Sunday, October 5, 2014

Official CTN 2014 Planning!

November will be here before you know it!

CLICK HERE to join in the Tea Time Animation official CTNx 2014 planning thread to figure out your carpools, hotel rooms, and anything else you might need to bring before the great SoCal migration. (Portfolio reviews, anyone?)

CTNx 2014 is November 21-23, and will be held at the delightful Burbank Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, 2500 North Hollywood Way, Burbank, CA. While it is probable that they are already booked up, I might advise calling with them to double check before going elsewhere. You can reach the front desk at (818) 237-3615‎.

In other news:We're going to be heading to CTNx in style. That's right! Our final Tea Shirt and Hoodie orders for Fall 2014 are placed and on their way to printing. We will delivering all merchandise to CTNx go-ers Thursday evening/Friday morning of the Conference. Not attending? Don't worry! Stop by to pick up your swag at the next Tea Time meeting.

Happy Animating!

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Art of Riot Games

Ever heard of a little 'Massive Online Battle Arena' called League of Legends? Well, have we got an article for you! Last week, we had the pleasure of joining Riot Games artists at a trip back to their Alma Mater, as they shared with us a little insight into the art behind one of the world's most played games.

With us we had Kenny Carvalho (art recruiter), Laura Deyoung (visual design director), Bo Lu (concept artist), Chengwei Pan (concept artist), Rory Alderton (senior animator), and Moby Francke (principal artist).

For those who aren't quite as hot and heavy into the video game scene, or Riot Games as a company in general, Kenny Carvalho kicked off the evening with a taste of company culture. Riot is about focusing on the player experience, and is serious about gamers who take play..well...seriously. Their mission statement is "to aspire to be the most player focused company in the world." As such, the artists working on League of Legends (LoL) aren't just churning out artwork. Each artist is heavily immersed in every aspect of the pipeline, seeing to their work's functionality in game, because they are as passionate as their players! It's important to be so for them to ensure that the world and characters that are being created are cohesive and appealing on all levels -- i.e. gameplay, visuals, sound, etc.

"The culture is fine, and all... now what about the artists?"

Laura Deyoung, the Visual Design Director, had an extremely interesting story to tell. Before getting into the biz, she wasn't specifically a 3D Artist or Illustrator, but rather involved with graphic and web design. She was good at what she did, but did not see herself working with web for the rest of her life. Instead, she really wanted to get into the games industry, but felt doubtful of herself as she did not have the background in 3D art. Feel like you're in the same boat? As it turns out, there is a department for people with exactly that expertise. At Riot it's called Visual Design, but it is often labeled as UI/UX artist. When Laura was starting out, this type of position was small, but it has been steadily growing, and will only get bigger. (Ahem, we see postings for these positions all the time by game studios now.) Laura stresses that Visual Design is a very complicated and specific field, so it requires artists with the particular skillset needed.

"What about some of those amazing digital paintings I've seen?"

Well, Chengwei Pan and Bo Lu shared their experience in creating Illustrations and Splash art at Riot. The style of LoL can be described as 'exaggerated comic-book-style proportions and poses', so if you're looking to apply, make sure you can fit the bill. On top of that, they look for high-polish rendering (super high-fidelity images that you can zoom in to and still see all the detail), dynamic lighting (lighting should show story, form, and point of interest), strong graphic shapes, and a strong understanding of color (with the ability to work within a limited color palette).

However, just having a pretty picture isn't enough. Rather, the art should echo the in-game visual and play style; your images should be a direct representation of how badass a character is, so that players want to be that champion in-game. Your images should tell a story. (Particularly if involved in promo art.)

Looking at the amazing illustrations they create, the task of reaching that bar can look super daunting. Luckily for us, as AAU alumni, they have some excellent recommendations for classes: Foundations, Figure Painting, Clothed Figure Drawing, Quick Study, Narrative Painting, and Drawing for Film. Narrative Painting and Drawing for Film were the two most highly recommended as those classes will teach you how to tell a story as well as how to design a painting.

Lastly, while many other disciplines discourage this practice, Riot strongly encourages aspiring Rioters to draw and paint their Champions -- what better way to show your passion and ability?

