San Jose Mercury News: Animated Winners

Posted by the San Jose Mercury News Feb. 27, 2015.

By Sal Pizarro

ANIMATED WINNERS: When Disney’s “Big Hero 6″ was announced as the Best Animated Feature at Sunday’s Academy Awards, there was some cheering at San Jose State. Three Spartans alums were involved in the film’s production: Scott Watanabe was the lead art director, Kendelle Hoyer worked as a story artist and Lauren Brown was a publicist.

Read the full story.

Disney finalists

SJSU Team Named a Finalist in Disney Competition

Disney finalists

Zaid Karajeh, Dondel Briones, Amanda Sharpe and Simone Getty (courtesy of Zaid Karajeh).

Pat Harris, SJSU, 408-924-1748
Frank Reifsnyder, Walt Disney Imagineering, 818-544-2142
Tim Choy, Peter Goldman, Davidson & Choy Publicity, 323-954-7510

San Jose, CA–A San Jose State student team has been named one of six finalists in Walt Disney Imagineering’s 24th Imaginations competition.

From the art to the engineering, it was all amazing work,” said Zaid Karajeh, ’16 Aerospace Engineering.

Contestants were asked to imagine a Disney transportation experience, including station/stops and vehicle designs that reflect the diversity of the city, and are accessible, energy-friendly, and fun.


In the beginning, Karajeh had one teammate: Dondel Briones, ’16 Aerospace Engineering. But they soon realized “we would need someone to bring our concepts to life,” Karajeh said.

Amanda Sharpe, ’15 Animation and Illustration, added an artist’s touch, and brought along Simone Getty, ’16 Mechanical Engineering, who applied her expertise.

The SJSU team proposed Aether, a breathtaking journey lifting passengers above Toronto to transport them to commuter and tourist destinations.

While onboard, guests are entertained by 3-D projected artificial intelligence tour-guides, smart glass projections, interactive seat-backs, and automated photo stops, all of which provide for a unique experience immersed in the imaginative realm known as steampunk.

“The project could not have been possible without those three,” Karajeh said. “Their hard work and dedication is what made Aether standout to Disney.”

Dream internship

Walt Disney Imagineering is the design and development arm of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. With Imaginations, the company seeks out and nurtures the next generation of diverse Imagineers.

The other finalists are from Art Center College of Design, Drexel University, Ringling College of Art + Design, Texas Tech University, and University of Nevada, Reno.

All will receive a five-day, all-expense-paid trip to Glendale, Calif., where they will present their project to Imagineering executives and take part in an awards ceremony on Jan. 31.

The top three teams will be awarded cash prizes, with the first place team receiving $3,000. An additional $1,000 grant will be awarded to the first place team, to be equally divided among its sponsoring universities and/or organizations.

Finalists will also have an opportunity to meet and network with Imagineers, go behind the scenes where Disney magic is created, and interview for paid internships during their visit.

“Regardless of the outcome, I hope my teammates and I get the internships!” Karajeh said.

About San Jose State

San Jose State — Silicon Valley’s largest institution of higher learning with 30,000 students and 3,740 employees — is part of the California State University system. SJSU’s 154-acre downtown campus anchors the nation’s 10th largest city.

About Imaginations 

The projects and concepts presented are not necessarily intended to be built by Disney – they are a way for the entrants to demonstrate their skills and creative abilities. In consideration for the opportunities provided by Imagineering, submissions become the sole property of Walt Disney Imagineering and Imagineering retains all rights to use and/or display the submissions and the materials contained in them.

ninja slide

Green Ninja Receives 2014 STEM Innovator Award

ninja 530

The Green Ninja takes action with recycled oil (Green Ninja Project image).

Contact: Pat Harris, 408-924-1748

SAN JOSE, Calif.— San Jose State’s Green Ninja Project is one of four endeavors to receive a 2014 Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics Innovation Award from the Silicon Valley Education Foundation. The project will be recognized during the foundation’s signature annual event, Pioneers & Purpose, on Oct. 1 at the Fairmont San Jose.

“These organizations represent the best in the country working to provide STEM experiences that strengthen and inspire students to explore their curiosity in STEM fields,” Silicon Valley Education Foundation CEO Muhammed Chaudhry said.

Green Ninja project pupet

“The Green Ninja Show” features animation, live action and puppetry (Green Ninja Project image).

Multidisciplinary Initiative

The national award recognizes pioneering programs that have demonstrated innovative methods in STEM education and includes a cash prize.  The Green Ninja Project uses a collection of humorous films and hands-on learning experiences to help young people develop the inspiration and tools to do something about our changing climate.

“By blending science, engineering and the arts, the Green Ninja Project aims to become a nationally recognized icon for education and action on climate change,” said Professor of Meteorology and Climate Science Eugene Cordero.

Million YouTube Views

The project is a multi-platform climate science education initiative that is driven by a strong collaboration between faculty members and students across various departments including Meteorology and Climate Science; Geology; Computer Science; Science Education; Primary Education; Television, Radio, Film and Theatre; and Animation and Illustration.

