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VIEW Conference 2019: Celebrating the Best in Animation, VFX and Visual Storytelling

Grab your notepad and fashionable wool scarf; a packed roster of talent led by Brad Bird, Dean DeBlois and Rob Legato will rub elbows and share insights at the digital media conference and symposium set for October 21-25 in Turin, Italy. 

Each year, packing a suitcase for my chronically memorable VIEW Conference Turin excursion is always a challenge. Italian fashion being what it is, I set aside all my bright colored dress shirts for a selection that skews rather bleak: dark grey, darker grey, charcoal grey and black. I throw in one lavender Polo just for giggles, though you and I both know I’ll never wear it outside my hotel room. Not even to breakfast. There’s something uniquely and humorously disapproving in an Italian’s glare at an outfit assembled by an obvious amateur; that quick, disinterested glance followed by a hasty sigh and dismissive nod. Never one to fret about my wardrobe other than bemoan the sad fact I somehow always bring enough socks to don a fresh pair every six hours, I nevertheless make a mental note to leave the brown dress shoes at home. Better yet, just throw them out.

Frets over improper attire aside, the VIEW Conference is unlike any other event on my calendar. For years now, every October I’ve written with gushing admiration for conference director Dr. Maria Elena Gutierrez, her warm smile, boundless energy and “yes we can” attitude that, when bundled with an invitation to the iconic Baroque host city, generate a perpetually impressive program of top industry speakers, brought together for an exciting week of presentations, meetings and polite double cheek kisses. And every year, I marvel at how she’s once again assembled what couldn’t possibly be an even greater lineup than the previous year’s; somehow, it seems, either by accident or sheer luck, she’s pulled it off yet again.

Well, the conference’s continued growth, both in size and stature, is neither accidental nor lucky. Last year’s VIEW relocated to the Officine Grandi Piparazioni, or OGR. Once a 190,000 square meter former railroad vehicle repair complex that first opened in 1895, the giant brick facility was eventually destined for the wrecking ball until it was saved and turned into a 20,000 square meter multi-purpose Innovation Hub and Arts Center. VIEW 2018 was palpably different; it felt bigger, weightier, more substantial. It seemed Dr. Gutierrez’s years of struggling against budget and political challenges had finally been rewarded with an event that had, in a sense, finally “arrived,” in stature and importance.

Happy to say, this year feels even more substantial. This year, more than any I can remember, the program started taking shape much earlier, a diverse list of artists, technologists and academics that grew larger and more impressive with every announcement. The breadth of topics, the depth of experience, the roster of participants eventually expanded into the largest ever, an exciting selection of experts in every corner of the animation, VFX, game, VR and transmedia space.

A number of speakers return to VIEW this year, a testament to their recognition of the event’s standing and profile within the industry. Or, their appreciation of the city’s sublime agnolotti and pumpkin risotto.  Maybe a little of both.

Three-time Oscar winner Rob Legato, fresh off his role as VFX supervisor on Jon Favreau and Disney’s enormous box office hit, The Lion King, returns this year. Legato presented Favreau and Disney’s The Jungle Book at VIEW back in 2016. Conrad Vernon is back, presenting his new animated feature, The Addams Family; he presented his R-Rated animated romp, Sausage Party, at VIEW 2016. Maureen Fan and Eric Darnell, CEO and chief creative officer, respectively, at Baobab Studios, have been to VIEW a number of times; they will share their vast experience in storytelling within immersive and interactive environments.

Oscar-winning PDI co-founder, animation industry pioneer and games industry veteran, Glenn Entis, who has been wowing VIEW audiences for years, returns for what seems like the 40th time; Rob Bredow, SVP, executive creative director and head of ILM, is also back on what seems like an annual Italian pilgrimage, this time with an even bigger title and set of studio responsibilities.

ILM animation supervisors Hal Hickel and Glen McIntosh return, as do Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino and tech pioneer Tom Wujec.

