Ringling Alumni Help Create Academy Award Winning Films 'Avatar' and 'Up'


    Ringling Alumni Help Create Academy Award Winning Films Avatar and Up
    March 11, 2010 - Ringling alumni are keeping close tabs to Hollywood these days – by working on Academy Award winning films.  Sunday night at the Oscars, 2 films, Avatar and Up, took home a total of 5 Academy Awards.  A combined total of 17 Ringling alumni put their creative minds to work on these two films.


    Avatar is the highly acclaimed film by famed director James Cameron.  Now the highest grossing film of all time (surpassing Cameron’s other masterpiece, Titanic), Avatar takes us to the planet of Pandora in the year 2154 where mining threatens the Na’vi tribe’s existence.  Shown widely in 3D, Avatar was written in 1995 by Cameron, who had no technological way to achieve his ideas at the time, so he tabled the script until 2005 when technology was finally able to do what he wanted - make extensive use of motion capture technology.  Cameron used this motion capture technology for bodily movements and facial expressions in the film.  Contrary to popular belief, Avatar is not really an animated film since it is 40% live action and 60% photorealistic CGI.

    At this year’s Academy Awards, Avatar collected three Oscars including Best Visual Effects, Art Direction, and Cinematography.  It was also nominated for Best Picture and Best Director.  There were 11 Ringling alumni that worked on Avatar:

    Jeff Baker, 2004, Computer Animation

    Rafael Burgos, 2004, Illustration

    Thelvin Cabezas, 2003, Computer Animation

    Scott Dace, 1999, Computer Animation

    Ryan Duncan, 2002, Computer Animation

    Shine Fitzner, 1994, Computer Animation

    Eric Grimenstein, 2004, Computer Animation

    Danny Keller, 1998, Computer Animation

    Stephen Pavelski, 1998, Computer Animation

    Jance Rubinchik, 2004, Computer Animation

    James Willingham, 2004, Computer Animation

    Erik Winquist, 1998, Computer Animation

    Up is director Pete Doctor’s second feature-length film (behind Monsters, Inc.) and features an elderly widower named Carl and a young, overeager, explorer named Russell, who fly to South America in a floating house suspended from helium balloons. Produced by Pixar Animation Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures, Up previously won Golden Globe Awards for Best Animated Feature Film and Best Original Score from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

    At this year’s Academy Awards, Up grabbed two Oscar awards for Best Animated Feature Film and Music (Original Score).  It was also nominated for Best Picture, making it only the second animated film in history to be nominated for this category.   These six Ringling alumni helped contribute to Up’s success:

    Lindsay Vander Galien, 2006, Computer Animation
    Nick Pitera, 2008, Computer Animation
    Katie Coyle, 2005, Computer Animation
    Gaston Ugarte, 2002, Computer Animation
    Luke Martorelli, 2000, Computer Animation
    Alonso Martinez, 2008, Computer Animation

    Congratulations to all alumni who had a hand in creating these two Oscar-winning films!