To date, the project has worked with more than 100 teachers and reached more than 2,000 students. Episodes of “The Green Ninja Show” have had more than a million views on YouTube and TeacherTube. The $5,000 prize will support students working on the show’s second season.

San Jose State — Silicon Valley’s largest institution of higher learning with 30,000 students and 3,740 employees — is part of the California State University system. SJSU’s 154-acre downtown campus anchors the nation’s 10th largest city.

Showcasing Student Talent

Showcasing Student Talent

Showcasing Student Talent

At the 2012 Humanities and the Arts showcase, a student demonstrates the technique behind the “Better Than Blue” portrait series covering one wall of the Student Union construction site (Vivi Yang photo).

When Lisa Vollendorf first visited San Jose State, she was blown away by the caliber of student work. At the time, she was interviewing for dean of the College of Humanities and the Arts. When she got the job, she challenged her new colleagues to collaboratively promote their talented students.

Now in its second year, the Humanities and Arts Day Student Showcase 1-4 p.m. Oct. 25 in the Student Union’s Barrett Ballroom has matured into a must-see program featuring musical performances, poetry readings, theatrical shorts and booths offering information on many of the college’s programs.

The event coincides with Homecoming Week. Alumni are invited to experience the showcase’s many innovative offerings. Highlights include:

View the Humanities and Arts Day Student Showcase program.

SJSU Scores in 24-Hour Animation Contest

SJSU Scores at 24-Hour Animation Contest

SJSU Scores at 24-Hour Animation Contest

Animation/Illustration students crunch during the 24 Hour Animation Contest (photo courtesy of Angela Wu).

By Angela Wu, Design Lecturer

Animation/Illustration students fired it up all night long for the 24 Hour Animation Contest, a nationwide competition to create 30-second animated films in 24 hours on a specific theme. More than 70 students from San Jose State’s A/I program competed against more than 240 students from 10 schools, with two teams from San Jose winning second and fourth place in the competition.

The theme — “What would you do if you only had 24 hours left to live?” — was given to competitors 5:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27. The teams of five had until 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28, to conceptualize and complete a 30-second film. Submissions were judged by a panel of industry professionals from studios such as PixarLaika and Yellowshed.

The SJSUAI film, “The Caveman Capsule,” won second place. Team members were Nicki Yee, Grace Lacuesta, Youri Dekker, Ryan Eways and Ryan Ramirez. They were awarded one-year licenses for DIGICEL Flipbook Pro, TOONBOOM Storyboard Pro and Animate Pro.

Another SJSUAI film, “The Cookie of Doom,” won fourth place. Team members were Alvin Concepcion, Clayton Chan, Oscar Guevara, Amanda Sharpe and Hunter Welker. They received Stuart Ng gift certificates and TOONBOOM Storyboard Pro and Animate Pro one-year licenses.

In all, 47 films were completed. The schools that participated in the challenge were CSU Northridge, Middle Tennessee State University, Kendall College, Westwood College, Mount San Antonio Community College, Academy of Art San Francisco, Woodbury University, South Dakota State University, Ringling College of Art and Design and Jarupa Valley High School. Sponsors for the event were Creative Talent Network, Toon Boom, Digicel, ASIFA-Hollywood, DreamWorks and Stuart Ng Books.

Five Reasons to be a Proud Spartan

Five Reasons to be a Proud Spartan

Five Reasons to be a Proud Spartan

SJSU admitted over 1,000 transfer applicants for spring 2014. Admissions Communications Counselor Kali Guidry helps collate all those acceptance letters (Enrollment Services image).

1. Alumna Ranae Moneymaker is a stunt double for Jennifer Lawrence in “The Hunger Games,” the sequel “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” A nutritional science major from 2005 to 2010, Moneymaker mastered flips, falls and overcoming fear as a member of the San Jose State gymnastics team.

2. San Jose State is congratulating over 1,000 transfer applicants recently admitted for spring 2014. In addition, thousands of students from across the country and around the world are applying now for fall 2014. Our Enrollment Services Facebook page makes it easy to stay on track.

3. SJSU features a top accounting program. The Lucas College and Graduate School of Business ranks seventh among 30 California’s public and private schools in terms of alumni pass rates on the certified public accountant exam. This is according to a Sacramento Business Journal analysis of National Association of State Boards of Accountancy data.

4. ESPN featured Spartan Racing, San Jose State Judo, Animation/Illustration and Grupo Folklorico Luna y Sol during the national broadcast of Spartan football’s Sept. 27 game. Check out this behind-the-scenes reel and join us as we look forward to the Homecoming Game Oct. 26.

5. Kirandeep Deol, ’14 biochemistry, was one of 255 students selected from a pool of nearly 4,000 applicants nationwide for the AMGEN Scholars Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has conducted research at MIT and attended a symposium at UCLA to meet other AMGEN scholars and hear from leading biotech scientists.

Student Assistant Amanda Holst contributed to this report.

Young man looking down, while a little boy sits on his shoulders. A woman looks off to the side smiling.

Cinequest Completes 23rd Year

By Sarah Kyo and Amanda Holst, SJSU Marketing and Communications

A Korean family wearing traditional clothing and a dog standing in front of a Korean house

“A Knock on My Door”

Spartans left their mark on the recent Cinequest 23 film festival, whether through short films or features, live action or animation.

