“Thrive” is the theme for the SIGGRAPH 2019 tech conference (July 28-August 1), which gears up Monday at the LA Convention Center with a keynote by Marvel executive producer Victoria Alonso about the importance of diversity in digital storytelling. Meanwhile, several CG awards contenders will be deconstructed, including the record-breaking “Avengers: Endgame,” “The Lion King,” “Toy Story 4,” “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” Season 8 of “Game of Thrones,” “Alita: Battle Angel,” and Netflix’s “The Umbrella Academy.”
Disney shorts will additionally be represented by Pixar’s “Purl,” Kristen Lester’s Best in Show animation winner about female empowerment in a male-dominated workplace, and Disney’s second VR venture, “a kite’s tale,” about the clash between a puppy and a dragon, from effects animator Bruce Wright (“Frozen 2”).
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“The concept of ‘thrive’ is multifaceted,” said conference chair Mikki Rose, Fur technical director at Blue Sky Studios (“Spies in Disguise”). “For some in our community, it might mean to experience the latest advancements in a given technology; for others, it could be the chance to connect and create alongside like-minded professionals. I invite our community to challenge and transform the future of computer graphics and interactive techniques by sharing their work this summer.”
The production sessions have become a popular fixture of SIGGRAPH and this year’s advancements tout Jon Favreau’s game-changing “The Lion King,” with its virtual shoot and life-like animated characters and environments, courtesy of MPC Film. Production VFX supervisor Rob Legato (the Oscar-winning “The Jungle Book”) and six-time Oscar-nominated cinematographer Caleb Deschanel will lead the discussion.
For Marvel’s “Endgame,” the global collaboration focused on creating Smart Hulk, tweaking Thanos, improving de-aging, and expanding the scope of MCU world-building. Joining Alonso and her Marvel VFX colleagues will be supervisors from Digital Domain, Industrial Light & Magic, Weta Digital, and The Third Floor.
On the animation side, Pixar’s “Toy Story 4” showcased a badass Bo Peep and an incredibly-detailed antique store. The Pixar crew will discuss how the sets, characters, cinematography, and pipeline were customized for Woody’s final adventure. And for the “Dragon” finale, “The Hidden World,” the DreamWorks crew will explore a new software and pipeline paradigm shift to create “controlled chaos” with physically based rendering and improved simulation capabilities.
SIGGRAPH will also offer its second Inclusion and Diversity Summit on July 28 (chaired by Tony Baylis, director for the Office of Strategic Diversity and Inclusion programs at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory). The day-long workshop will explore the benefits of diversifying the industry and reviewing strategies to create a roadmap to facilitate change within companies and studios specializing in computer graphics tech and content.
In addition, the Women in Animation (WIA) summit will take place on July 29, covering such topics as supporting students and expanding chapters across the U.S. and Canada. The highlight, though, will be the key findings of the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s landmark study, “Increasing Inclusion in Animation,” delivered by Dr. Stacy L. Smith, founder and director of the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative.
The study found that while women continue to gain footholds in the industry, making up roughly half of the executives in animation, and fully half of the most powerful positions in major film animation companies and studios, only 3% of animated film directors over the last 12 years were female. In television, the study reported that an analysis of popular animated TV programs from 2018 showed that only 13% of episodes had female directors. In addition, only one female film director and three female TV directors were women from underrepresented racial/ethnic backgrounds.