Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Filmaker Biographies - Behind the Hangar Doors with #DisneyPlanes

KLAY HALL (Director) was born in Burbank, Calif. Mentored by several of Disney’s legendary “nine old men,” including Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Marc Davis and Ken Anderson, he received a Disney Scholarship to the California Institute of the Arts character animation program. Immediately upon graduation from CalArts, he was hired by The Walt Disney Studios to work on the featurette “Sport Goofy.” He subsequently joined Amblin Entertainment’s animated television series “Family Dog.” 

A two-time Emmy® nominee for his work on the hit animated television series “King of the Hill,” Hall also directed the popular “Natural Born Kissers” episode of “The Simpsons.” His additional television animation credits include “Father of the Pride” as supervising director and “A Wish for Wings That Work” as directing animator. In addition, he worked on the Rolling Stones’ music video “Harlem Shuffle.”

Hall returned to The Walt Disney Studios to direct “Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure” for Disneytoon Studios, a division of Walt Disney Animation Studios under the creative leadership of John Lasseter.

A lifelong aviation enthusiast, Hall is from an illustrious line of flyers and began drawing airplanes at an early age. His father and grandfather were both aviators, the former serving as a pilot in the Navy. Hall has flown in dozens of aircraft from World War II bombers to Vietnam-era Huey helicopters. He is also an ex-Motocross racer and still enjoys riding in his free time.

Hall resides Los Angeles with his wife and two sons.

KLAY HALL (Director)   ROGER BISHOP (Indy Transponder)
TRACI BALTHAZOR-FLYNN (Producer) was born and raised in Southern California. Her early career in the entertainment industry began on the creative side as a background painter at Sony Pictures where she worked on many Saturday morning cartoons including “Extreme Ghostbusters.” She then segued into a management role on the studio’s CG productions including the popular animated television series “Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles.”

From there, Balthazor-Flynn was recruited by the Walt Disney Studios where she took on her first role as a digital production manager overseeing a team of technical directors and CG artists on such animated features as “Return to Never Land,” “Bambi II” and “The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning.”

As she took on more responsibility, Balthazor-Flynn quickly rose through the executive ranks to support production for Disneytoon Studios, a part of Walt Disney Animation Studios under the creative leadership of John Lasseter. As director of production, Balthazor-Flynn was part of the team who helped launch the hit Disney Fairies film franchise. She has been instrumental in helping drive the expansion of Disneytoon Studios.

Balthazor-Flynn lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two sons.

JEFFREY M. HOWARD (Screenplay by)
JEFFREY M. HOWARD (Screenplay by) is a staff writer at Disneytoon Studios where he serves as a member of the senior creative team. He has worked for Disney since 1998 as a screenwriter and creative executive on a wide range of animated movies.

Howard’s writing credits include the story and screenplay for “Tinker Bell,” the story for “Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue” and the story and screenplay for “Pixie Hollow Games.” He also contributed to the screenplays for “Disney Princess Enchanted Tales” and “Secret of the Wings.”

As director of creative affairs for Disneytoon Studios, Howard was involved in the development of more than 70 projects. He oversaw the story development and production of “Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas” and “Bambi II,” and helped create the stories for “Brother Bear II” and “The Three Musketeers,” among others.

Prior to his time at Disney, he worked in live-action development for Debra Hill Productions, and as an assistant to Hill on “Escape from L.A.,” “The Replacement Killers” and “Crazy in Alabama.”

Howard was born in California on Hamilton Air Force Base, just outside of San Francisco, and grew up in Allentown, Pa. He graduated from Syracuse University in 1991. Before moving to Los Angeles in 1995, he worked for a small TV station in Allentown (where he did everything from running the camera for local sports to being an on-camera reporter for a news magazine), and had a corporate video gig in Virginia.

Howard lives in Los Angeles with his wife and dachshund.

