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Animation Ninja: Dimos Vrysellas

How did you become an animator?

As manufactured as this may all seem I can assure you it is the complete truth, as I remember it.

Growing up I wanted to be a cartoon character. I loved the imaginative world, the wonderful laughter and the seemingly over the top “physics” of the cartoon universe. I wanted to be Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Scooby-Doo, G.I. JOE and whatever else I was into those days. I didn’t just want to draw them, heck, I was doing stuff like that anyway. I loved to draw and that’s all I would do when I was a kid. NO! I wanted to BE them. Well, maturity and sensibility took over me as I “blossomed” into adolescence and sadly I realized I was STUCK in the real world. That’s when I turned the tides on REALITY and decided animation was what I wanted to do. I knew from a very early age, approximately 11-ish what I wanted to do and that was draw and bring life to cartoons. My life was pretty much all headed down that path from then on. I took as many art classes in high school no matter what they were geared towards, I drew on all my papers and notes, on every page and in EVERY class. Even math and science, which were wonderful for honing my skills as I got the most practice in those classes (hahahahaha), and I managed to impress a few folks as time went on.

At the age of 17, a high school art teacher realized I needed some extra help outside of the normal school system and asked me to enroll into a CO-Operative Training program where I went to work at an actual animation studio (thanks Bill McMullan). I did this for a semester and then I went on to work for this company part time for MANY years afterwards. This was the beginning of my career in animation. From then on I was more then hooked and knew full well there was NOTHING else in the world for me. Well, maybe brain surgery but my hands were way to shaky for that kind of work so I went with what I was good at and my shaky hands helped with. DRAWING! ;-)

How did you get your break into the industry and in particular DreamWorks?

Apart from the Co-Operative training which was the true beginning of my career, my big break came when DreamWorks SKG came calling in early 1995. That was the most amazing surprise of my professional life. I wasn’t even done college and I was offered a contract within days of meeting the DreamWorks representatives. I was in shock and disbelief. My family was so happy and proud and I was just frozen with amazement. Completely overjoyed! At the time DreamWorks literally JUST started but as most everyone knows it was started by the entertainment industry’s most respected film makers. I was one of the first 3 or so students DreamWorks hired from Sheridan College and I was within the first 100 to 200 employees there. I am still pinching myself to this day. Needless to say it was the BIGGEST break of my life and probably one that nothing else in my professional career can ever come close to.

What is the highlight of you career?

I would like to hope that hasn’t come yet! I mean my first film was “The Prince of Egypt” and I worked at DreamWorks for 9 years on ALL of there traditional films and their first in house CG feature “Shark Tale”. EVERY moment there for me was marvelous. But I don’t want that to stop so I am hoping I still have some great moments to come.

I couldn’t just pick one “event” or anything like that because there is really too many. I animated on several movies, mostly on main character teams. I worked with amazing artists including my most influential mentors and supervisors Darlie Brewster and James Baxter, I was asked to join a development team to help with building proprietary tools and systems and I was part of a family there. I made many friends and just loved it all. There isn’t just one part of it, so I would say my entire DreamWorks career from 1995 through 2004 was the highlight in my career to date.

Sadly, back in 2004 in the midst of production on “Shark Tale” I made the decision to resign and return home to raise our son around our families in Toronto. After many years away from my family and friends in Canada, I grew more and more homesick. It was the toughest and saddest thing I think I have EVER done and I really miss all my friends and co-workers at DreamWorks but I don’t regret the choice. For me, my wife and kids always come first and building a better life for them was (and still is) my priority. There’s really no other way to do that then around family, PERIOD!

What is the next step in your career?

I have already taken the “next step”. After working at several Canadian studios such as Nelvana and working some freelance, I decided it was time to start my own little production and servicing company. In 2005 I started Circus Ink Entertainment Ltd. with my brother Nick Vrysellas and our first clients were Nelvana Ltd. We helped with Character Animation on several high profile television series like “Miss Spider’s Sunny Patch Friends” and the “Handy Manny” series for Disney. We’ve also serviced other companies for commercial work and such. We’re still young and growing but we have a whole lot of experience guiding our way. In fact our Senior Producer and Consultant is Andrew Reid who has been in the Canadian Animation Industry since the early 70’s. He was also my very first boss when I worked for him while I was in the Co-Op training course I mentioned earlier.

