DreamWorks wows students

After a brief period of uncertainty on Sept. 28, in which the Instructional Media Center forgot about a scheduled event at Riverside City College’s digital library, students shuffled into an art classroom to hear from David Wolter, a Dreamworks animator and Academy Award Winner. As it turned out, that was perhaps the best gift IMC could have handed David and this group of students.

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By Jeremy Fuerte / News Editor

By Jeremy Fuerte / News Editor

After a brief period of uncertainty on Sept. 28, in which the Instructional Media Center forgot about a scheduled event at Riverside City College’s digital library, students shuffled into an art classroom to hear from David Wolter, a Dreamworks animator and Academy Award Winner. As it turned out, that was perhaps the best gift IMC could have handed David and this group of students.

“The auditorium would have been awkward,” David said. “I love that we’re in this room because you walk in here and take a deep breath and it smells like the same art building where I was an undergrad. It’s got this musty, dusty, like nude models have been in here a lot… and it feels appropriate that we’re in an art class room for this discussion.”

David took a seat on an art table and dwarfed the majority of students around him. He had the demeanor of an excited child as he spoke about his roots as an artist.

“I am almost seven-feet-tall so when I hit about 14 years old I decided basketball was a better path for me. I got more social capital, and by that I mean girls liked me better,” David said smirking. “In the middle of my college basketball career I decided I was not meant to be a basketball player, I was meant to be an artist and fortunately I went to a school that had an art department. I started a comic strip in my student newspaper… so I really came in the back door of cartooning to film.”

In what would have originally been a formal event, David found a way to use the classroom to his advantage and started by showing two short animated films he worked on.

The first was about a fat man who literally found his groove and impressed a girl at a local coffee shop.

The second was “Eyrie,” a film which combines elements of mythology and the Native American west in which a boy must protect his flock of sheep against an eagle that his father transforms into. It is a film which he won a gold medal in animation for from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

“(Eyrie) played (at the California Institute of Arts) and I went to go get my wife a drink and I never made it to the drink table,” David said after showing both of his animated films. “Disney, Laika, Pixar and DreamWorks all came up to me and offered me a job.”
     Showing his two animated films was nothing but a teaching tool and David followed it by going into the design process.

“My first film was very clean, very antiseptic,” David said. “You were in downtown LA… you can eat a meal off of that film and not get any bacteria.”

David didn’t want Eyrie to be like his first film and to show that he utilized the white board and a metaphor involving two hard boiled eggs.

“When you peel a hardboiled egg you start at the place of least resistance, (the air seal), because it’s the easiest, everywhere else will be hard to peel but when you start at the air seal it caves right in,” David explained.  “A hardboiled egg is like your film. You want your audience to eat that egg, get that protein, to enjoy that experience, feel nourished and entertained by your idea and how do you do that? You start in the air seal.”

For David, creating his award winning animated film started with his air seal, or what he described as that “unique weirdness” which makes each artist unique. David’s air seal is human beings that take on animal identities.

“There’s a group of grown men running around on that field calling themselves the tigers,” David said as he pointed in the direction of the football field. “That exists and it blows my mind and there’s something in that idea that I freak out about… When a guy goes down there and puts that helmet on with tiger stripes, it’s the same idea as (the father) becoming an eagle. It’s a dramatic representation of it.”

Davids advice to the students in the packed classroom was to find their air seal and draw with it.

“This is the world inside of animation,” David said as he drew a circle on the white board. “This is every animation that has ever been done. This is also a ghetto.”

David accidentally created one of the funniest moments of the night through his use of the term ghetto.

“It’s a ghetto you need to escape from if you’re going to be signi… well I don’t want to say significant because you can be significant inside the ghetto,” David said pondering his words.

“You’re funny,” a student in the back of the classroom shouted amidst an outburst of laughter.

“That took on a double meaning I did not want it to have'” David replied. “But when I work on my own personal work I find influences that are way outside of the ghetto and that’s when you leave your own little fingerprint.”

For the students who got to meet David, the night was filled not only with advice on animating but encouragement as they try and make it in life as an artist.

“I think it was more than what I thought it was going to be,” said Timothy Sullivan, a student at RCC. “In films you see a lot of different aspects put into one project so to me it lived higher to my expectations because I see someone who went to school, who’s studying the things I want to study and I’m able to see where that can go.”

The night was a huge success according to the students and ended with David interacting one on one with them, looking at their art, and giving them advice on where it could take them in the art world. Right before meeting the student’s one on one, David imparted some last words of wisdom.

“When you want success as badly as you want air, you will be successful,” David said after he told a tale of a guru and his attempt to drown his student in the ocean to the classroom. “If I could give you one piece of advice in animation or in life… if you want to be successful you need to have that kind of urgency, that degree of commitment.”

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