The downtown San Jose event wrapped up March 10 with Encore Day, re-airing award winners and fan favorites.

Among the showings was Shorts Program: Animated Worlds, a collection of animated short films including “A Knock on My Door,” which depicts the life of SJSU Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering Hi-Dong Chai. His son David, an SJSU animation/illustration professor, directed the piece.

Chai said he and his wife had an opportunity to watch his life on the big screen during Cinequest. He is grateful that his son turned his life into a movie and remembered the first time he saw “A Knock on My Door.” 

“My first reaction was, ‘When did he learn all about what was shown on the film?’ because I did not remember telling my life stories to him,” he said. “Secondly, I was really impressed. Somehow he put my 50 years of life experience in a 10-minute animation movie in such a way that the story is complete in itself. My coauthor and I e-published Blossom and Bayonets, a historical novel based on the life of my family under Japan last October, and it is 400+ pages long and only covers half of my story.  But Dave did it in 10 minutes in a very meaningful way.”

Since retiring from teaching in 2002, Chai has dedicated himself to writing about his life and the hardships that his family faced during World War II and the Korean War. He has worked with coauthor Jana McBurney-Lin on e-publishing a book and short stories.

Spotlight on Spartan Films

Mom and son talking to a man at a desk

“Always Learning”

The San Jose Repertory Theatre was packed March 5 as anxious onlookers, many who watched the rough cut about this time last year, waited to see the final cut of “Always Learning,” a coming-of age film through the eyes of a home-schooler.

Before the showing, Cinequest spotlighted San Jose State’s Spartan Film Studios in a panel discussion, highlighting the hands-on opportunities given to students in making highly expert films.

The forum opened with an interview with executive producers Barnaby Dallas and Nick Martinez, alongside the directors of “All About Dad” and “Cheap Fun. ”

When asked what Spartan Films adds to the Cinequest culture, Dallas articulated that it was about the teamwork of theatre and radio working together to provide folks that “Napoleon Dynamite” aspect.

“We use all resources at SJSU to harness ideas that evolve,” Dallas said. “When our films get in [Cinequest], it’s a great opportunity for our students.”

On the topic of creating opportunity for students to work with professional mentors, production management instructor Martinez emphasized the significance of the hands-on component of filmmaking.

“We give every student an opportunity to see what it’s like in real life,” Martinez said. “The ones who know they want to gain experience know what they need to do and get a safety net in college.”

“Always Learning” gave 60 students the opportunity to produce a full-length feature. The actual filming took 26 days with students working up to 90 hours weekly to wrap up shooting on time and within budget. The film won a Rising Star award at the 2013 Canadian Film Festival.

SJSU TW Cinequest Slideshow

Cinequest Showcases Spartan Films

San Jose State is playing a leading role in Cinequest 23, the film festival underway now through March 10 in downtown San Jose.

The films from SJSU’s radio, television and film and animation/illustration programs are definitely worth seeing, not just because they are professional quality, but also because they offer real insight into the lives of people who may be sitting right next to you in class.

Cinequest student tickets for regular movie screenings are $5 with a valid student ID, while general admission is $10. Prices vary for special events, and festival passes are also available for purchase. Want to check out films and events with ties to SJSU? Here’s more:


Backside view of cowboy grabbing gun

“Kill No Evil”

Students created this brief cowboy showdown for an intermediate film/TV production course taught by RTVF Professor Harry Mathias. A one-minute version is being shown before a feature-length Chinese Western movie, “An Inaccurate Memoir.”

  1. Mathias said this is the first SJSU student short film that will be shown outside of Cinequest’s Student Shorts collection.
  2. “It really is a testament to the fact that with hard work, a clear concept and a dedicated crew, you can achieve anything in the film business,” said cinematographer Shehbaz Aslam. “The fact that the short is being shown as a companion piece to ‘An Inaccurate Memoir’ is an honor in that not only will it give the short exposure, but that it will be shown before a film shot by a cinematographer I really admire, Yu Cao, whose work was part of the visual inspiration of the short.”
  3. Director Ricky Dellinger said the original filming location was supposed to be Bodie, a Californian ghost town located six hours away from the Bay Area. “We scouted the area and thought it was perfect, but of course due to our college student budget, we didn’t have enough money to pay the fee to film there,” he said. Instead, Montgomery Hill Park in San Jose was a stand-in for the Wild West.


Mom and son talking to a man at a desk

“Always Learning”

Spartan Film Studios provides students with real-life filmmaking experience, according to production coordinator Barnaby Dallas and studio coordinator Nick Martinez. Some of the on-campus production company’s feature-length films have been featured at Cinequest in the past, including “All About Dad” and “Super Hero Party Clown.” The directors of these two films, in addition to Dallas and Martinez, will be part of this forum.