"Yeah, yeah - still images are cool, I guess... now talk to me about Animation."

Sometimes people think of animation for games as mainly a bunch of cycles, but Rory Alderton showed us how Riot makes every champion feels alive with their own distinct personality and characteristics. It's always about what the players can see from the game view screen, so there are a few interesting challenges that arise that wouldn't come up in film. Variables like a free camera, player actions, and potential speed modifiers all have to be taken into account.

Unlike in film where artists only have to animate to one specific camera view, games have a full 3D space with a moving camera so champions have to look good from all angles. In LoL, the camera is in a top down view which presents some unique obstacles with foreshortening -- it's not always easy to get a clear silhouette. This means they've got to break the mold a little to get the job done. The poses are exaggerated -- sometimes to the point of joints being broken -- just to get a clear silhouette. Squash and stretch in the shoulders, hips, spine, and impacts, are always pushed to help sell the weight.

Also unlike film, animators in video games have to take into account any actions that the player might make in game -- Player Actions. This means that champions can change from different states at any time, such as running to a stop or casting spells. In order to have smooth gameplay, a layering system is used in the animation so that each actions can be blended seamlessly together.

Speed modifiers are a sort of Player Action, but it adds an extra layer of grief to an animator, as it changes how fast a champion runs or is able to attack (...and you know animators...timing is everything). In order to keep the aesthetic of the character and prevent animation from breaking, at higher speeds, animations are simplified. For example, the champion Shen can stack attack speed items. At the top of the top speed, instead of seeing all the in-betweens,  all that is kept visible are the key poses so that the characteristic of the champion, and the flow of the movement is still kept intact.

Lastly, cycles can get a bit boring but Riot always tries to add a little bit of fun into it -- particularly with the newer champions. When idling, players can see their characters break into different actions. It helps keep the characters feeling alive and interesting.

Wow! Tons of great information -- anything else I should know?

To finish off the evening, Moby Francke talked to us about Art Clarity and creating art with a purpose. To showcase his portion of the evening, Moby showed us upcoming artwork to the update of Summoner's Rift.

Clarity of art is the making sure that the quality of visual elements can be easily understood. Clarity is so important because gameplay has to be first, and art is technically supplementary. While art is very important, it is in support of the gameplay. The function of art is to ensure that everything is legible with contrast and strong silhouettes. There are a whole range of champions from whimsical and light to dark and brooding, all of which the environment has to be suitable for. At Riot, in order to create the appropriate environment, the focus is put on primary, secondary, and tertiary forms instead of intense detail. As such, the upcoming Summoner's Rift looks somewhat stripped down; more painterly, and simplistic. While the environment may not as be as full and lush with foliage as it has been in the past, it is very visually appealing as champions travel and battling across each map.

Don't forget to join the conversation at 
Questions? Don't hesitate to get in touch with us at
Twitter: @TeaTimeAnimates
Instagram: @TeaTimeAnimation

Thursday, September 25, 2014

2014 Tea Shirts (and hoodies!) - Now on Sale

That's right -- CTN is right around the corner, and we're rolling up in style. Check out this year's Tea Shirt and hoodie design! As per usual, our ordering deadline will be TIGHT, so make sure you come with cash in hand this Friday, September 26th to order. Not able to come to the meetings? Don't worry, we accept Paypal and will ship to you!

Tea Shirts will be $15. 
Our classic "Tea Shirt" on the front with the official membership logo on the back. This year on kelly green (as depicted below).

We are also doing HOODIES this year! Price is TBD - We're hoping they won't be any more than $30, but we're waiting on price confirmation from our screen printers. The minimal Tea Time Logo will be on the left breast of the zip up.

Interested? Please e-mail us at with your name, shirt size, and phone number (so we can contact you when they are delivered). We have both men's and women's sizes - Hoodies are Unisex.

Other than looking amazing and being able to represent Tea Time, the shirts are your special access to Tea Time hosted events! When we host guest speakers we will save the first two rows for people with Official Membership merchandise. While you can still choose to rest your booty at the back of the room, rest easy knowing you can forego an hour or so of waiting and still have a seat when you arrive.

