Animate means "to
give life to." Offering the latest in computer animation technology,
Palos Verdes on the NET does more than supply equipment and training—it
gives life to the dreams of young filmmakers like Derrick Auyoung, 19,
and Andy Huang, 16, who just wrapped their first fully animated short
film, "Kitchen Katastrophe."
It took the teenagers just over a year to complete the film affectionately
called "KK" around the bustling computer center located in
Rancho Palos Verdes. Derrick and Andy are quick to share credit with
others, including their co-producer Juan Añorga and Avid ace
David Wadsworth, who taught them to use the editing software that is
the standard in Hollywood. About a dozen interns assisted with modeling
all the characters appearing in the nine-minute film.
Derrick and Andy estimate that roughly 1,000 hours of work went into
the finished product. They began work on it last summer, but once school
started, they had to balance it with homework and other activities.
Derrick, a UCLA student, often drove in on weekends to work with Andy,
a junior at Peninsula High School.
"It was originally planned
as our summer project, but all the animation took longer than we expected
so it ended up stretching until this summer," Andy says.
"It’s like a gradual
ending," adds Derrick, "because we’ve been working on it so
long. When it was done, it was like, ‘Wow, we’re finished!’"
Filled with action and comedy,
"Kitchen Katastrophe" tells the story of a frantic fork who
must rely on his friends to rescue him from certain death in the microwave
oven where he was inadvertently placed. Various utensils and appliances,
including Mr. Blender and Toaster, hurry to spring him from his cell
before catastrophe strikes.
Andy says they chose this
subject matter because of its universal appeal. "We wanted to bring
to life all the utensils and stuff," he explains. "We just
wanted to see how far we could take the animation."
Although most of the animation
work was executed using Maya 2.5—the software used by big special effects
production companies such as DreamWorks—the young artists also created
detailed drawings of the kitchen from different perspectives.
"It took a long time
to model the whole kitchen," Derrick says. "We wanted to make
it look convincing."
They drew many of the film’s
major players, borrowing other images from a visual dictionary. They
set up a makeshift Foley stage (soundstage) and recorded sound effects,
using pots, pans, appliances and utensils from home. Derrick did the
"Originally, there was
no dialogue, but we thought it would add character," Andy says.
They also created storyboards—67
in all—which they had the opportunity to show at DreamWorks last summer
during a field trip to the Glendale studio. The storyboards contain
intricate drawings of individual shots as well as story notes, like
one describing the spoon as "dejected with failure."
Derrick says they learned
a lot while making the short sci-fi film, "Just in Time,"
in 1999. "This one took longer than ‘Just in Time’ because we designed
everything. We put more thought into story and character design,"
"Art is a really big
part of this," says Andy, who has been drawing since age 2. His
mother, Eleanor, says his early drawings of elephants and castles alerted
his parents to his gift. Later, he developed an interest in puppetry
that helped him to see—and design—objects in 3-D. Eleanor says she and
her husband are very proud of their son’s achievement. "We’re very
excited about their new short film. Considering their age and limited
experience, it’s very well done," she says.
"What we appreciate
is the opportunity at PVNET for Andy to learn different software and
to have the opportunity to draw what’s on his mind," she continues.
Yet Andy emphasizes that
the software is only one half of the equation. The purpose of animation,
he says, is to tell good stories. "Unless you have the concepts
behind the work, it’s meaningless. The stories and ideas behind it are
the most important part," he says. "Animation is just a tool
to tell your story."
Adds Derrick, "The animation
department here encourages kids to think creatively and interpret ideas
"We’ve created an environment
where kids with an interest in computer animation can experiment and
pursue their creative ideas," says Ted Vegvari, director of PVNET.
Derrick is too modest to
call himself an "animation expert," but everyone at the center
agrees that he is. He does admit that he taught himself computer animation
through research, online tutorials and experimentation.
"I think about it all
the time—making movies. After taking an animation class, your whole
way of thinking changes," Derrick explains. "You watch the
way people walk to get a feel for the movement."
Andy says "Kitchen Katastrophe"
was inspired by computer-animated films like "Toy Story" and
other Pixar productions. Andy also cites "Wallace and Gromit"
and "The Nightmare Before Christmas" as major inspirations.
Derrick discovered his calling, he says, while watching the first "Jurassic
Now that they’ve finished
the animated short, both boys are eager to work on their own projects.
Derrick has already built an animated Tyrannosaurus rex.
"It was my dream to
do this. I’ve wanted to build a T. rex ever since I was 11 years
old," he says, beaming at his creation. "I’ve fulfilled that
The complete "Kitchen
Katastrophe" crew includes: Juan Añorga, Derrick Auyoung,
Kurt Burian, Alex Gold, Andy Huang, Elyse Lluncor, Diviya Loomba, Bryan
Lovell, Austin Norris, Drew Ruderman, Skyler Ruderman, George Sato,
Betsy Smit and Casey Wixted.
For more information about
PVNET’s animation program or future screenings of "Kitchen Katastrophe,"
call 541-7992 or visit www.palosverdes.com/animation.