Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Animation Academy Places 3rd in Burbank !!!

A special THANK YOU to everyone who voted for The Animation Academy in Burbank in the Mission Small Business Program !!!

We needed 250 Facebook votes to qualify for submission and we reached 420 !!!

On the last day of voting we shot from 5th place to 3rd place in Burbank California, a world media center and the international capital of the animation industry! Out of 85 registered businesses in the city we're on the medal stand with the bronze! You guys have been good as gold! Thanks for your votes and your support!

Whether or not we're awarded a $250,000 grant is up to the Mission Small Business review board but you sure helped to make us look good! Thank you again!

I'll be back soon with more art and more fun! 

Keep Creating !!!

Charles Zembillas
The Animation Academy
Burbank California

Friday, June 29, 2012

Last day to vote !

Thanks very much to the folks who've visited my blog in the past few hours and used their Facebook account to vote for The Animation Academy in the Mission Small Business Program.

We have 394 votes and are among the top vote getting businesses in Burbank! We needed 250 to qualify! There's 24 hours left before the deadline. Sure would be nice to hit 400. There aren't very many businesses registered in the program that have made it to that mark nationwide.

I've submitted the school's application earlier this evening. If Chase Bank likes what they read, well, we could get lucky. We'll know by September 15 if we're one of 12 small businesses that are awarded a $250,000 grant.

So thank you again! You've been great! Thank you for voting. If you're reading this and still haven't voted please consider doing so.

Go to and login with Facebook.

Search for The Animation Academy and click VOTE.

The more votes we get, even at the last minute, the better impression we'll make on the review board.

This has taken a lot of my time and attention over the past few days. Now that it's behind me we can get back to some creative fun. So please take a second and give your Facebook vote to a very deserving small but significant business in Burbank, California, the international capital of the animation industry. Vote for the Academy and make us look even better!

Thanks once more and with much appreciation.

Charles Zembillas
The Animation Academy
Burbank California

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Help out The Animation Academy with your FB vote

Hey everyone. Wonder if I could get your assistance with an important matter. Won't take much of your time and it would really help!

My school The Animation Academy in Burbank California is registered in the Mission Small Business Program sponsored by Chase Bank. If a small business reaches 250 Facebook votes then it's qualified to submit for one of twelve $250,000 grants that will be awarded by September 15. We qualified last week on Friday afternoon June 22, 2012 and we find ourselves currently with 376 votes. That places us 5th of all the 83 registered businesses for this program in Burbank and we're closing in our 3rd place.

It sure would be great to be in the top 3 businesses in Burbank! It's a very special town as it is consider a media capital of the world. It will make us look really good in the eyes of the Review Board.

This is where you can help out. If you have a Facebook account, please follow this link to Mission Small Business. Login with your Facebook account. Search for The Animation Academy and then click VOTE.

Here's the link again to be sure you get it:

That's all there is to it and you'll help us pick up a few more votes before the deadline of June 30, 2012 which is only two days away.

Everyone at the Academy would very much appreciate your support. You know that I would be extremely appreciative and grateful. The more votes the school gets the better!

Thanks very much for doing this and if it's not an inconvenience please feel free to pass this request along through your Facebook network. Thanks again very much!

Charles Zembillas
The Animation Academy
Burbank California

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Last night's doodles

Kickin back a little in class last night and doodled these sketches. 
Black line pen and marker with some blue pencil here and some graphite there.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Digital and analog

While we're waiting for Crash to show up again I'd like to share this. It's a class demonstration from earlier this year in Visual Development. This was sketched on course tinted paper. I drew it in blue pencil first then went over it in black line marker. The color is from an old box of pastels I had available. Afterwards when I scanned the image I used Photoshop to block in the black of her hair and punch up some of the shadows and color her ear rings. Combining analog and digital rendering methods gives for an interesting combination.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Blue with purpose

I was thinking. What's the best way to deal with two situations at once. Share my art on my personal art blog and help get Crash Bandicoot going again. Let's do both!

Here's some class demonstrations from 2002. Would you like to get started painting but you're not sure how to begin? Take one color of acrylics or watercolor. Something like Prussian Blue or Midnight Blue or Ultramarine. Paint a simple monochromatic tonal study of your work on a good quality paper. It'll look great and you're on your way to mastering some of the most important basic issues of color. That is tonal relationships.

You can also add text to your design. Something along these lines. And your blue artwork has purpose!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Three Dragons

Man does not live by Crash Bandicoot alone no matter how much fun he is to draw. He'll be back soon. Meantime here's something I did as a demonstration in 1998 in the very early days of my school. It was from the Visual Development class. I drew the composition on watercolor paper with a permanent ink black line pen. Then I painted it using watercolor and gouache which is also called opaque watercolor because it's a heavier paint. Then I used some sort of pastel sticks for color touch ups and enhancement. I did it in one session. It was fun and it's always been a favorite of mine. It was very spontaneous and captures the life energy and enthusiasm we were all experiencing at the beginning of The Animation Academy.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Bring Back the Bandicoot

Did this last night too drawing with my students.