ART HERNANDEZ (Story Artist) DAN ABRAHAM (Head of Story)
DAN ABRAHAM (Head of Story) began his association with Walt Disney Animation Studios in 2005, and makes his debut as head of story on “Disney’s Planes.” In addition to his story credits at Disney, he has directed three Pixie Previews interstitial shorts for the Disney Channel and is currently directing a short called “The Vitaminamulch Air Spectacular.”

Born in Frankenmuth, Mich., Abraham got hooked on animation when he saw a theatrical reissue of the Disney classic “Lady and the Tramp” at age 10. He was deeply moved by the emotional scenes with Trusty and Jock chasing the dog catcher’s van. Drawing became a passion for him and he would go home from school each day to watch cartoons and practice.

Abraham was trained in traditional animation at Sheridan College in Toronto, graduating in 1993. He moved to Austin, Texas, to launch his career with Heart of Texas Productions, where he worked on several direct-to-video religious features and did clean-up animation on portions of the Warner Bros features “Space Jam” and “Quest for Camelot.” In 1999, he relocated to Vancouver to work on DreamWorks Animation’s home entertainment feature “Joseph: King of Dreams.”

Moving to Los Angeles in 2000, Abraham worked as a clean-up animator and animator for Klasky-Csupo on a variety of commercials, and also illustrated interactive children’s books and provided character design for The Learning Company. In 2005, he began an internship in story at Walt Disney Animation Studios, which led to fulltime roles at the Studio and at Disneytoon Studios.

Abraham was part of the story team and received credit for additional story on the first four “Tinker Bell” direct-to-DVD projects for Disneytoon Studios. For his role on “Disney’s Planes,” he oversaw a team of eight story artists in the challenging assignment of bringing a wide range of plane characters to life.

RYAN CARLSON (Art Director)
RYAN CARLSON (Art Director) began his association with Walt Disney Animation Studios in 1999 as an assistant animator/clean-up artist on such features as “The Emperor’s New Groove,” “Atlantis: The Lost Continent” and “Home on the Range,” and short films “The Little Match Girl” and “One by One.” He provided character design, concept art and worked with a talented team in creating the look and style of “Disney’s Planes.” 

Born in Palo Alto, Calif., Carlson recalls being interested in art as early as he could hold a crayon. He was fascinated with trucks and planes, and even joined the Civil Air Patrol and subscribed to aviation magazines while still in high school. He contributed cartoons and editorial drawings to his high school newspaper, and went on to study graphic design with an emphasis in illustration at San Jose State. In his senior year of college, Warner Bros. sponsored an innovative teleconferencing animation program, which gave Carlson a unique introduction to the art form, along with invaluable advice and critiques from top professionals.

After graduation, Carlson segued to his first professional assignment on the acclaimed Warner Bros. animated feature “The Iron Giant.” This led to a four-year stint as an assistant animator/clean-up artist with Walt Disney Animation Studios from 1999-2003. Carlson transitioned to character designer, background painter and visual development artist, with a variety of assignments including two years at Nickelodeon Animation Studios, where he worked on animated television shows including “Striperella.” He also served as a background painter on commercials for My Scene Barbie and for the Disney short “The Origins of Stitch.”

In 2005, Carlson began a two-year tour of duty with Disneytoon Studios, serving as art director on the first “Tinker Bell” direct-to-DVD feature. He helped to design Tinker Bell and her fairy friends for that film and provided additional visual development.

Carlson’s theatrical credits also include a role as art director on the 2011 animated feature “Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil.”

Carlson’s work on “Disney’s Planes” allowed him to take his fascination with aviation to a whole new level. He had to explore the intricate details of each character’s mechanics and incorporate those authentic characteristics into the plane’s design and performance.

Carlson and his wife Wendy have two children, Abby and Bennett.

ART HERNANDEZ (Story Artist) began his association with Walt Disney Animation Studios in 1996 as an in-betweener on “Fantasia/2000,” and has been a character designer and story artist for Disneytoon Studios since 2004.