Remember: These events get crazy -- it wouldn't be the first time we've turned someone away.

Don't forget to join the conversation at 
Questions? Don't hesitate to get in touch with us at
Twitter: @TeaTimeAnimates
Instagram: @TeaTimeAnimation

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Welcome to Fall 2014!

It's official, folks: Summer is over -- and we couldn't be happier to be starting another steaming hot semester of Tea Time with all of you! 

Alicia and George by the Tea Time booth

We were absolutely delighted to meet so many of you at the Cannery this Saturday. The charming individuals you met at our booth were Andy, Jonathan Alicia, George and Kyle, and we can't wait to see more of your wonderful faces at our first official meeting on Friday, September 12th. As per usual, we will be meeting every Friday @ 3:30pm, in room 420 of the 180 New Montgomery building.

We've got a great lineup of activities planned for the semester, and hope that you're all as excited as we are: New shirts, a heart-warming aniSLAM, an action-packed Fall Festival, CTN, and already we're signing up our industry connections to come share their experiences with the likes of us. It's going to be a semester to remember.

Lots of new faces at the mixer!

Can't wait to see you all Friday, and until then -- Happy animating!

Don't forget to join the conversation at 
Questions? Don't hesitate to get in touch with us at
Twitter: @TeaTimeAnimates
Instagram: @TeaTimeAnimation

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Guest Speaker -- 3D Environment Artist Greg Mirles

We know that many of you must be chomping at the bit to get back into the swing of things next month, but not all summer breaks are created equal. The delightful folks over at Tea Time Pittsburgh are on quarters, not semesters, and thus they are already swinging away!

Justin Hartmen, Outreach and Academic Enrichment Coordinator for Tea Time Pittsburgh, managed to score an hour with the amazing and talented Greg Mirles, to discuss his experiences in the industry, tips to keep in mind when applying for a job, and his current project, The Mandate. Not only that, but Justin was able to get it all on tape along with the visuals from Mirles' presentation.

It's a fantastic listen, that you can find embedded below. Questions? Don't forget to join the discussion on our forums.

Happy animating!

Don't forget to join the conversation at
Questions? Don't hesitate to get in touch with us at
Twitter: @TeaTimeAnimates
Instagram: @TeaTimeAnimation

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Usual Summer Hiatus

We hope you've been enjoying as much of the sun-soaking, free-slurpee season as you can because - you guessed it - fall is just around the bend, and with it, the end of our usual summer hiatus.

If you weren't aware, summer tends to lend itself to a lull in our regularly scheduled programming, as many of our on-site crew members depart for vacation -- but fret not! While we are getting a healthy dose of some Vitamin D (hissss, sunlight, hissss), we've also been busy preparing for another amazing year! Here's a quick update on what has been going down, a taste of what we're working on, and some things you can look forward to in the future:

First a shout out to our newly-annointed alumni leadership! Yes, three of our on-site leaders are all grown up and moving on to big-kid jobs - Thank you for all of your hard work Jonathan Marshall, Mendel Reis and Mike Kersey. While we will miss them dearly, this opened us up for the next generation of Tea Time Leadership, and we have been taking applications for our three new board members. After receiving many promising applications, we are nearly ready to make an official announcement, so stay tuned.

Speaking of new leadership, we are exceedingly proud to announce that we have just launched our very first additional Tea Time Chapter all the way in Pittsburgh, PA! They've just finished their first, successful semester, and you can look forward to hearing more from them in the future. Tea Time Pittsburgh is run by the charming and talented Justin Hartman (@JustinHartArt) and Tyler Palladino (@PallaSculpt). Please contact them if you're in the area and looking to participate!
Additionally, if you're interested in starting a Tea Time chapter of your own, don't hesitate to contact us at We have an amazing info package to help you get started!

If you hadn't heard already, a while back we launched our official community site If you want to be a part of our community, but sadly aren't located in San Francisco or Pittsburgh, we have some excellent discussions, amazing job opportunity postings, and even some events with prizes. The forums has been steadily growing and we can't wait to see more! Come discover important news, share what inspires you, or get feedback on your latest work. There is room for all facets of the animation pipeline, so amaze us with some drawings, rigs, models, or VFX. Remember, Tea Time is open to everyone -- whether you are just starting out or are currently an industry professional -- so don't hesitate to sign up (we're integrated with Facebook so it only takes on click) and start sharing.