I am also currently Mentoring at AnimationMentor.com as well and have been doing that for about 2 years or so. Now, that is a very rewarding step in my career! I never thought I would teach but it sort of fell into place and I have loved EVERY second of working with Bobby Beck and gang! This program is phenomenal and one I am very glad to be a part of. It is a great way to help spread the knowledge we “experienced” animators have attained over the years. We never had anything CLOSE to what AnimationMentor.com has provided their students with when I was studying and it is truly a great experience to be a part of.

I have also been known to take on some freelance work here and there. I like to keep doing projects on the side because I am a workaholic, which many folks, even my close friends find hard to believe (hahahahaha). If you ask my wife she’ll tell you I work too much. I don’t think I can be easily torn away from my computer or drawing pad. I need to keep animating, drawing or creating, somehow. I know it’s lame but that is the world I live in. ;-)

What do you foresee for the Canadian Animation Industry?

Well, that is definitely not a very easy question to answer. I think the international industry is doing great and there are more and more products and markets in the world that require animation in some form or other. Things internationally are looking great. Even domestically, there are studios opening up everywhere from coast to coast in Canada. Everything seems to be going positively up here.

Canada has always been in the forefront of the animation industry and provides the world with some of the top talents and best places to work. Not to mention the best technology, such as Maya and XSI which are the industries TOP applications for CG animation production and TOONBOOM for traditionally based animation. Canada is truly a power house for animation.

That being said, I fear that recent world wide economical instabilities and an over-saturation of the talent pool are bound for one of two things. An increase of demand and work coming this way or implosion underneath all it’s own weight. I am more of an optimist so I lean towards the positive side of the thinking process but it is important to know the risks too. When there is a lot of good there is potential for a lot of bad. I think balance is important and right now the industry is slightly unbalanced as I see it. But I am not a financial analyst or industry forecaster. I just do what I do best, create and animate. I love every minute of it and I am doing my best to keep doing what I love.

Can you tell us about Circus Ink and the AnimTools you are developing?

We’ve just recently started a software development and interactive media division for our company called FUNhouse Interactive. The idea to begin this division started from a tool I had designed called “ANIMTools” (now called “tradigiTOOLS”). These tools help CG animators using Maya, follow a more efficient workflow. It is based on the traditional way of working that many animators, such as myself were taught. These tools are similar to those that feature studios have developed and used in their CG projects. The tools I created were adapted, re-developed and perfected to suit the workflow I personally use and try to teach. The thinking behind these tools is simple. Animation has already been invented and the system almost perfected by the animators of the past. Since the introduction of computer animation MANY of these time proven methods and techniques have been left behind for reasons completely foreign to me. These tools help to standardize the workflow and simplify animation production. Most of all, “tradigiTOOLS” brings the fun back into animating in CG. For gosh sakes...100 years of animation workflow using traditional methods can’t be wrong. It just works!

We are pleased that AnimationMentor.com has endorsed “tradigiTOOLS” for their students education. We are also very pleased to report that studios and professionals all over the world are now starting to use “tradigiTOOLS” in productions and works that they are a part of. Our clients include studios like Elliott Animation Inc. in Toronto and world renowned animators like Jason Ryan. Not to mentioned, hundreds of professionals and students too.

There are other tools we are currently researching and developing but I can’t really say much about that right now. Things like this take time and we want to make sure we keep the quality and integrity of our products up to par with that of “tradigiTOOLS”, which has had over a year of research & development time before we released the tool publicly, earlier this year (2008). We are very excited about the future of our products.


How can Vancouver Animated News readers can get a DISCOUNT when purchasing tradigiTOOLS?

The sale is up and running effective immediately for your readers and friends. It is only open to SINGLE user licenses (Win, Mac and STUDIO single) and not the STUDIO multiple seat licenses. It's for 10% off and the coupon code is Pochat. It runs until the end of this month (April 30th 2008).

Hope that's cool. Cheers!

Dimos Vrysellas is an energetic Canadian Animator, he graduated from the Classical Animation Program at Sheridan College in 1995 and worked for DreamWorks Animation where he animated in both their 2D and 3D Animated Feature Films for almost a decade. Currently he teaches at Animation Mentor. Dimos' energy is the equivalent to a nuclear plant that contagiously spreads motivating students to persevere regardless the obstacles they are going through.

For more information please visit:

Circus Ink www.circusink.com
FUNhouse Interactive www.funhouseinteractive.biz
Personal Site www.dimos.ca

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Vancouver Animated News by Mario Pochat