Born and raised in and around Los Angeles, Calif., Hernandez developed an interest in art and animation when he was just five years old. By the time he reached high school, he knew that he wanted to work for Disney, and found encouragement in that goal from several supportive teachers. After studying illustration at Antelope Valley College, he encountered Disney animator Ron Dias, who invited him to visit the Studio in 1993. He went on to study at the Animation Guild’s American Animation Institute, where he received some expert instruction in figure drawing and assistant animation from several Disney veterans.

A one-year gig at Turner Animation on “Cats Don't Dance” led to him being recruited by Disney. His first animation assignment at Walt Disney Animation Studios was as an in-betweener on the “Pomp and Circumstance,” “Firebird Suite” and “Steadfast Tin Soldier” segments of “Fantasia/2000.”  This was followed by credits as clean-up animator or assistant animator on such Disney features as “Hercules,” “Tarzan,” “Treasure Planet,” “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” and “Home on the Range,” among others. Additionally, he served a three-month stint as key assistant animator on the Warner Bros. 2003 feature “Looney Tunes: Back in Action.”

In 2004, Hernandez moved to Disneytoon Studios to provide character design (and assist acclaimed animator Andreas Deja) on the home entertainment release of “Bambi 2.” Around this time, he became interested in story and worked in that capacity on “Brother Bear 2” (for which he also did character design) and the first four “Tinker Bell” direct-to-DVD features. For his latest assignment on “Disney’s Planes,” Hernandez studied a vast array of aerial footage from classic films to documentaries. He became a virtual aviation expert and learned to incorporate the actual mechanics of planes into the personalities and actions for the film’s colorful plane characters. In addition to his current role as a head of story at Disneytoon Studios, he is also in the process of directing a new short.

THOMAS LEAVITT (Aerial Previs/Layout Artist)
JASON McKINLEY (Flight Supervisor)

SEAN BAUTISTA (Flight and Engineering Specialist)
THOMAS LEAVITT (Aerial Previs/Layout Artist) brings his expertise in previsualization (previs) and flight to his latest role. His credits include previs and layout (camera and staging) for six animated features and five student Emmy®-winning short films.

Born and raised in Glendale, Ariz., Leavitt was inspired by the Disney features of his childhood and developed an early interest in animation. His passion for the genre grew while making stop-motion Lego film while still in grade school. In high school, he studied the performing arts: choir, drama and band, and was a recipient of the first Imation Computer Arts Scholarship in 1998. He went on to receive a B.F.A. degree in animation from Brigham Young University, where he graduated in 2006. He won both a Student Emmy® Award and a Student Academy Award® for his short film “Turtles.” He went on to direct a team of 50 students on the senior project “Las Pinatas,” which won first place in the CG category of the Student Emmy® Awards. After graduation, Leavitt married his fiancĂ©, Amanda, before moving to the east coast to launch his career.

Leavitt got his start in the animation industry at Blue Sky Studios in Greeenwich, Conn., where he worked on several feature films, including “Horton Hears a Who” (assisting designers in creating the look and feel of a CG Whoville), “Ice Age 3” (working in layout and previs), “Rio” (helping to create a camera language that enhanced the birds flight through the film in his role as camera and staging artist and previs), and “Ice Age 4” (creating 3D storyboards and blocking shots in his role as camera and staging artist). He also worked with a team of designers and an art director to create the 75th Anniversary 20th Century Fox logo in 2009.

He joined the previs team at Disneytoon Studios in June 2011 to work on “Disney’s Planes.” Leavitt and his wife have three children.

JASON McKINLEY (Flight Supervisor) came on board “Disney’s Planes” in 2012 to oversee the flight team. A pioneer in the world of aviation and flight animation, McKinley brought the unique skills and innovations he honed in creating spectacular aerial shots for the History Channel series “Dogfights,” and the 2012 Lucasfilm feature “Red Tails.” He played a key role in redesigning the sets to fit the flying scenes, and emphasized the need to use real proportions and real speed in the animation for believability and accuracy. He considers his work on “Disney’s Planes” to be the best aviation animation he’s ever helped to create.

