In addition to the “10 to Watch” (Arthur de Pins (Zombillenium), Megan Nicole Dong (Pinky Malinky), Dorota Kobiela (Loving Vincent), Kirsten Lepore (Hi Stranger), Kira Lehtomaki (Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2), Dave Mullins (Lou), Julia Pott (Summer Camp Island), Carlos Puertolas (Boss Baby), Dana Terrace (DuckTales), and Nora Twomey (The Breadwinner)), the event also recognized director Carlos Saldanha with the creative impact award, as well as Maija Burnett, CalArts' director of character animation, who received the animation educator of the year award. Burnett said the title holds a special place in her heart as she follows in the footsteps of a long line of teachers.
“Both of my parents are educators, so I followed in the family business,” Burnett told the crowd as she accepted her honor. “One childhood memory that I have is sitting them both down in our apartment and teaching them in front of a blackboard. I was probably five years old, so chalk on blackboard lead to pencil on paper, and just a love for the arts.”
Burnett went on to discuss the importance of education, especially in the arts, and honing in on the specific needs of students.“More than anything, I believe that teaching is about listening,” Burnett said. “It’s about listening to the needs of the students and it’s about encouraging and supporting the students to listen to the stories that they have in their hearts and that they have in their minds.”
Saldanha, meanwhile, discussed animation, which he said is rooted in storytelling.
“I do believe we all share one thing in common, which I always look for, and that’s the love of storytelling,” Saldanha said. “And that’s what animation is all about. We create fun characters, with great scenes, but at the end of the day we want to tell good stories.”
Guests gathered at a cocktail reception with drinks specifically crafted for this year’s event, such as the "slime-tini" — made with midori, tequila, and sweet & sour mix. Guests also nibbled on a myriad of hors d'oeuvres while mingling with the likes of Chris Viscardi, Nickelodeon Senior Vice President of Content Development, and Fox Animation Studios president Vanessa Morrison. The celebration, presented by Variety and Nickelodeon Animation Studios, was decorated with custom Variety magazine covers drawn by the animators themselves.
Additionally, the current issue of Variety features a phenomenal Nickelodeon Animation cover titled "Outside The Lines", featuring hit Nick shows such as The Loud House, SpongeBob SquarePants, Shimmer and Shine, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Bunsen is a Beast and Nella the Princess Knight, and Nickelodeon's upcoming brand-new animated series Welcome to the Wayne!:
Dong grew up loving sharks, marine biology, comics and drawing and was soon making up voices with her brother for the characters she’d created after hours of drafting.
“Drawing and talking in voices is pretty much what you do when you’re pitching an animated show or an idea for an animated show,” says Dong, who is the creator of the webcomic About Merpeople and the sketch blog Sketchshark! “I had no idea that what I was doing there with my brother would some day kind of become my job.”
Now supervising director for the new Nickelodeon show Pinky Malinky, she previously worked at DreamWorks on How to Train Your Dragon 2 as a story artist and as a storyboard artist on the TV series Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, as well as gigs at Titmouse Inc. Animation Studios and Adult Swim’s Metalocalypse.
Pinky Malinky will follow the adventures of Pinky, a hot dog trying to get by in a human world. The show will be done in a mockumentary style, something like Parks and Recreation.
The artist’s journey hasn’t always been smooth — she was rejected by DreamWorks several times before finally being asked to work with the animation team there — but believes it’s crucial to push forward.
“It helps me to work on my own ideas, drawings of sharks and things that I love, because it keeps you inspired and you have a backlog of ideas you have always go to,” says Dong.
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