November 24, 2023
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Disney vet talks animation at CSUCI


Hollywood is reinventing the technology of visual effects each time a studio produces a new feature film.

That’s the view of Drew Tolman, a post-production supervisor at The Walt Disney Co. and veteran of the animation industry.

“Visual effects changes are so rapid that they are literally happening production by production,” she told members of the CSU Channel Islands Business & Technology Partnership at a Dec.  1 presentation on campus.

Tolman described the film industry’s transition to digital storyboards and digital camera positioning and a world where digital files move from Hollywood backlots to Japan or India for coloring and detail before they are emailed back for final editing.

But Tolman, a University of Massachusetts graduate whose credits include “Curious George,”  said innovation in Hollywood always comes with a hefty price.

It means pushing back hard against the same naysayers who fought against talkies in the movies.  Even the great Walt Disney himself doubted whether audiences would sit through a full-length animated feature before he made “Snow White.”

With the future of animated films in a state of technological flux, Tolman said it’s hard to see where the industry will head.  But some early signs indicate:

•Going forward, 3-D production is going to be a permanent feature of animation.  For one thing, it makes films much harder to pirate; for another, it gives animators new ways to work with characters and create what Tolman called “massive virtual worlds.”

•Digital distribution will cut costs for studios but also speed the production process by eliminating steps.  It also opens up home studios for post-production, said Tolman, who recently formed her own company, Beach Plum Media.

•Short-form productions will continue to thrive as ways for directors and producers  to “test ideas cheap” and also hone story-telling skills.

[Editor’s Note: After the CSUCI event, Tolman provided the  Business Times with her personal recipe for innovation.  It is reproduced below.]


 From the Kitchen of Drew Tolman

– Take 1 fresh perspective, 1 unique idea and 1 ripe question – BLEND


4 cups creativity

5 ounces of imagination

6 quarts of research, and

7 tablespoons of technology

-In a separate bowl, combine 8 handfuls of cousin Debbie (Downer’s) mix of: worst-case scenarios, back-up plans and exit strategies. CHOP WELL! If you don’t, your innovation will never rise.


9 teaspoons of continued education (preferably in the areas of art, science, business and law)

A splash of cash

Marketing, to taste

-And the final ingredient to make your innovation come out exactly as you imagine it, you’ll need:

12 dashes of determination

-Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve to the public!