  1. A preview of Spartan Film Studios’ latest feature, “Always Learning,” will be shown at this event. This coming-of-age story is relatable to director Robert Krakower, ’11 radio-television-film, since he was homeschooled just like the main character.
  2. Spartan Film Studios was recently featured in the Metro’s Cinequest preview and on the front page of the San Jose Mercury News.
  3. In addition to cinema, Spartan Film Studios has worked on a variety of projects, including filming the 2012 Spartan football team intro, creating a SJSU commercial that aired on ESPN and participating in the Green Ninja project.


Old man and younger man riding in a car

“A Knock on My Door”

In this collection of diverse animated films is a personal piece directed  by Animation/Illustration Professor David Chai. “A Knock on My Door” is the biographical story of Chai’s father, SJSU Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering Hi-Dong Chai, who escapes war-torn Korea to make a new life in the United States.
  1. Just like in the film, Chai went on a cross-country road trip with his father, who was in the process of writing about his life. The trip was a reminder of how none of us know what our parents went through before we were born. In Hi Dong Chai’s case, the losses were gut-wrenching, but Chai said the story is ultimately about perseverance.
  2. About 70 students and alumni helped with the short film last summer, including alumni who work at Dreamworks, Zynga and “American Dad.”
  3. This film won the gold medal in the Moving Image Category at the New York Society of Illustrators 55th Annual Exhibition, marking the first time that SJSU has earned this distinction.
Cinequest showcases up-and-coming filmmakers, including Michelle Ikemoto, ’12 animation/illustration. Ikemoto directed the short animated film “Tule Lake” about her grandmother’s World War II experience at the Tule Lake internment camp located south of the California-Oregon border.
  1. With her health worsening, Ikemoto’s grandmother began opening up about her time at Tule Lake. This inspired Ikemoto, who was looking for a short story for one of her animation classes.
  2. Ikemoto and student artists visited Tule Lake, but the camp had been deconstructed. Instead, the best resource came from the Japanese American Museum of San Jose where they studied replica barracks at an exhibit. They also met a museum docent who was construction director at Tule Lake and  gave them access to a personal collection of photos.
  3. “Tule Lake” has earned multiple awards, including top prizes at the 2012 CSU Media Arts Festival and 2012 CreaTiVe Awards. It was also nominated in the student film category at the 40th Annual Annie Awards, “the highest honor given for excellence in animation,” according to its website.

Director Shohei Shiozaki, ’04 radio-television-film, makes his feature debut with this tale of a Brazilian immigrant boy Ricardo, his friend Hanako and a magical, blue goldfish. The children try to protect the fish, the reincarnated spirit of a Chinese princess, from opposing forces including the mayor and Japanese gangs.

  1.  This Japanese film is set in Shiozaki’s hometown of Yamato Koriyama in Nara Prefecture, an area known for raising ornamental goldfish. This tradition, coupled with a desire to make a movie in his hometown with local resources, inspired the director. “I thought it might be a good idea to start writing a story about it and I tried to speak to the local people, ‘Let’s make a movie in our hometown,’” he said. “And after three years of financing and finding the support, the film finally got made.”
  2. Just like the character Ricardo, the young actor Takeshi Nagata is actually Japanese-Brazilian. There were more than 200 auditions among the Japanese-Brazilian community for this lead role, and Nagata, who makes his screen debut, stood out for being the funniest, Shiozaki said.
  3. Shiozaki took an SJSU class taught by Cinequest director and co-founder Halfdan Hussey and was a 2002 film festival intern. Because of that internship, he became acquainted with John Williams, a Welsh filmmaker based in Japan. “When I went back to Japan for summer break, I called him and eventually I was able to enter the Japanese film industry,” Shiozaki said. “He is the producer of ‘Goldfish Go Home,’ so we both came back to Cinequest after eight years of time. So … it is true that SJSU gave me all the chances and opportunity to become a filmmaker.”
SJSU's Role in the Oscars

SJSU’s Role in the Oscars

Two Spartans helped create the imagery for 2013 Academy Award Winner “Brave.” Art Director Noah Klocek, ’04 animation/illustration, and Set Artist Paul Abadilla,’08 animation/illustration, brought to the Pixar film, which won for Best Animated Feature Film, skills honed while they were students of SJSU’s Animation/Illustration Program. “Brave” tells the story of Merida, “a high-spirited Scottish princess who resists her mother’s efforts to transform her into a more ladylike young woman. Faced with an arranged marriage she doesn’t want, Merida runs away into the forest, where she encounters a witch who teaches her a dangerous spell,” the Oscars website says. Originally conceived to give locals a chance to compete for careers in the screen arts, SJSU’s Animation/Illustration program now attracts students nationally and internationally.

Animation/Illustration Winners

The SJSU Animation/Illustration program continues to win prizes at regional, state and national competitions. Originally conceived to give locals a chance to compete for careers in the screen arts, the program now attracts students nationally and internationally.

Recent graduate Michelle Ikemoto and a production team composed of classmates won awards for Best Film Under 30 Minutes and Best Student Film for their animated short film, “Tule Lake.” Tule Lake is a tribute to the director’s late grandmother and the risks she took to preserve normalcy for her family during their exile in the Tule Lake internment camp during World War II. The awards were sponsored by CreaTV San Jose, a non-profit that seeks to inspire, educate and connect San Jose communities using media to foster civic engagement. The ceremony was held Jan. 5 at San Jose’s historic California Theater. Previous wins for Tule Lake include first place for Animation and a tie for Best In Show in the CSU Media Arts festival in November 2012.

