies share are stunning animation and visual effects. Actor Tom Hanks not only brings Woody’s voice to life for viewers again in Toy Story 4, but talented VFX firm Pixar makes he and the other characters leap off the screen and into our imaginations.

The following alumni contributed to Toy Story 4:

  • Simon Christen – Animator, BFA
  • Cody Lyon – Animator, BFA, 3D Character Animation
  • Rosana Sullivan – Story Artist, N/A
  • Erik Smitt – Layout Artist, N/A
  • Terry Song – Animator, BFA, Animation & Visual Effects (Current Instructor)
  • Guilherme Jacinto – Animator, BFA, Animation & Visual Effects (Current Instructor)
  • Jenna Calvao – Project Coordinator, BFA, Animation & Visual Effect
  • Tom Zach – Animator, BFA, Character Animation
  • Stephen Wong – Animator, BFA, Illustration/Animation
  • Erinn Kathryn Burke – Production Office Manager, MFA, Multimedia Communications
  • Jae Hyung Kim – Animator, MFA, Animation
  • Raphael Suter – Animator, BFA, Fine Arts and Animation
  • Laura Meyer – Graphic Artist, BFA, Graphic Design
  • Brett Schulz – Animator, Animation
  • Adam Rodriguez – Animator, 3D Character Animation
  • Tomoyuki (Tomo) Harashima – Animator, MFA, Character Animation
  • Joshua Dai – Animator, Animation
  • Nicole Ridgwell – Animator, BFA, Animation
  • Axel Geddes – Film Editor, N/A
  • Cameron Miyasaki – Animator, MFA, Animation
  • Jamie Datz – Assistant Editor, BFA, Film and Television Production

Scanline VFX brings Spidey swinging along in Spiderman: Far From Home with over 330 VFX shots, including one scene where the webbed wonder runs along a wall and flips over Molten Man as they fight.

The following alumni contributed their talent toward the making of Spiderman: Far From Home:

  • Heidrun Tinna Haraldsdottir  – Digital Compositor, MFA, Compositor & Motion Graphics
  • Tor Andreassen – Digital Compositor, MFA, Animation and Visual Effects
  • Andrew Cunningham – Senior Matte Painter, MFA, Animation and Visual Effects
  • Amanda Pamela – Lead Compositor, BFA, Animation and Visual Effects
  • Joe Censoplano – Lead Compositing Look Development Artist, BFA, Visual Effects and Compositing
  • Meagan Green – Lighter/Compositor, MFA, Visual Effects
  • Azra Alkan – Digital Compositor, BFA, Visual Effects
  • Kyoungsoo Min – Model/Texture Artist, MFA, 3D Modeling
  • Soomin Chon – FX Artist, BFA, 3D Animation Visual Effects
  • Mauricio Valderrama – Lead Compositor, BA, VFX/ Compositing
  • Elham Sepehrjou – Visualization Artist, MFA Animation & Visual Effects, 3D Animation


The blocking of the Molten Man shot took 11 separate motion capture clips which were then stitched together in a process that produced live action film quality. But of course, this is only par for the course in this day of digitally-enhanced films. Movies and VFX are as much a part of each other as the inseparable ingredients in the butter on our popcorn, and movie goers’ appetites for them are just as insatiable.

James Cameron announced back in 1996 that he would be creating a science-fiction film called Avatar that would feature photorealistic computer-generated characters, and did so in 2009, making movie history. Since then, a range of VFX studios have arisen to help produce stunning and previously unimaginable entertainment on the big screen.

Movies and Dreams

Are great summertime movies in your future? Not do you plan to view any soon, but do you dream of being an integral part of creating such wonderful and astounding films? A young boy named Jan Phillip Cramer loved dinosaurs and was mesmerized by the groundbreaking visual effects in Jurassic Park (1993).

“When I was around nine or ten, I decided that there were only two options for my life—I’d either create my own dinosaurs in movies, or become a paleontologist,” Cramer recalls. “I didn’t want to take part in [outdoors] activities. I wanted to think and dream about things. I’ve always envisioned working somewhere I could create worlds and allow my fantasies to come to life.”

Since earning his BFA from the School of Animation & VFX at Academy of Art University in 2004, Cramer contributed to an impressive list of credits which include some of the highest-profile—and highest-grossing—feature films ever made. More importantly, beyond the money and fame, Cramer has created some of the greatest animation work in history.

Kyle Kernan harbored a love for movies since he was a kid, being a proud collector of over 5,000 film copies over 33 years, and while working at a local movie theater during high school. But it was after studying Producing at the Academy’s School of Motion Pictures and Television that Kernan really saw his dreams take off. He has an impressive list of credits that include acting, directing, editing, special effects, production managing, and even makeup.

To date, Kernan has 13 credits as a producer under his belt. He’s also won an award as producer for Best Foreign Short for Pas a vendre in the 2016 Burbank International Film Festival. His latest project, You Can’t Say No, has, in fact, recently premiered on streaming services like iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and Fandango Now.

Academy of Art University and Motion Pictures

Do you dream of working in the film industry? While actors and actresses are the faces we see on screen and in the tabloids, the visual effects experts and other specialists who work behind the scenes are the real stars of today. Academy of Art University is trains an ever-growing number of actors, writers, animators, and visual effects specialists who are employed in the motion picture industry.

Academy alumni work with such talented teams as Industrial Light & Magic, Weta Digital, Double Negative, Cinesite, Framestore, Digital Domain, Rise VFX, Pixar, Cantina Creative, Nickelodeon Animation Studio, Technicolor VFX, Territory Studio, and Scanline VFX.

Moreover, Academy students in the School of Animation and Visual Effects learn in the only Animation and VFX school that teaches in a studio production environment. Aspiring visual effects artists, 2D and 3D animators, and storyboard artists study and learn in StudioX from active professionals working in the heart of the animation industry. On-campus and online degree programs are available.

In addition, the Academy School of Animation and Visual Effects was declared to be one of the Top 10 Animation and VFX Schools in the Nation by The Hollywood Reporter in 2018. Also, Online Schools Report selected Academy of Art University as being among the top 5 schools in the United States for a bachelor degree in Animation in 2019.

One of the benefits of attending Academy of Art University is the outstanding opportunities for growth and showcasing your work before industry professionals. In May, the 2019 NXT Up Festival hosted students from the Schools of ActingMotion Pictures & TelevisionWriting for Film, Television, & Digital Media. In its third year, the student film festival proves to be a solid platform to raise awareness and appreciation to the new generation of filmmakers from the Academy’s film school.

For the second year in a row, industry professionals joined Academy faculty in the judging panel, and also in an Industry Panel that offered career advice to students. Notable Panel guests included art director and production designer Michael Goldman (Ant-Man and the Wasp, The Amazing Spider-Man, Star Trek: Into Darkness), cinematographer Hiro Narita (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Hocus Pocus, James and the Giant Peach), producer Stephen Nemeth (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), and producer Andrew Muscato (The Zen of Bobby V).

If you dream of a career in motion pictures as you view the latest summertime movies, Academy of Art University is where you begin. Contact the admissions department to speak to a counselor or for more information.

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