Follow this link to the Bring Back Bandicoot Petition

Here's a link to Bring Back Bandicoot on Facebook.

Bring Back Crash

There's drive to get Activision to produce another Crash Bandicoot game.

Pat Caldora left a link to a petition in an earlier comment. So let's help out.

Follow this link to the Bring Back Bandicoot Petition

Here's a link to Bring Back Bandicoot on Facebook.

Having fun with this on a topic on AnimationNation.

I'll do what I can to promote the effort with some Crash artwork. From last night's class drawing with my students...

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Sometimes you'll work on a project and come up with something that you feel is pretty good only to have it passed over and rejected. That's normal and to be expected. Rejected designs are actually useful in that they help you better understand the direction you should be going in. They help in getting more creatively focused. It may not be what the producer wants but at least you know what they don't want.

Here's a few examples of what I'm referring to. These concept sketches are from a project I was developing last year. It's still in the works and as such top secret so I can't discuss details. But I can show some images of what it's not going to look like. These were done with black line pen and touched up with blue pencil.

There's a saying... The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. That's one way of looking at rejected designs. They may not be right for the project you're on but they'll look great in your portfolio. Much if not most of my portfolio back in the day when I used to show it to find work consisted of designs that were rejected or images of things I drew on my own. It's ironic. Sometimes your best work is what you do for yourself when you have complete creative freedom. Then when you get hired because if it you're job is to adapt.

Thanks for checking in and I hope you enjoy today's entry.  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Everybody loves Crash

Well here we are again with Crash Bandicoot! This is old school Crash. Actually it's more along the lines of proto-Crash. I dug up the originals from when he was first developed to familiarize myself with him a little more and keep him on model true to his initial form with some slight exaggeration here and there cuz it makes him more fun and lively in my opinion. Hope you Crash fans out there like it. Sketched this in class tonight while drawing with my students.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Red Dragon

I created this design as a class demonstration early in the history of my school. The original sketch is on the left. I made a photocopy of it and then colored the image with markers.

I liked this design and published it in the school catalog / schedule which we were using at the time to promote classes and attract students. They were mailed out but also distributed to the studios in town. Later a new character for a Disney TV show appeared called 'American Dragon'. It was similar in appearance to this. I always wanted to make a point that this design preceded Disney's. Now that I have this blog happening I have the chance to do just that. Thank you for checking in.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Buggin' out

In 1997 I was working on a project at a studio in Culver City, California which is in the Los Angeles area. It's name was Rhythm and Hues and it's still around doing high end visual effects work and animation. At that time it was known for its Academy Award winning FX on a movie about a cute little pig called 'Babe'. I started there on a movie called 'Mouse Hunt' doing facial expression charts for mice which were the stars of the film. The expression charts were used by R&H animators to help the liitle critters act. Later they were used as the basis for the movie 'Stuart Little'. Regrettably I never kept copies of these designs or held on to the originals. They were pretty good and R&H was very pleased with this work.

One of the projects I worked on was development for an attraction at Walt Disney World in Florida. It was associated with the Pixar feature 'A Bug's Life' and it's still running today by the title of 'It's Tough to be a Bug'. I worked with Chris Bailey who was fresh off of directing 'Runaway Brain' for Disney in 1995 which featured Mickey and Minnie Mouse in a great animated short film which was nominated for an Oscar.

This was a somewhat creatively frustrating project for me as the characters were supposed to tie into the Pixar movie but Pixar wouldn't let us see the characters in A Bug's Life prior to the release of the film. So I had to guess what they looked like. The pace of the production was slow. I felt stifled and I couldn't get into it. But I did get a chance to do some art that was influential in the final Disney World project. This is the first time these images have been published.

Here's a concept for a dragonfly. 
I made him look evil as I thought he might be the bad guy. 
Dragonflies were used in the production.

This is a giant beetle of some kind that was the basis for a similar character in the show.

A concept design for a caterpillar.

More caterpillar concepts.

Still more caterpillar concept designs.

There was additional art that I created for the project as I recall but I don't know what happened to it. Probably left it at the studio and it's since been long gone I imagine. Another interesting experience working in animation that I'm happy to relate. Hope you enjoy the art.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Ode to Ellas

In 1985 I was hired by KABC TV which is the Los Angeles affiliate of ABC Television in the US. There were still only three major national TV stations back then and ABC was one of them. The local station was looking to develop a Greek mythology project. I designed it and wrote it as well. Unfortunately the project didn't get past the initial development stage. That happens periodically in the biz. But I did get a chance to create some fun artwork on a stimulating theme.

This is one of the drawings I came up with. It was a concept design for the lead character. I kept this in my portfolio for years. All the way up to the time when I stopped showing it for work.

