Friday, February 22, 2013

AutoDesk SketchBook’s FebTor 2013 - (Part 1)

A few weeks ago, I received an email invitation from Chris Cheung, Product Line Manager for SketchBook Pro by Autodesk.  He was planning a sequel to the ‘SketchBook Toronto’ event that took place in March 2012 at Autodesk’s Toronto office.  Chris called this year’s event “FEBTOR 2013.”

Now, I’ve previously attended events hosted by other software companies, but they’ve been little more than glorified commercials for the product line.  Rather than going home inspired, you wish you could have pressed “skip” on your DVR and saved a valuable day.

Forget the skip button with Chris and his team at Autodesk.  To them, the most important ingredients are the people.  And their events reflect this, from start to “finish.” (I use quotes there because the events really are just a starting point).

The original event was themed “Inspiration” and it had an amazing lineup of speakers, including newly published children’s book illustrator, Debbie Ridpath Ohi, who was incredibly kind to invite me as a guest.  Debbie has a great reflection of the entire day on her blog and photos on Flickr.  And I highly recommend that you also check out her amazing work!

What I remembered most about the first event was the overall level of positive energy.  Throughout the day, I had the pleasure of meeting many talented artists, including both aspiring and professional cartoonists, and so, there was no question about accepting Chris’s invitation to attend FEBTOR 2013.

After taking a few days to reflect, I still feel very fortunate to have attended.

The theme for this year’s event was “Storytelling,” something entirely relatable and relevant to any cartoonist.  The diversity of the speakers kept each presentation fresh and inspirational, while complementary.

I tried my best to tweet photos during the day, but I also scratched a modest handful of notes during the presentations.  Rather than keep them all to myself, I'd like to share them with you...

My notes from FEBTOR 2013 at Autodesk SketchBook.

Pixar Story Artist

What better way to start a series of presenters on “Storytelling” than a story artist from the world famous studio where their mantra is, “Story is King.”

Alex opened by introducing us to a few of his favourite movies as a kid.  He joked about how, as a boy, he fell in love with Lea Thompson in Back to The Future, yet this romance was short-lived after seeing her in Howard the Duck.  Similarly Nala in Disney’s Lion King and Ariel in The Little Mermaid didn’t seem as appealing in their poorly written animated sequels.  As funny as it sounds, the quality of a film’s story had an affect on how attracted he was to the female leading roles -- animated or animal!

FEBTOR 2013 presentation sketch from Alex Woo
Pixar Story Artist, Alex Woo, presenting at SketchBook's FEBTOR 2013.

Alex then delved into the story process involved in creating an animated feature film, including the creative problem solving that takes place involving plot, dialogue, and even the overall theme.  An interesting example was how one of Alex’s high school memories inspired one of the most memorable lines in Disney-Pixar’s WALL•E, where the Captain says, “I don’t want to survive. I want to live.”

For those who haven't seen the movie (you should!!), here's a clip of the scene that I found on YouTube...

But WHY is story King?

According to Alex Woo, it comes down to global themes (ex. power and love).  The values presented in stories reflect the values of a society.  A society’s culture shapes the way people think.  On a more local level, the stories are relatable, even to children.  They invoke empathy.  Stories are about human relationships.  And human relationships give meaning to our lives.