--- Watch AWN interviews with past VIEW Conference presenters on AWN’s YouTube Channel ---

But, even more impressive (if that’s even possible) is the list of new speakers, representing top studios and projects many of which are still in theatres. Feast your eyes on some of what’s in store next week in Turin…

Brad Bird

Bird, to the uninitiated, is the two-time Oscar-winning writer, director, animator and voice actor behind a number of hugely successful, fan favorite animated and live-action hits, including The Incredibles and its sequel, Incredibles 2, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and Ratatouille. In some circles, folks consider his first feature, the 2D classic, The Iron Giant, to be one of the best animated films ever made.

In addition to his Monday Masterclass, “The Animator as Actor,” Bird will deliver a Keynote: “Setting the Table: The Art of the Movie Opening.”

Ralph Eggleston

If James Brown was known as the hardest working man in show business, then to me, Ralph Eggleston is the hardest working man in animation. He’d probably blush and say, “Aw, come on now” to such admonition, but as far as I'm concerned, t’s a fact. Eggleston, the prolific production designer, art director and Oscar-winning director of the animated short, For the Birds, will be honored this year with VIEW’s 2019 Visionary Award. Since joining Pixar in 1993, Eggleston has worked on many of the studio’s biggest films, starting with 1995’s Toy Story, the world’s first fully CG animated feature.  Eggleston has won three Annie Awards (Inside OutFinding Nemo, and Toy Story), and been nominated for three Art Directors Guild awards (Incredibles 2Wall-E, and The Incredibles), in addition his Oscar. In 2018, he was honored by ASIFA-Hollywood with their Winsor McCay Award for career achievement in animation.

In addition to presenting the Masterclass “Challenging Changes: The Parr Home Renovations,” Eggleston will deliver the Keynote, “Character in World Building.”

Dean DeBlois

A Golden Globe winner and two-time Oscar nominee, DeBlois came onto the mainstream animation radar in a big way with the 2002 Disney release of Lilo & Stitch, which he co-wrote and directed with Chris Sanders, a funny, emotionally uplifting and beautifully animated film that many consider his finest work and one of the best animated features the studio has produced in the last 30 years. He also created Lilo & Stitch: The Series with Sanders, which ran from 2003-2006, before leaving Disney for DreamWorks Animation, where the pair co-wrote and directed How to Train Your Dragon, released in 2010 to critical and box office success. DeBlois went on to write and direct the next two films in the Dragon saga himself, culminating in How to Train Your Dragon: Hidden World, which was released this past February. The three Dragon films have generated more than $1.6 billion at the global box office as well as a number of successful animated TV series.

In just the last few weeks, DeBlois has been the focus of two major news announcements: he’ll produce and direct the live-action adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel, “Treasure Island,” for Universal as well as write and direct the live-action Micronauts feature for Paramount / Hasbro, set for release June 4, 2021.

VIEW attendees will get to hear him discuss the third and final Dragons film in his Keynote, “Inside the Hidden World.”

Jill Culton

Culton is the writer and director of DreamWorks Animation and Pearl Studio’s animated feature film co-production, Abominable, now playing in theatres across the globe. A CalArts grad, Culton, who also directed Open Season (2006), Sony’s first animated feature, started her career as a storyboard artist and animator at Pixar, where she worked on Toy Story, Toy Story 2, and A Bug's Life, in addition to co-writing the original treatment for, and serving as head of development on, Monsters, Inc. She had stints at Turner Features as the directing animator on Cats Don't Dance and at ILM, where she co-developed Curious George. When DreamWorks invited her to take the helm of an unnamed “Yeti” project, she found the perfect opportunity to develop an animated film with a strong, female lead more representative of the type character she would have related more to as a kid than the fairy tale princesses she routinely saw in films and on TV. 

Abominable is Culton’s unique tale of a teenage girl, Yi, struggling with the recent death of her father, who stumbles upon a young Yeti named Everest and soon finds herself on an epic, 2,000-mile journey to reunite the magical creature with his family.  At VIEW, Culton will take the audience behind the scenes of the film with her Keynote: “Reaching the Summit of Everest”

Peter Ramsey

Ramsey, alongside Bob Persichetti and Rodney Rothman, took home an Oscar this past February for directing Sony Pictures Animation's groundbreaking animated feature, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse; his work on the film was also awarded an Annie Award for Outstanding Achievement for Directing in an Animated Feature Production.