I always intended on coloring the composition. Finally after more than twenty seven years it's happened. Below is the Photoshop illustration I finished earlier this evening. I added the Greek text 'Ellas' in the upper right as a homage to the land of my ancestry. Especially in consideration of the hard challenges Greece is facing nowadays. Ellas is the actual name by which the people of Greece call their country. I dressed the character in the colors of Sparta.

Really enjoyed working on this. Funny how when the image was first created Photoshop and digital colorization did not exist. At least not in a way that we know today. This is the first time the image has ever been shown publicly. Thank you for checking in. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Painting on cardboard

In 1996 I was teaching at a new school in the area that a friend started. It was called Associates in Art located in Sherman Oaks, California and for a time it was the place to be. A hotbed for what was happening in several areas of art. The animation boom of the 1990s was in full swing and hundreds of people were there working on their skills hoping to break into the industry along with many great artists who were either instructors or taking classes.

I was teaching a course in Visual Development when I created this demonstration. I drew it on the cardboard backing of a pad of drawing paper. I used acrylics to paint over the drawing. This was published in the brochure for Associates In Art and I also included it in my book Controlling Illusion in 2008.

Always liked this painting and the character. Often wondered what he's about. It's a challenge creating in front of a large group of people. A performance aspect is involved. There were almost 40 students in the class. Early on in my teaching career I made it a point to utilize class demos as part of my method. Way before I did this piece. When I returned to teaching in 1996 it helped give me the confidence to continue.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Speaking of Crash and Spyro...

A student of mine gave this to me a few weeks ago. 
It's a gift card from GameStop from 2007 featuring both Crash and Spyro.

That's pretty cool to see. There's been other promotions with the characters from the past including one with Crash and McDonalds. When I find it I'll post it up. 

Classic Spyro

As a follow up to Crash.
From last night's class. 
First drawing of Spyro in a long time.

Thanks to my students for the suggestion.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Classic Crash

Per request I thought I'd try my hand at drawing Crash Bandicoot. Came up with this sketch last night in class. This is the first time I've drawn Crash in over a year and a half and only the second time in more than two and a half years. He may be slightly off model as it's been a while. Now that I have this blog going I'd like to create more images of him and see where they go. Hope you enjoy it and thanks for following my blog.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Once in a while I'll see something that reminds me of previous designs I've done. At times the resemblance can be very striking. I often wonder to what degree my designs influenced the work if at all since much of it was previously published in one way or another. Maybe it was a coincidence. That often happens. Here's a few examples of what I'm referring to. The graphics were originally posted on the AnimationNation Forums in early 2011.

At the upper left is an image from ILM's 'Rango'.
The rest of the drawings are development for Sony's 'Jak and Daxter' video game.

On the left is an early concept development sketch for Daxter from the 'Jak and Daxter' video game. 
On the right is Toothless from 'How To Train Your Dragon' by DreamWorks.

How to Train Your Dragon on the left.
At right is a development sketch from the 'Spyro the Dragon' video game.

On the left is a concept sketch from Sony's Jak and Daxter. 
On the right another dragon from HTTYD.

Left side is a character from 'Monsters vs Aliens' by DreamWorks.
Right is a class demonstration from the Academy's first year in 1998.

Left is another character from Monsters vs Aliens.
At right is a class demonstration from 1996 while teaching at another school.

Friends are the ones who usually bring these similarities to my attention and when they do they get upset. On the other hand I see it a little differently. Whether there's a direct influence or not I tend to view it as a validation of the creative direction I'm coming from. If it's not a 'great minds think alike' kind of thing I'm happy to see that what I've been conjuring in my imagination is appreciated at the highest levels of animated entertainment. 

Dragon around

One of my students suggested that I draw dragons this evening so I did.
Here are a few of what I came up with in class.

This was good practice.
I'll be drawing more dragons in days ahead.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Looking for something?

Yes. An appealing design with some charm that people will enjoy viewing.

Class demonstration from a session last month.

Ogres are people too

Sort of.

Drawing with my students last night in Character Design.

Monday, June 11, 2012


Saw this in my mind's eye this evening. 
Sharing the vision.

A color sketch in Photoshop.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Tell Tale Heart

In 1996 I was working at DIC Animation in Burbank. They produced a lot of TV cartoons. One of the projects I worked on was a direct to video series they were proposing to CBS TV. The idea was to base the video series on literary classics. This was one of the designs I created for the series. It was for The Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe.

The studio called for me to create the concept and draw a final line of the design. Then it went on the the color department to be painted as an animation cell. These were the days before Photoshop. When I started to learn Photoshop in 2005 I practiced my own version on this composition.

For today's blog entry thought I'd see what this would look like as a book cover...

Hope you enjoy it. Thanks for checking in.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Like a breeze

She came along while drawing with my students.

A little later I saw her again.

This time with shadows...

And then with some tone.  

Created last month and the month before at the Academy.

Friday, June 08, 2012

In search of the bad guy

Start somewhere...

Then go on...

Then go on from there...

To where the road leads...

And points in between...

From the same project as the Arab horses below. 
Drawn in Photoshop some with a tablet and some on a Cintiq.