Day 6: A113 Series: Teddy Newton

In the summer of 2010, I attended the annual Siggraph Conference that was being held in Los Angeles. My goal was to attend the conference, visit CalArts, and see Hollywood in the span of a week. This trip would be the first out to California, and step one of my five-year plan of positioning myself for a career in animation. 

Just as a recap, in the summer of 2004, I had a conversation with my wife about reentry into the world of animation and going back to school to get my degree for it. This decision came shortly after viewing the Disney/Pixar film the Incredibles. It was something very magical about what I was witnessing as director Brad Bird weaved a narrative of dealing with choices. In the film the question of, does one have to sacrifice one's aspersions to fulfill one's responsibilities to their family. A narrative I've been dealing with since meeting my wife and starting our family.  

Fast forward back to that summer of 2010; I had decided to attend the SIGGRAPH conference as a way to meet people in the industry. I had read the book The Pixar Touch, that John Lasseter was hired on the spot after reconnecting with Ed Catmull while attending the conference on the Queen Mary back in 1983. I figured I could at least make some connections while attending the panels being given.

It was a Wednesday, and I had planned on skipping out of the after the morning panels, to head up to CalArts. Unfortunately, I had poorly planned the excursion and was forced to scrap the trip and settled for the afternoon panels. What I didn't know was that with that change of plan, my world would be changed by an unexpected meeting.

I was attending the Stereoscopic panel on the Making of Day and Night. Afterward, I approached supervising TD Michael Fu to thank him for the lecture and to have him sign my Art of Pixar Shorts book. After a brief dialogue on the film's impact on me, he asked if I would like to meet the director. After waiting for a couple of minutes, it was my turn to shake hands with Teddy Newton. He was very friendly in introducing himself, and asking my opinion on the film. He asked what I was doing at the conference, and I explained that I was there to see what the conference was about since I had read about it in The Pixar Touch. I informed him that I was a student and spoke with him about my aspirations of working for Disney as an animator and showed him some my drawings on my iPad.

The conversation led to me explaining that I had planned on checking out CalArts legendary character animation program. At that moment, he paused and informed me that "there's a small school in the Northern California neighborhood of Rockridge. A school which for the past two years had been training animators in the same manner that CalArts was. This school is the California College of the Arts, and with what I see here, you might have an excellent chance of being accepted." We shook hands, and he gave me his business card and said: "you've made a contact."

I immediately picked up my iPhone and scheduled a meeting/campus tour for that following Friday. If it had not been for that chance encounter I doubt that I would be entering into the opportunity that lies before me.

Day & Night director Teddy Newton at Siggraph 2010. 

Day & Night director Teddy Newton at Siggraph 2010. 

Here's a great write-up from the good people over at Pixar Talk.

Teddy Newton was born in Encino, CA, but grew up in Dana Point, along the California coastline. He was inspired by the drawings of Al Hirschfeld and early Warner Bros. animation. Teddy dropped out of CalArts in the early 90s and spent some time at Disney doing story sketch work on Pocahontas, Fantasia 2000, Runaway Brain, Mulan and Hercules. Teddy opted to leave Disney to pursue more creative opportunities.

Teddy conceived the characters for DreamWorks Interactive’s Cooper McQ Breaks Thru. Other early works include writing and storyboarding an entire episode of the Emmy-nominated television show Dexter’s Lab and doing inspirational boards and story development for Nickelodeon’s first animated feature, The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales.

Teddy formed a partnership with composer Michael Giacchino to make animated films, but they did not have the capital to see it through. Teddy then moved on to Warner Bros Feature Animation and he partnered with Brad Bird on developing the story and characters for The Iron Giant.

He co-wrote and produced the live action feature The Trouble with Lou which was screened at the Slamdance Festival in 2001. This was followed by the animated (and very adult) Boys Night Out, which Teddy wrote, co-directed and handled the art direction. It paid off as Boys Night Out received an Annie Award nomination for Outstanding Achievement in an Animated Short Subject.

In 2002, he joined Pixar and became the character designer for Brad Bird’s The Incredibles. Here’s what he said, as part of the production notes, about creating these now iconic characters “Brad would simply describe the characters to me-he wouldn’t use too many adjectives, but he would often do an impression or a voice for them. Sometimes the voice alone would put enough pictures and ideas in my head. It’s like when you listen to the radio and you start to imagine what the person would look like. You get inspired and everything starts to take shape.”

Teddy stayed in the world of The Incredibles as he co-wrote the Jack-Jack Attack short based on one of his drawings of Jack-Jack that Brad loved.

He partnered with Brad Bird again on Ratatouille and helped with character design on the amazing end credits (with production design by Nate Wragg and Bob Scott/Scott Morse on backgrounds). This continued on the bonus features of Ratatouille with director Jim Capobianco's Your Friend the Rat, as Teddy "brand of humor" aided in the gags and keyed out a lot of the animation for the hilarious short.

Most recently Teddy designed Alec and Presto for Doug Sweetland’s 2008 short Presto. The decision was made that the characters would have an iconic look that viewers would immediately recognize and Teddy delivered on this promise in spades. Teddy also contributed character designs to Peter Sohn’s 2009 short, Partly Cloudy.

Teddy wrote and directed the Oscar nominated Pixar short, Day & Night, which played theatrically with Toy Story 3. The short also won both a VES and an ANNIE for outstanding short.

Newton was slated to be working on an personal project at Pixar, but it seems that he has since left the studio and was last seen on the Twitter account of Lino DiSalvo @LinoD, with fellow ex-Pixarian John Kahrs @john_kahrs on the Paramount lot. Hum...