Services provided: Visual design, motion graphics, UX/UI/IX design, 3d modeling, script writing, storyboarding, film direction, film production, franchise development

Tools used: Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, Cinema 4D, Final Cut, Volo Camera Rig, Canon DSLRs, Traditional Media

I was hired as a contractor for Disney Interactive by Merritt Davies, a producer who knew of my creative strengths and adaptability. After supporting her team as a visual designer and motion graphics supervisor, she suggested that I take a crack at Vinylmation, an underdeveloped piece of IP held by the Disney Theme Parks merchandise division. These collectible vinyl toys had a cult following but no real content initiative. As such, they were a ripe target for creative exploration.

With the blessings of Merritt, and under the supervision of Creative Director Matt Wyatt, five of us began to compose and shoot a pilot using a handful of Vinylmations that we had lying around the office. Budget: $500. Among us were two editors and two cameramen, whereas I had the most leadership and production experience. When our pilot was shown to Vinylmation and given the greenlight, we fell into co-director roles, and I wrote a complete script and worked directly with our Lead Producer, Margie Gilmore, and Matt throughout the production, earning a co-producer credit.

At our disposal were two huge soundstages on a backlot in Burbank that had been all but abandoned. We took advantage of the room to spread out.

We spent the next year and a half building out stages, hiring stop motion animators, and shooting tens of thousands of film frames, one at a time. It was an exhilirating learning experience, with an incredibly small team producing an increasingly ambitious project. We decided early on to forego digital composition, and instead create a low-fidelity animation style true to the roots of stop motion photography: hand painted backdrops and practical effects. We all animated, shot principle images, and hand-built our props and backdrops.

At Disney I really returned to my illustration roots, and immersed myself in character design, storyboarding, and pre-visualization. I ran the central production hub, where I storyboarded every scene before shooting on a bank of whiteboards. Animation is much more carefully orchestrated than shooting live, and required design thinking and precise planning at every turn.

In an effort to expand our footprint and develop an ongoing franchise, I simultaneously led the efforts to create a digital-interactive component to our new story and world. The overarching concept was to create a 3d world, built in Unity, that would correspond with our film. We would begin with a custom virtual Vinylmation creator, introduce gameplay and open world, and ultimately create an AR environment that would work at the Disneyland Theme Park, where users with the App could search and find limited, virtual collectibles hidden throughout the park (this is several years before Pokemon Go, it is worth pointing out.)

I designed the app UX and flow. I worked with a Disney producer alongside Infrared 5, a developer out of Boston that we hired for programming, and Disney QA department. Gino Roy, my faithful art director and co-director, contributed to the visual design.

We launched “Vinylmation: Create Your Own” at the same time as “Blank: A Vinylmation Love Story.” The film was picked up by Google for an exclusive run on Google Play for Valentine’s Day 2014, a deal I helped book after presenting with Matt Wyatt at the Google offices in San Francisco. Our film went on to receive over 140k 5-star reviews, and the app was downloaded over +1M in its first month. Writer/Director Kevin Smith saw “Blank”, and was quoted on his podcast saying:

“I started bawling, dude… it’s f***ing beautiful. It’s f***ing touching.”

I continued to work on the app and developed the next character IP for our Vinylmation world called “The Vinylmation Stunt Team”, a hybrid technique action series that incorporated remote control vehicles and stunts. Unfortunately, Disney Interactive had a major implosion at that exact moment, with Disney Infinity sinking, and everything that we had worked on was cut short.

The team disbanded and went their seperate ways. The app was not able to go beyond its 1.0 version, and The Vinylmation Stunt team never made it to pilot, although some say the dream lives on.

I was very fortunate to have had these experiences at such a significant studio, and I will never forget those days of production and unfettered creativity that we were, as a small team, able to enjoy.

Blank trailer on Youtube
Blank BTS on Youtube
Blank on Google Play
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