Hollywood Animation Academy is leaping from the drawing board to live action in January with its first group of enrolled students. Founded by veteran director and animator Gavin Dell, the trade school is set to prepare students for jobs in the film, gaming, and television industry.
Dell, an Overland Park native, returned to Kansas City from the West Coast after working for 32 years as a director, animator, character development artist, and storyboard artist.
His credits include work on more than two-dozen shows and movies, such as “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Family Guy,” “Disenchantment,” “Scooby Doo”, and “The Looney Tunes Show.” He understood firsthand the growing demand for animators and artists and envisioned launching an academy in the Midwest.
He worked steadily over the past year to secure a location for the academy’s computer lab and facilities. An initial search in the Crossroads Arts District didn’t pan out. Then Dell learned about space available in the Centriq Training building near 92nd Street and State Line Road.
“I was referred to the Centriq building by the Missouri Small Business Development Center at UMKC,” Dell said. “Centriq had taken some of their classes online after the pandemic. We are a perfect fit for each other since we both teach a technical trade program in booming industries that don’t require a college degree.”
The academy occupies 1,000 square-feet with plans to add another classroom in fall of 2023. The building’s amenities were a draw, Dell said.
“They have a beautiful modern campus with breakrooms, kitchens, and an outdoor patio which is great for students,” he said. “Their classrooms are engineered for tech training and state-of-the-art wiring.”
The lab is equipped with “gaming computers that can run 3D software including Autodesk Maya and Unreal engine at full tilt,” Dell added. “Our desks include 22-inch drawing tablets and a 24-inch HD monitor on the side with LED keyboards to make things fun.”
Students will attend classes in person during the two-year program. Dell plans to add an online class for Introduction to Animation and Introduction to Storytelling next spring and summer.
“Both are amazing classes that give students a great opportunity to learn how animation works and what it would be like to be a Disney Story artist,” Dell said. “We plan to take students 14 and older with intermediate drawing ability for these courses. These are both fun and challenging enough to give a real taste of what it would be like to work as a professional animation artist.”
Click here to learn more about Hollywood Animation Academy.
Enrollment remains open until January 2023 with a maximum of 16 students per classroom. The next term for new students begins in fall with 15-week semesters.
Jason Lethcoe, the academy’s new full-time instructor, brings 35 years of experience as a veteran animator and director at Disney and Sony. Lethcoe has written and published nearly 20 books.
The film “Zoom” featuring Tim Allen is based on Lethcoe’s book, “Amazing Adventures from Zoom’s Academy.” Guest instructors also represent a bevy of talent with animation credits in film, gaming, and television.
“We are thrilled to have Jason here. He is fantastic with students,” Dell said. “Jason and I worked together on my first job as animators for Steven Spielberg and Tim Burton in the early ’90s. We also worked on the “Pirates of the Caribbean” at Disney when it was an animated movie. It feels somehow poetic that we are doing this school together.”
In addition to securing a location over the past year, Dell visited local schools to deliver presentations about careers in animation. He also worked through a detailed process to pass rigorous guidelines and obtain state certification for the academy.
“The state does not allow you to accept tuition until you pass their regulations and budget guidelines,” Dell said. “We also had to have a lease for a building in order to pass certification. It takes a lot of work to accomplish all of these things.”
The hard work has culminated in a student-focused trade school set to produce “the best program in the country for animation,” he said.
“We are always in touch with what is going on in the industry and adjusting the program to make it the best it can be,” Dell said. “We encourage students who are really serious about becoming a professional animation artist to contact us as soon as possible and get on our list.”