Two films won awards at the AsiansOnFilm Festival. “Couch & Potatoes,” a stop-motion film produced and directed by May 2012 graduate Chris Lam and senior Eunsoo Jeong, was the winner in the Short Animation category. “A Knock On My Door,” directed by Associate Professor David Chai and produced by his 2012 Advanced Animation class, took Honorable Mention in the same category. The festival, which is sponsored by, will be held Feb. 15-17 at J.E.T. Studios in North Hollywood.

Chai and team also won the gold medal in the Moving Image Category at the New York Society of Illustrators 55th Annual Exhibition for their animated short film, “A Knock on My Door.” The film has a two-fold San Jose State connection as it documents the life of David Chai’s father, SJSU Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering Hi Dong Chai. The awards ceremony was held Jan. 4 in New York City. The Society of Illustrators Annual Exhibition is open to artists worldwide, and each year a jury of top professionals considers thousands of entries before selecting the best for inclusion in their exhibition at the society’s gallery in New York. Professor Chai’s accomplishment marks the first time that SJSU has received a gold medal at this prestigious venue.

Five illustrations by SJSU A/I Lecturer Inga Poslitur were accepted into the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles Illustration West 51Competition. Her illustration “Eve Redeemed” received the gold medal. The Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles was founded in 1953 to promote the professional status of illustration art as well as to foster both philanthropic and educational projects. From this small beginning, SILA has grown into a productive membership whose work is seen locally and nationally by millions in printed media, television, films, online and at gallery exhibitions. Today, SILA is firmly established as a major professional art entity on the West Coast.

Cordero, Green Ninja Receive International Recognition

Cordero, Green Ninja Receive International Recognition

Cordero, Green Ninja Receive International Recognition

Cordero’s Green Ninja climate-action superhero received the people’s choice award at an international film festival.

When international experts gathered Nov. 14-15 for a 24-hour online climate change symposium, SJSU’s Eugene Cordero was invited to take a seat at the table.

The professor of meteorology and climate science appeared on four hour-long segments of “24 Hours of Reality: The Dirty Weather Report.”

That included Hour 20, with former Vice President AL Gore and Virgin Group Founder and Chairman Richard Branson. The program is available online.

Cordero scored a second major victory recently: A video featuring his Green Ninja climate-action superhero received the people’s choice award at an international film festival.

The Green Screen: Climate Fix Flicks award included a $5,000 cash prize, which Cordero will use for students and faculty launching a Green Ninja web series.

Green Ninja

Cordero’s research focuses on understanding climate variability through the use of observations and climate models.

He’s also interested in developing new methods for teaching climate change that engage and ultimately stimulate social change.

That’s where the Green Ninja comes in. The project aims to educate young people about our changing climate and then give them the tools to do something about it.

The award winning video, “Green Ninja: Footprint Renovation”, is about a man whose feet become gigantic because of the large carbon footprint of his home.

The Green Ninja was created through a unique campus collaboration between scientists, artists, and educators across five SJSU colleges.

The YouTube series, to be launched in early 2013, will connect with a larger audience while supporting teachers who want to bring innovative curriculum into their classrooms.


Spartans at Work: The Walt Disney Family Museum

Where will an SJSU degree take you? We hit the road to find out, visiting summer interns and recent grads on the job in the Bay Area and beyond. Our video series continues with Alex Turner, ’14 Animation/Illustration. He’s an education intern at The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. The museum’s collection includes some 25,000 works Disney and his staff used in creating his characters and films. Educational programs include a summer camp, where Alex works. Read more about his experience!


Spartans at Work: At Lucas Arts, “I’m Learning That I Have Certain Assets That Can Help and Serve a Purpose”

Female intern wearing a brown t-shirt stands in front of the Palace of Fine Arts

Jeanie Chang, ’13 Animation/Illustration, spent the summer working as a concept artist with the Lucasfilm University Jedi Academy Summer Internship Program at the Letterman Digital Arts Center in San Francisco (Dillon Adams photo).

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant

(This summer, SJSU Today hit the road, visiting students and recent grads on the job across the country and around the world. Our Spartans at Work series continues with the class of 2013’s Jeanie Chang.)

For Jeanie Chang, ’13 Animation/Illustration, being “on the job” means having the right attitude and work ethic.

“You can’t just create a pretty picture, it has to serve a purpose,” she said.

Chang  spent the summer working as a concept artist for LucasArts, a top developer of interactive video games, at the 12-week Lucasfilm University Jedi Academy Summer Internship Program at the Letterman Digital Arts Center in San Francisco.

Her team recently released a trailer for the third-person action video game Star Wars 1313, due out next year.

“As a concept artist, I worked on coming up with ideas and the storytelling for the environment,” meaning the scenery behind the characters, Chang said.

In addition to visually representing ideas, Chang worked on reference-gathering and organizing to help the other artists on the team.