This summer has been particularly exciting for many of our members, with the involvement and success of the Borderlands 2 Short Film partnership with Gearbox and 2K Games. Congratulations to everyone and their hard work. You can check out the delightful spot Kotaku did on the project here, and you can watch the full documentary below!

Finally (I told you we've been busy), we are thinking of starting a YouTube channel! The success of the Clothing the Morpheus Rig tutorial has been overwhelming, getting nearly a thousand hits in a matter of hours. Thus, we have decided to create a dedicated channel that will consist of video tutorials, industry news, and most likely one-on-one interviews with professionals. That being said - we're open to feedback! Let us know what you'd like to see in the comments below, or tweet us @TeaTimeAnimates.

In the meantime, enjoy the rest that summer has to offer and we'll be seeing you soon.

Happy animating!

Don't forget to join the conversation at
Questions? Don't hesitate to get in touch with us at
Twitter: @TeaTimeAnimates
Instagram: @TeaTimeAnimation

Monday, April 21, 2014

Press A to Start: An Online Discussion with Animators in Games

In case you haven't been keeping track of us via Twitter (@teatimeanimates) or the website (, tonight we are digitally playing host to five talented gentlemen in what we're calling "Press A to Start: An Online Discussion with Animators in Games". You'll find the link to the livestream below, and the panel will begin at 7:30pm PST.

Can't make it? Don't worry, we're recording this and it will show up at the exact same link shortly after the live panel concludes!

Happy animating, and we'll see you tonight!

Don't forget to join the conversation at
Questions? Don't hesitate to get in touch with us at
Twitter: @TeaTimeAnimates
Instagram: @TeaTimeAnimation

Friday, April 4, 2014

Morpheus is Naked and I'm Sick of it

Good morning, internet! It's a brand new day and Tea Time has finally branched out of our little world of text-based communication and brought you this: Clothing Morphus: Tea Time's first ever 'How To' Video Tutorial!

In your reel, through recruiter's eyes, though it should come down to beautiful animation - it's super helpful to make unique characters that will stand out among the throngs of Morpheus after Norman after Morpheus again. I know that sculpting and rigging your own brand new characters isn't, generally, a viable option, but making sure that your free rig is not wearing that damn unitard is a nice step towards diversity.

Difficulties? Bugs? Questions? Feedback of any sort? 
Please post to our official resource thread here.
You can also find the 'Molina' fully wrapped morphy mod wearing clothes on Tea Time's Official Resources Page, along with some other great stuff from our growing library.

Happy Animating.

Don't forget to join the conversation at
Questions? Don't hesitate to get in touch with us at
Twitter: @TeaTimeAnimates
Instagram: @TeaTimeAnimation

Friday, March 7, 2014

DreamWorks Outreach Program

Tiffany Feeney (Manager of University Relations)

Stopping at AAU while on her global journey to reach out to various schools, we have Tiffany Feeney, DreamWorks' manager of university relations, come spend an evening with us to talk about DreamWorks' Outreach Program and what recruiters like and want to see on applications. There's a little bit of everything for everyone in different departments and it is at all their locations, Glendale, Redwook City, and Bangalore. The Outreach program generally takes 40 to 60 people so get those resumes, cover letters, and reels ready! While there is no exact deadline listed, Tiffany recommends to have your applications sent by the end of March.

It is important to have original stories to show your creativity so be sure to include 2-3 of your own works! Stories should have a beginning, middle and end; do not do "To be continued" as it shows nothing of your capabilities and ends up killing your portfolio. There should be 10 to 40 boards per project.
For story artists, there is a program called the Story Initiative where you must send in a physical copy of your portfolio, along with resume and cover letter by March 21st. For those chosen, a story test will be given of a script containing DreamWorks property and you will have to draw 100 boards in a certain amount of time.