Looking back, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was so much more than a cool shiny new animated toy, though we all love playing with something new in the animation space every so often. It was a tremendously risky film; its true uniqueness lies in actually getting made. What gets lost in all the justifiable hoopla surrounding how “cool” the film was is how fundamentally difficult it was to weave together a coherent, compelling story with comic book graphic-inspired visuals, two separate but equally complex creative worlds no one had ever done in quite the same way. The technical complexity of the film alone, the “break the system” at all costs bravado of the animation production team as they developed and then mastered new and unique CG animation techniques, is what really sets this film apart. That and Spider-Ham.

Ramsey previously directed Rise of the Guardians (2012) at DreamWorks Animation as well as handled story artist duties on several of the studio’s features. The director has an extensive live-action background as well, having worked as a storyboard artist on films like Backdraft, Boyz n the Hood, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Minority Report, Cast Away, Independence Day, Being John Malkovich, Fight Club and Hulk. Ramsey also served as second unit director on live-action feature films including Godzilla, Tank Girl, and Poetic Justice.

In his inaugural VIEW appearance, Ramsey will present a Masterclass, “A Storytelling Masterclass,” as well as his Keynote: “What Story Are You Telling?”

Jenelle Croshaw Ralla

Croshaw Ralla was responsible for helping bring a youthful, de-aged Samuel L. Jackson / Agent Nick Fury to appreciative audiences in last year’s hit Marvel superhero flick, Captain Marvel. As additional and 2nd unit VFX supervisor for Marvel Films, she prepped and worked on 40 or so 2nd unit shooting days in addition to helping overall VFX supervisor Christopher Townsend manage the film’s entire VFX production schedule.

In a previous stint at Digital Domain, Croshaw Ralla worked as a VFX supervisor on the pioneering digital aging film, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, as well as the digital Tupac concert performance, Tupac: Coachella and the Spike Jonze feature, Her.  

In an exclusive video interview with AWN shot this past May, she detailed her work on Captain Marvel and the challenges faced taking Agent Fury several digital decades back in time. She also shared insights on the challenges she faces charting a successful career in visual effects as a woman in a traditionally male-dominated industry.

This year at VIEW, she’ll be presenting her work on Captain Marvel in her talk, “Vers, Fury and Furry creatures, the VFX of Captain Marvel.”

Alex Schwartz

Another film now playing in theatres is MGM’s animated feature, The Addams Family, a satirical, inverted look at the ideal American family that features one of the world’s most original and humorously droll set of comedic characters. Sharing speaking duties on the keynote, “The Addams Family: Re-introducing a Classic,” is the film’s producer, Alex Schwartz, who along with Vernon, the film’s director, will talk about this uniquely macabre and eccentric clan.

Schwartz is a longtime studio executive and film producer, who for over 25 years, has focused on high concept movies in both live-action and CG. Before a recent two-year stint as head of production for Alpha Animation, the L.A.-based division of Alpha Group, one of China’s most well-known animation studios, she spent many years at DreamWorks Animation. As head of development, she oversaw a number of films including How to Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda 2, Madagascar 3, Shrek 4, Puss In Boots, The Croods and Home. She also produced the Rob Minkoff animated feature, Mr. Peabody & Sherman. Prior to DreamWorks, she was head creative at Walden Media, where she produced and supervised a number of VFX-driven films including The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Charlotte’s Web, Journey To The Center of The Earth 3D and Bridge to Terabithia.

Sergio Pablos

In a little over three weeks, the world will finally get to see writer and director Sergio Pablos’ enchanting and exquisitely animated holiday tale, Klaus, which he so eloquently teased this past June during an Annecy Festival presentation. Almost a decade in the making, Klaus is the story of a young Scandinavian postman named Jesper, voiced by a hilarious Jason Schwartzman. In the film, Jesper, a rather lazy, privileged young man, is sent against his will to bring the postal service to a contentious village in the cold north, where he meets a mysterious, white-bearded toymaker named Klaus.