A California native, McKinley was born in Oakland and raised in Danville. His fascination with airplanes began as a child, continuing throughout his life. McKinley graduated from UCLA in 1987 with a degree in psychology, but became interested in filmmaking during a three-year stint as personal assistant to director/film historian Peter Bogdanovich. Watching hundreds of classic films with the legendary director was the equivalent of a Masters class in cinema, and led to a decision to pursue a career in Hollywood.

While working on a television pilot, McKinley was introduced to the Video Toaster, Lightwave 3D (an award-winning 3D program) and his future wife (who was the editor on that project). After exploring and teaching himself 3D computer animation, he went on to form Radical 3D in 1994, a high-end CG animation company specializing in television and movie special effects. In 2006, McKinley (through Radical 3D) created the groundbreaking series “Dogfights” for the History Channel. Acting as co-executive producer, visual effects supervisor and director, he produced more than 30 hours of “Dogfights,” creating over 20 hours (nearly 5000 shots) of air combat visual effects. Additionally, he and his colleagues at Radical 3D have created amazing aerial animation for the film “Red Tails” and for the Tom Hanks-produced 4D “Beyond All Boundaries” film for the National World War II museum in New Orleans. The company, based in Culver City, Calif., has received both Emmy® and VES nominations for outstanding visual effects in animation and for large screen format films.

McKinley and his wife (who continues to run Radical 3D) have three children.

SEAN BAUTISTA (Flight and Engineering Specialist) brings nearly 40 years of piloting experience and a lifelong passion for flying to his role.

A former Air Force top gunner in the 194th Squadron with 16 years of military flying experience (including F16 and F4 fighter jets) and 27 years as a professional pilot for the major airlines, Bautista was called upon to assist the filmmakers in assuring accuracy in all dialogue and action scenes related to aviation.

Born in the Central Valley town of Atwater, Calif., Bautista became fascinated with planes and trains at an early age and started flying by age 16—he had his pilot's license by his senior year of high school. The son of an Air Force aviator and World War II bombardier, he received encouragement from his dad and two uncles, who were also pilots. Both of his brothers are pilots, and his son recently received his pilot’s.

Bautista graduated from Fresno State University in 1982, but took two years off during his studies to pursue aviation as a profession. In 1978, he went to work as a pilot for a Federal Express subcontractor, flying a Twin Beech aircraft, later deciding he really wanted to fly fighter jets. At one point, he was flying six days a week, twice a day, attending school full time, and working with the Air National Guard on weekends. This led to a pilot's training program at Reese Air Force base in Lubbock, Texas, and ultimately 16 years of military aviation experience. Bautista earned leadership awards at officer's school, and was at the head of his class in pilot training. He retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1986 as a major, and for the past 27 years has been a pilot for major airlines, serving as captain for 747s and other aircraft.

While pursuing his other passion—scaled railroading—with fellow enthusiast John Lasseter, Bautista met director Klay Hall, ultimately receiving an invitation to consult on “Disney’s Planes.”

Bautista, his wife and son live in Reedley, Calif., on a ranch that is also home to his Hillcrest & Wahtoke Railroad and his 15-inch gauge tracks and trains. 

From above the world of “Cars” comes “Disney’s Planes,” an action-packed 3D animated comedy adventure featuring Dusty (voice of Dane Cook), a plane with dreams of competing as a high-flying air racer. But Dusty’s not exactly built for racing—and he happens to be afraid of heights. So he turns to a seasoned naval aviator who helps Dusty qualify to take the defending champ of the race circuit. Dusty’s courage is put to the ultimate test as he aims to reach heights he never dreamed possible, giving a spellbound world the inspiration to soar. “Disney’s Planes” takes off in theaters in 3D on Aug. 9, 2013, and will be presented in Disney Digital 3D™ in select theaters. For more information, check out Disney.com/Planes, like us on Facebook: facebook.com/DisneyPlanes and follow us on Twitter: twitter.com/DisneyPictures

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