Visual Development
Visual development are artist who design characters, sets, environments, and props. As an entry level position, you will be designing the sets, environments, and props, while character designers are positions that are promoted into after showing adequate skill and knowledge of the pipeline. Often the character designers are also the art director.
It is important to demonstrate how you think through showing thumbnails. Think also about light and color and the story behind everything you design. A good design doesn't just stop at how it looks but also consider how it lends itself to animation and the pipeline procedure through turntables and  shader packets.

While it may look nice to have your model beautifully textured and surfaced, that should be the last thing for you to consider as a modeler. It is perfectly fine, and even encouraged, to have a plain lambert gray shaded model so that whoever is reviewing your reel can see the topology and the joints. Have strong organic models, such as trees and rocks, on your reel as they are difficult in their own way to model well. Beautiful cathedrals can look impressive but modelers know that they aren't all that hard to model as cathedrals aren't really all that complex; once you model one buttress you just duplicate it over and over again. When even modeling items such as environment assets or simple props, give the object a character; not only characters have individuality. Once again, consider the pipeline and don't over detail. It may look fancy to sculpt in all the weaves and folds on a piece of fabric but that becomes unusable in production as fabric usually goes through dynamics and smaller details are done through surfacing.

Character TD
All you elusive riggers, show those deformation systems of skin wrinkles and cloth movements along with standard joint based skeletons. Have bipeds, quadruped, and facial rigs.

Even though you may be trying to specifically enter in to the CG animation side of the industry, it is good to show realistic texturing and surfacing. Try to match an object to a live action plate and what recruiters always enjoy seeing is food that looks so real that they get hungry and want a piece.

Show off that film background with some amazing camera work and some set dressing and composition techniques. A lot of times what separates a student film from looking professional are those static locked cameras so getting in there with some adjustments to camera and lenses to make your film look more dynamic.

Character Animator
Give your characters a performance and personality while focusing on acting and physical movement. While lip syncing is good to show, you don't need it on everything, instead try having a character off screen or to the side and show a second character emoting in reaction to the dialogue.

Character Effects
Hair, cloth, and fur, oh my!
Since there weren't any people present who were interested in this particular area, Tiffany didn't delve too much into this area.

Crowd artists are the ones who populate scenes that contains 6 or more non-main characters. Crowd artists will mainly animate in cycles and also use mocap.

It is suggested to take a recognizable object and be able to sell it well with lighting so pay attention to the world around you. Lighting tends to intersect a lot with surfacing so there are the same suggestions of matching to a live action plate and showcasing food is always a crowd pleaser.
DreamWorks' entry level lighting position is called Lighting TA (technical assistant) and lighting TAs are the CG supervisor's right hand wo/man and are responsible for setting up shots and light rigs to be passed on to lighters to polish, render, and composite.

Matte Painting
Demonstrate atmosphere and space in sets, worlds, and extensions.

Cloth, fluid, and physics.
Like the story artists, effects also has a challenge called the FX Challenge for you to send your reel to. 
Technical Director
For those of you who are good at problem solving, programming, scripting, and can fix everything to make the lives for the rest of us in production easier.
For those who haven't seen it yet, Mr. Peabody and Sherman is finally out in theatres. For those who have, those who joined us at the early press screening, go see it again! What we missed out on in the press screening is the short that goes before the movie. It is a 4 minute short introducing us to DreamWorks' next movie, after How to Train A Dragon 2, Home, that is slated to be released later this year in November.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Blue Sky Panel

Blue Sky Panel

 Mike Daley (story artist)
Deb Stone (manager of talent development)

Over in the repurposed church that is now the beautiful St. Brigid's Theatre was an enlightening evening with Blue Sky's Mike Daley and Deb Stone. We got to watch the trailer for Rio 2 and hear a little about BlueSky's internship program, Acorn Academy. However, the highlight of the evening was Mike Daley's talk about being a story artist. 

Through a hilarious and adorable series of boards, Mike illustrates the process of a story artist's "life cycle". First is "The Egg" where the story artist is hatched. After the script or idea is created, the concept is handed to the story artist, who is still an egg, and is "kicked off" to hatch into a little caterpillar story artist to start working. The caterpillar story artist will look for various references stemming from real life and/or movies. After working hard to collect all the references, the little caterpillar story artists takes all the ideas and hides away in a chrysalis to finalize the draft of storyboards. Once the boards are finished, the story artist emerges and either turns into a beautiful butterfly, if the idea is liked and approved, or a ugly moth, if the idea is no good. If the story artist becomes a moth, the moth will give birth to another egg for the whole process to start over again.