Last week, he shared with AWN that the film is finally here.  “It’s definitely exciting!” he exclaimed. “I know that people who have followed Klaus from the beginning have been anxious about the long wait as well, so we could not be more excited about finally sharing the trailer. The wait is almost over!” In his VIEW presentation, “Sergio Pablos' Klaus: Bringing 2D Forward,” Pablos will discuss the genesis of the film; his decision to work in 2D versus 3D CG; and how his team developed sophisticated lighting technology to create a new type of 2D animation that captures the beauty of hand-drawn animation in ways never before seen.

Pablos also wrote Smallfoot (2018) and Despicable Me (2010), and was a supervising animator on Tarzan, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, and Treasure Planet, among others. He was nominated twice for Annie Awards for Character Design work on Rio and Character Animation work on Treasure Planet.

Sidney Kombo-Kintombo

What respectable gathering of animation and VFX luminaries would be complete without someone presenting Avengers: Endgame, the most successful film in cinema history? Well, taking on that job is Weta animation supervisor and first time VIEW presenter Sidney Kombo-Kintombo. His talk, “Weta Digital Presents the Visual Effects of Marvel Studios' Avengers: Endgame,” will focus on his studio’s work creating the epic third-act battle, that features almost every hero in the MCU, including a brief appearance by Howard the Duck, and showcases the craft and spectacle audiences have loved throughout this extraordinary run of films. Kombo-Kintombo will also share how Weta assembled the expansive collection of heroes, environments, and VFX for the finale, giving every hero character their moment and every moment a purpose.

In his role as an animation supervisor, Kombo-Kintombo works to ensure his team of animators delivers state-of-the-art results, whether through performance capture, keyframe animation, or a combination of both. Kombo-Kintombo joined Weta in 2015, working as a senior animator on The Jungle Book before working on War for the Planet of the Apes and Avengers: Infinity War as an animation supervisor. Prior to Weta, he worked at ILM and Framestore in London on films like Gravity, Guardians of the Galaxy, The BFG, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Paddington. In his free time, he devotes a considerable amount of his efforts building a CG education program for African youth.

Steve Goldberg

Frozen 2, the highly anticipated sequel to Disney’s enormously successful, two-time Oscar-winning 2013 animated musical adventure, Frozen, hits theatres this coming November 12.  Powered by the Oscar-winning song, “Let It Go,” Frozen broke numerous box office records on its way to becoming the highest grossing animated feature of all time, generating just under $1.3 billion worldwide. In his presentation, “Creating the Elements of Frozen 2,” Frozen 2 VFX supervisor Steve Goldberg, coincidentally the VFX supervisor on the 2013 blockbuster, will show how the elements – fire, wind, earth and water – were created through a combination of storytelling and technology. The lucky audience will surely get an extended look at footage and visual materials from the soon to be released movie long before anyone else gets a peak.

Goldberg is a computer animation veteran who has been with Walt Disney Animation Studios for over 25 years. He began his career with Disney in 1990 as the CG supervisor on Aladdin, supervising CG on a number of films including Pocahontas and Fantasia 2000. As a VFX supervisor, he worked on films like Chicken Little, Meet the Robinsons, Tangled, as well as Frozen. He launched his career at Robert Abel and Associates and Pacific Data Images. While at Pacific Data Images, Goldberg produced and directed the award-winning short Locomotion, considered one of the earliest examples of computer character animation.

Go behind the scenes with Walt Disney Animation Studios VFX Supervisor Steve Goldberg to learn how the elements of Frozen 2 – fire, wind, earth and water – were created through a combination of storytelling and technology.

Well, there you have it. Next week, the industry converges on Turin, along with my suitcase filled to the brim with dress socks. I’ll be there, warm toes and all.

You can download the full program here or visit the conference website for full details.  

The international VIEW Conference, Italy’s leading event for Computer Graphics, Interactive and Immersive Storytelling, Animation, Visual Effects, Games, and VR, AR, and Mixed Reality, brings top professionals from those fields to the beautiful baroque city of Turin, Italy for a week of talks, presentations, and workshops.

This year’s conference takes place from October 21 to 25 in the exciting new OGR venue. Tickets are still available - AWN readers get a 25% ticket discount - use code "VIEW_AWN."

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Twitter: @viewconference

Dan Sarto's picture

Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.