Much to Offer

At Lucas Arts, “I’m Learning That I Have Certain Assets That Can Help and Serve a Purpose”

Jeanie Chang’s skills building an environment, or background, are clear in this example from her porfolio at

The summer program provided her with many learning opportunities, all of which have helped her to “know better what to expect” in the gaming industry. The most rewarding aspect was learning she has much to offer.

“After to talking to people her, I’ve realized that I know how to really dress up a set and put history behind it,” Chang said. “I have certain assets that can help the company.”

Other rewarding opportunities for Change included seeing behind-the-scenes artwork and working with her concept artist mentors, three SJSU alums.

“We’ve had the same teachers and know the same people,” Chang said. “We speak the same language about art.”

What’s Chang’s advice to those thinking about taking an internship?

“This is your time to really focus on learning and take advantage of all of the opportunities,” she said.

guy in front of cartoons on whiteboard

Spartans at Work: At The Walt Disney Family Museum, I’m “Inspired to Keep Pursuing My Own Goals”

By Sarah Kyo, Web Communications Specialist

(This summer, SJSU Today hits the road, visiting students and recent grads on the job across the country and around the world. Our Spartans at Work series continues with animation/illustration major Alex Turner.)

Where will an SJSU degree take you? How about to a place that celebrates one of the most influential people in your field? Alex Turner, ’14, Animation/Illustration major is an education intern at The Walt Disney Family Museum in the Presidio of San Francisco.

From the outside, the museum’s building matches the surrounding red-brick structures not far from the Golden Gate Bridge. Inside, it contains historic artifacts from Disney’s life and the classic Disney animations, films and television programs.

Turner said he feels inspired to come to work, drawing in his sketchbook as he commutes on the Caltrain every weekday. At the museum, he helps inspire a younger generation’s creativity and imagination at the museum’s Disney Discovery Summer Camp. Each week-long session revolves around a different topic, such as animation, comics books and designing theme park rides.

Once camp wraps up in early August, Turner will apply his skills in helping the museum redesign its website. The SJSU animation/illustration program gave him a great foundation for his internship.

“I feel like I have pretty strong fundamentals in art and animation,” he said, “and what we’re doing at the camp at The Walt Disney Family Museum, I’ve been able to apply a lot of those skills like either design or painting, you know, or just being organized.”

Animation student wearing a pink jacket and black-and-white checkered shirt is standing in fron of the Nickelodeon sign in Burbank California

Spartans at Work: At Nickelodeon, “I’m Learning How To Move Artwork Through The Pipeline”

Animation student wearing a pink jacket and black-and-white checkered shirt is standing in fron of the Nickelodeon sign in Burbank California

Hillary Bradfield, '13 Animation, has the opportunity to turn her love for cartoons into a summer internship at Nickelodeon Animation Studios in Burbank (Hillary Bradfield photo).

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant

(This summer, SJSU Today hits the road, visiting students and recent grads on the job across the country and around the world. Our Spartans at Work series continues with the Class of 2013′s Hillary Bradfield.)

Hillary Bradfield, ’13 Animation/Illustration, has turned her love for cartoons into a summer internship at Nickelodeon Animation Studios.

“You are surrounded by all of this art; you learn just by being around it,” she said.

Bradfield is one of 30 intern production assistants this summer working on the “Spongebob Square Pants” cartoon. Nickelodeon is a children’s network known for popular TV shows such as “Kung Fu Panda Legends of Awesomeness,” “T.U.F.F. Puppy” and “The Legend of Korra.”

She has spent the last six weeks learning how to make cartoons from beginning to end, including putting together storyboards and preparing to send them out to studios that animate them.

Even though her internship is a non-art one, Bradfield has learned valuable behind-the-scenes skills in the industry.

“It’s more important to really prepare yourself for making your work good enough to pass off to the next person in the pipeline, and being a person who could be useful on a team,” she said.

Bradfield says the most rewarding aspect of her internship is that she’s been able to set up meetings with artists and other production assistants to get her artwork critiqued.

“Right now, I am working on a revision for artwork I showed a story artist,” Bradfield said. “It’s really great to get tips from them.”

Animation/Illustration Students Mentor High School Magnet Program

Animation/Illustration Students Mentor High School Magnet Program

Animation/Illustration Students Mentor High School Magnet Program

The SJSU students reinforced the notion that hard work trumps talent by sharing their own experiences on the journey from high school through college (image courtesy of Alice Carter).

By Alice Carter, Animation/Illustration Area Coordinator

On April 23, Animation/Illustration program seniors Nic Rudy, Kevin Yang, Erin Schleupner, and Jung-Han Chang visited Mount Pleasant High School in San Jose to offer encouragement to students in Clark Semple’s Animation Magnet Program. For almost two decades, Animation/Illustration has partnered with Mr. Semple to help students enter the screen arts industry by taking advantage of affordable local educational opportunities at the high school, community college, and university level. Mr. Semple recently expanded his curriculum to include concept art and storyboarding, disciplines which involve skill in painting and drawing. Recognizing that the purchase of traditional art supplies was not in the budget, Mr. Semple invited SJSU Animation/Illustration majors to mentor his students in digital techniques. During their visit, the SJSU students explained their working process and reinforced the notion that hard work trumps talent by sharing their own experiences on the journey from high school through college. The SJSU students plan to return to Mount Pleasant for another in-depth presentation as the high school students prepare for this new addition to their program.