While showing some of his storyboards from Ice Age 4, Mike gives some tips vital for being a quick yet effective storyboarder. Most important is the eyeballs and silhouettes have to be clear. Storyboards are seen quickly in succession so in the few seconds that a board is on screen, the character and the composition has to be able to be quickly grasped. As story artists have to churn out hundreds of boards in multiple iterations, it is important that there is economy in the drawings and is efficient. Digital tools have allowed artists to take advantage of the fact that not all drawings have to be done over from a clean sheet of paper but rather can be copied and have only certain elements altered. A step further is to limit yourself in what goes into a storyboard. They do not have to be incredibly and excruciatingly detailed but with simple of blocking in limited values (black, white, and a few grays in between) with a focus on contrast, a whole composition can quickly come together depicting depth and focal point.
Thinking about camera work also comes into play. Depending on where the camera is "placed" different types of feelings may be conveyed. A camera closer to a conflict is more intense while further away is clearer and is better used for static shots to set a scene. The camera can be moved closer towards a certain character, from over the shoulder, point of view, or a closeup to see reactions. To determine where the camera should be is to think about who's story is the shot telling.
For all of you story artists who are looking to creating a portfolio, Mike's advice is to make it clear. Start off with a written opening description to help setup what will be shown. Layout the boards clearly. A great way to show off a story artist portfolio is to have the boards in a video and be able to pitch through the boards. There is no need to have voice acting and sound and music attached, but rather you want to show a strong grasp of the boards and the story that they are telling.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Day Rob Minkoff, Alex Schwartz and Denise Cascino Chose Tea Time over the Dalai Lama; A Story.

Lana and George with Tea Time's brand new autographed Mr. Peabody and Sherman poster

In all of our time hosting the variety of honoured guests that we have, I must say, last night's event was quick to soar to the top of my favorites list.

After a month or so of planning, we were proud to host Lion King and Mr. Peabody and Sherman director Rob Minkoff, alongside producers Alex Schwartz, and Denise Cascino (Click their names to see their hefty IMDB repertoires) in a fantastic evening Q&A that I don't think I could have been more nervous for. Despite the fact that I've done this at least a dozen times by now, the time leading up to Friday night was disaster delivered by e-mail...

        "We've got a presentation we'd love to deliver about the animation development in Mr. Peabody and Sherman, provided the space can handle it!" I am told by the lovely and talented Kelda McKinney, my point person for Friday's shindig.
        "That sounds fantastic!" I immediately reply, "I've been to the space before and I am 98% sure that there is a projector there, so let's definitely plan on that. It will be perfect." To my dismay, we are quickly snubbed with the news that there is definitely no projector on the premises (it's a theater), and absolutely no way of setting one up as the stage is set for an upcoming play (which it wasn't). Good thing I didn't say 100%.

        "That's alright!" Says Kelda, "we can do this old-school and get some hand-outs for everyone to look at."
        "Great," I agree. "Plus then there's a take-home! It will be perfect."

Naturally, it in't too long until I hear back from her.
        "I'm sorry! There appears to be no hand outs available that we would actually be allowed to give to or show to the students." Needless to say I am a little bummed, but Kelda does mention that Rob, as a former Disney man and the talented artist that he is would be thrilled if he could do a drawing demo for us!
        "Well, that's wonderful!" I reply. "I've seen the school do this a few times. They set up an animation desk on the stage and everyone gets to watch the masters work. It. Will. Be. Perfect."

What next? Snubbed. Again.

         "We are unable to acquire the necessary desk/pen/pencil/paper for the drawing demonstration." I read through the palm on my face. At this point I'm feeling a little hopeless. "However, we can get you a whiteboard and some markers?" It will have to do.

I am quick to relay the news to Kelda who seems unfazed by what feels to me like utter despair at the lack of resources at my disposal (hint hint, TOWNHALL, hint hint).

         "That will do fine," she says.
         "Okay," I reply, "and the rest of the time Rob and Tiffany will talk about what it was like revamping the franchise into a modern film?"
         "Oh, that's right! Tiffany has been called away unfortunately and will not be joining us for the lecture on the 21st." My stomach sinks and all at once, a thousand advertisements reading 'ROB MINKOFF AND TIFFANY WARD' that we have had posted around the school for weeks begin spinning through my mind. I think my heart has stopped.

Luckily, I'm not left hanging long and Kelda tells me that we have some exciting replacements for Tiffany - two rather prestigious producers from the film.

          "Cool! And very relevant to many of our students' interests as well. The three of them will do a presentation on what it took to develop the film into the final product?" I ask.
          "Actually, I was thinking it could be one big Q&A. Do you think you'll have any trouble filling two hours?"
          "Nope!" I say, despite flashbacks of the Cannery. Room 301. 100 silent faces. "Two hours should be just fine." After having to turn town every other fantastic offer Kelda had extended, I don't want any further hiccups in the planning of this event. I am eager to please.

Jacob, Richard, and Kyle model all three flavours of Tea Shirt while waiting for the event to start

The day finally arrives, and the drama isn't over yet. Arriving at the theater, the signage I was promised directing patrons to the event is missing. It's 3:20 before the 4:00 start time and the doors are locked. After 10 or so impatient minutes waiting for security, I am finally let into the theater where I am quick to realize that I've forgotten my own Tea Shirt...after harping on others for doing the same...and the shirt I am wearing has been torn by my necklace in an unfortunate location. Naturally.

Morgan, one of Kelda's co-workers and another fantastic mind behind the execution of this event shows up shortly after...with signs! Hooray!

          "Good afternoon!" I beam, spilling my coffee as I go to shake hands.
          "Yes! Good to see you again!" she radiates back, and, indicating the signs, "where should I put these guys?" Before I can reply, she adds, "Oh! And I've got treats for you." Morgan quickly drops the variety of boxes, bags and foam core she has bundled in her arms and hands me 4 adorable pairs of Mr. Peabody and Sherman glasses complete with strap-on red, satin bowties for the Tea Time board to wear while presenting. I love it. Things seem to be looking up as the theater slowly fills. That is, until our guests arrive.

All of Tea Time filters in at the exact moment that Rob, Denise and Alex show up. Thus, the time I had hoped to have for a brief aside to discuss the rapidly changing game-plan with the Tea Time folk has vanished as I shake hands with Alex, then Denise then....Rob.

Now maybe it is just my nerves, but I am sure I've never seen someone look as displeased as Rob did upon arriving at the theater. He stares me down as we clasp hands, eyes wide, mouth locked firmly in a stern, subtle frown that seems to scream "Where is my drawing table?! Why couldn't you get a projector?! A white board? Seriously? That's the best you could muster for the director of your childhood dreams?!"

It takes every ounce of my courage not to run in shame. I put my best courteous smile on and say, "Lovely to meet you, Mr. Minkoff!" His reply is naught but a curt nod in my direction. "If you'd like, the three of you could feel free to settle in and take a seat at the table just to my left." Alex and Denise seem friendly enough. Still not a word from Rob. Not even so much as the hope of a smile. Internally, I panic.

Our stage complete with sad whiteboard

       "Mike! Jonathan! Mendel! Take these glasses! Team meeting!" But alas, I've spoken too soon... Rob, Denise and Alex haven't moved far enough away from where we're standing and must have had their ears pricked by the words 'team meeting'. All three immediately turn to join us in what I hoped to be our private huddle where I would explain the NEW new game-plan that I had thought up earlier that afternoon to the rest of the board.

       "Uhhh..." I stutter, not knowing how to approach the subject in an eloquent light, "So. You guys go on the stage and sit down." I repeat to the guests though they are clearly waiting to hear the end of the meeting, so I continue with, "We'll conduct a moderated interview for the first half,  and then open it up to the rest of the room for general Q&A for the second. Sound good?" Alex and Denise both chirrup a pleasant agreement. Rob, a very tall man, stares at the audience over our heads, silently listening, and, I assume, judging me. "It will be fun!" I blurt out, more for my own sake than anyone else's.