May the 4th Be With You: Animation/Illustration Students Visit Lucasfilm on International Star Wars Day

May the 4th Be With You: Animation/Illustration Students Visit Lucasfilm on International Star Wars Day

May the 4th Be With You: Animation/Illustration Students Visit Lucasfilm on International Star Wars Day

A/I Student Kristy Kay with Lucasfilm University Relations Manager Anita Stokes and A/I Student Eunsoo Jeong with Lucasfilm University Relations Representative Ryan Howeilm on International Star Wars Day (Alice Carter image).

By Alice Carter, Animation/Illustration Area Coordinator

On May 4th, Professor Courtney Granner’s Visual Development class made a trip to Lucasfilm’s Letterman Digital Arts Center in the San Francisco Presidio. Although Professor Granner schedules the trip each semester, this visit was exceptional as it coincided with International Star Wars Day.  University Relations Manager Anita Stokes and University Relations Representative Ryan Howe hosted the tour. After amazing the students with iconic examples of production art and film props, the group attended a screening of the studio’s show reel featuring work from Lucasfilm, Lucasfilm Animation, and Industrial Light and Magic. After the tour, the class had lunch with Animation/Illustration alumni in the employee’s cafeteria and took advantage of a photo opportunity with their favorite Jedi Master.

Woman holding potted plant, while standing near window with potted plants in Cinequest animation "Bloom." Courtesy of Emily Johnstone.

SJSU Wins Top Animation Awards

SJSU Wins Top Animation Awards

An image from "Bloom," directed by Emily Johnstone and Brian Kistler.

By Alice Carter, Animation/Illustration Area Coordinator

Animation/Illustration students Brian Kistler and Emily Johnstone share top honors for animation at the prestigious New York Society of Illustrators Student Scholarship Competition for their short film, “Bloom.”  The second place award also went to SJSU for Yung-Han Chang’s entry, “Bye, Bye Bruce.”  Both films were produced on campus by teams of Animation/Illustration students who guided the vision of the three student directors from the initial storyboards and concept design through post-production.

Represented in the competition’s very competitive illustration category are SJSU students Jeanie Chang, Cody Gramstad, Annlyn Huang, Rudy Santos Jr., Lauren Zurcher, Alexander Sparks, Ko Tseng Wei, and 2011 graduate Melissa King. Of the 8,119 illustration submissions, only 253 were accepted for the exhibition. The student scholarship exhibition will be on view at the Museum of American Illustration in New York from May 9 through June 2. The opening reception and awards ceremony will held on May 18.


Green Ninja Wins Grand Prize

March 30, 2012 — Macquarie University, The University of Melbourne and Monash Sustainability Institute have announced that the short animated film “Green NinjaTM: Footprint Renovation,” has won the Grand Prize of $5,000 at the Green Screen Climate Fix Flicks festival in Sydney, Australia.

The film is one of a series that has been produced by students in the film and animation departments at San Jose State University as part of The Green Ninja Project, led by Professor of Meteorology and Climate Science Eugene Cordero. With funding from the National Science Foundation, NASA, and PG&E, Professor Cordero has led a collaboration of students, scientists, and media artists to create the Green Ninja, a climate action superhero who forms the center of an education and behavior change program targeted at reducing our collective carbon footprint.

“Our goal with the Green Ninjafilm series is to communicate important topics of climate science in a way that is accessible and fun for everyone,” said Cordero.  “I am delighted that we are reaching a global audience with this work.”

Cordero in a Vimeo video box, click on the photo to connect to the video

Cordero explains The Green Ninja Project (TEDxSanJoseCA video).

“Footprint Renovation” was also screened in March at the San Francisco Green Film Festival, and won high marks from a panel of Hollywood TV and film directors, assembled at the American Geophysical Union earlier this year, for its excellence in conveying scientific ideas in a way that is easily understood by the general public. The next screening of “Footprint Renovation” will happen in Korea as part of the Green Film Festival in Seoul.

“I am really proud of the animation team and the SJSU students who have made the Green Ninja come to life,” said Assistant Professor of Animation and Illustration David Chai, who led the team of students who created the film.

Professor Cordero will be speaking at the TEDxSanJoseCA conference on April 14, 2012 in San Jose.

For more information, visit the Green Ninja website or contact Eugene Cordero.

Woman holding potted plant, while standing near window with potted plants in Cinequest animation "Bloom." Courtesy of Emily Johnstone.

Cinequest Film Festival Showcases Spartan Talent

By Sarah Kyo, Public Affairs Assistant

SJSU students, alumni and staff are among the filmmakers displaying their “Neverending Passion,” the theme of this year’s Cinequest. Now in its 22nd year, the independent film festival will attract international industry members to San Jose, Feb. 28 to March 11.

Student tickets for regular movie screenings are $5 with a valid student ID, while general admission is $10. Prices vary for special events, and festival passes are also available for purchase.

Barnaby Dallas, director of productions at Spartan Film Studios, will co-moderate “How to Pitch Your Screenplay” as part of a Writers Celebration event.

“It’s just something that hasn’t been done at Cinequest,” said Dallas, regarding the interactive workshop that will give panelists and audience members a chance to practice promoting their work.

Additionally, here are some of the Cinequest films with ties to SJSU:

Two men look to the left in the Cinequest movie "Worth the Weight." Photo courtesy of Cinequest.

“Worth the Weight” (photo courtesy of Cinequest)

As he attempts to lose weight, former football player Sam Roberts strikes a bond with his personal trainer Cassie in this romantic comedy directed by Ryan Sage.

Three Fun Facts About “Worth the Weight”
1.  The mother of producer Kristina Denton, ’07 Kinesiology, encouraged her daughter to supplement her acting pursuit with a “back-up plan.” Denton’s degree and background as a personal trainer came in handy when coaching the lead actress in this film. “After those days on set, I would call my mom and say, ‘See I used my degree!’” Denton said.
2. After graduating from SJSU, Denton moved to Los Angeles to study acting and pursue a career. “When I opened my personal training business as my ‘day job’ in L.A., (Sage) actually became my client while trying to get in shape for his wedding,” she said. “I trained him and his wife for about two years.”
3. “We have never met the writer!” Denton said. “We will be meeting him for the first time at Cinequest the night of the premiere!” Writer Dale Zawada sold the script for $500 on Craigslist.

A young man wearing a hat rests his head on another young man's shoulder, while they sit in a car. Image from Cinequest film “Cheap Fun.” Photo courtesy of Cinequest.

“Cheap Fun” (photo courtesy of Cinequest)

College student Ian hosts friends in his garage for nightly drinking and smoking sessions, but he desires something more to life in this comedy.

Three Fun Facts About “Cheap Fun”
1. “Cheap Fun,” from Spartan Film Studios, was the subject of last year’s Rough Cut Forum at Cinequest. Audience members saw an early version and provided constructive feedback. “Most of the suggestions made it in, so the feedback was crucial to finishing this film,” said Director Zack Sutherland, ’10 Radio-Television-Film and minor in Theater Arts.
2. Some of the items at the friends’ hangout spot are actually from Sutherland’s backyard, where he and his friends used to hang out.
3. Sutherland is the radio voice in the beginning of the film. He also played drums on several music tracks and sang on one of them.

Two young boys look off to the right in "Always Learning," the film at Cinequest's Rough Cut Forum. Photo courtesy of Cinequest.

Rough Cut Forum of Spartan Film Studios’ “Always Learning” (photo courtesy of Cinequest)

ROUGH CUT FORUM for Spartan Film Studios’ “Always Learning”
The audience will watch an early version of this film about a homeschooled boy and his overbearing mother before providing feedback for the final edit.

Three Fun Facts About “Always Learning”
1.Director Robert Krakower, ’11 Radio-Television-Film and minor in Psychology, plans to finish editing the film and then submit it to multiple film festivals, including next year’s Cinequest.
2. Krakower and producer Jon Magram were both homeschooled. “Numerous things that happen in the film are from our actual experiences,” Krakower said.
3. “I didn’t let my mom read the script because I knew she’d be too embarrassed by it,” Krakower said. “She’ll be seeing the film for the first time at Cinequest.”

SJSU has two entries in this contest: “Elder Anderson,” a comedy about Mormon missionaries in Las Vegas, and “Bloom,” an animation about a lonely, depressed woman who receives a gift.


Two young men in white collar shirts, ties and black slacks and shoes are at The Strip in Las Vegas, as part of Cinequest short film "Elder Anderson." Photo courtesy of Marty Fishman.

Three Fun Facts about “Elder Anderson”
1. None of the cast or crew members are Mormons. For research, Director Daniel Maggio met with a few missionaries in San Jose to ask about their faith, the Book of Mormon and their lives as missionaries.
2. Many of the scenes are shot on location in Las Vegas, while some were shot in San Jose. “The film we made last year that played at Cinequest, ‘JIMBO,’ was being honored by the Broadcast Education Network in Las Vegas, so we wanted to make a trip out of it and film a short while we were there,” Maggio said.
3. Maggio and his crew did not receive permission to film at any Las Vegas locations, except for a bar. Instead, he said, “Every shot was creatively acquired.”

image from "Bloom"

“Bloom” (courtesy of Emily Johnstone)

Three Fun Facts about “Bloom”
1. The film won first place student short film at the CreaTV Awards and second place animation at the CSU Media Film Festival. “Nobody makes a film to win awards, and the business of awards ceremonies can be strange,” said Co-director Brian Kistler. “But it’s always nice that people respond to what you made and seem to like it.”
2. For the film, Kistler and Co-director Emily Johnstone bought amaryllis plants to study and draw from, which Johnstone later kept. “They’re just now about to bloom a year later,” she said.
3. Kistler and Johnstone paid their student crew with pizza and gummy bears. “We’re all students, just doing it for the love of creating something together,” Johnstone said. “We don’t get to collaborate on a lot of things, and it’s great to be able to make a finished product at the end.”