Finally, Denise, Rob and Alex make for the stage.

       "Okay, guys," I stage-whisper to the board. "Alicia and I wrote down a whole bunch of questions this afternoon and we thought it would be good to do a moderated thing at the beginning to keep the ball rolling before opening it to the floor, what do you think?"
       "Works for me," says Mike.
       "Yeah, sounds good," says Jonathan.
       "I can't see out of these glasses," says Mendel.
       "Oh! There's a film on both sides of them that you have to scratch off; I'll show you," I say and snatch Mendel's glasses and begin to fumble at the lenses. "Does anyone want to do step up and do the moderating? I will if you guys don't want to, but you can definitely do it if you feel up for it."
       "You can go ahead," says Mike.
       "Yeah, sounds good," says Jonathan.
       "Can I have my glasses back?" says Mendel.
       "Yes. Of course. I'm sorry. Great. Okay. Y'all know your roles. Let's do this."

Jonathan, Mendel and Mike are fantastic, I am struggling to stand upright through the shaking of my knees. After the schpeel, I walk to my seat, stage right of our trio of guests only to find sitting doesn't make it better. I nervously flip through my notebook of chicken scratch and try to ignore the feeling of Rob's eyes burning into the side of my head.

Messy interview notes

        "Um...Well.. perhaps you could start us off introduction? Who you are, where you got started and what you're doing now?" I'm tongue-tied and shaky like I'm talking through a mouthful of molasses while standing naked in the Arctic Circle. I look up at the trio of guests hopefully.

Alex speaks first. Powerfully. Elegantly. Denise is immediately both lovable and intimidating. Motherly kind of strong that knows how to get a job done. (or, as she will tell us later, the whip-cracker) Two strong women I can see myself looking up to.

There is a beat before Rob says anything and I feel my breath catch in my throat when he speaks: Booming, pronounced, and so....friendly! He's confident about his past work without even a hint of ego, and I can feel him immediately engage our audience. Before I can ask another question he goes on to tell us about a hitch in their own journey to get to us.
         "I'm sorry, I've just got to tell you guys this," he says. "We were just about to leave our hotel, it's very close to here and we knew it wouldn't be a very long walk, but when got down to the hotel lobby, it was absolutely packed with people; wall-to-wall!" He leans forward in his chair and I can hear the simultaneous groaning of the theater seats as all the students do the same.
         "Well, we didn't know what was going on, but we couldn't yet find a way to escape. We figured it must be some celebrity coming through...but you know who it was?" The audience simultaneously shake their heads. "It was the Dalai Lama."
The audience is tickled with laughter, but Rob cuts us off.

         "I'm serious!" he continutes "and you know what? Instead of hanging around and hoping for a chance to meet the Dalai Lama, we looked at each other and said 'we gotta go!' because we knew we were coming here to be with you."

Rob is greeted with a roar of joyful applause. I turn my eyes to all the Tea Timers in the audience and realize that Rob wasn't upset or displeased at all. What I took for a stern and judgmental man was really just all of my own fears reflecting back upon me. In fact, he's one of the more pleasant people I've had the opportunity to meet, though I didn't get the chance to speak to him candidly.

I look out at all the faces in the crowd and felt their enthusiasm building up the strength I needed to do the rest of the interview.

      "Well in that case," I say, "perhaps you like to draw us a picture?"

Rob draws us a picture as Denise and audience look on. Thanks Alicia for the video

Paraphrased by Lana Bachynski

As it was a simple Q&A, and not so much specific animation notes or tips or tricks, there's not really much I can provide by way of summary here, but you can find and discuss the rest of the 'story' in the event thread on our forums!

A big thank you to Rob, Denise and Alex. What an absolute pleasure! I could not have had more fun interviewing them, and I wish them all the best in their future endeavours.

Thanks to Becky Johnson for always having our back behind the scenes.
Thanks to Mike and Jonathan for rallying the troops at 180.
And a big thank you to everyone for your excellent, excellent questions.

Happy Animating, and we'll see you Friday.

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