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Come PLAY at the Studio: Creative Juices 2019

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FableVision’s annual Creative Juices Art Show is back, and this year, we’re having a play-date at the studio! The theme for 2019 is PLAY, and our team has spent the last few months creating artwork, games, interactives, food, and more centered around this theme. We have over thirty artists and makers—ranging from FableVision staff to freelancers to former interns and friends—displaying their work. The studio has been hard at work to ensure that all the projects are in place and everything is ready for the night of the show.

Continue reading for a play-by-play from three of this year’s event organizers: Christina Kelly, Production Designer, Hannah O’Neal, Lead Animator, and Bob Flynn, Director of Art and Animation. And don’t forget to RSVP here to save your spot!

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What is the history of Creative Juices? How did it start, and what was the inspiration behind it?
Hannah:
It came from this idea that we wanted to show the creative activities we do outside of work. We had a blog that we used to showcase our personal work and inspire each other, and we called it Creative Juices. Bob even designed a logo for it, and we still use that same logo today! We decided in 2010 or so to branch out from the blog and actually do an art show. Just like the blog, the show would be open to everyone in the studio to exhibit, not just artists. At first we were going to do something in a gallery space in town, but we decided to do it in our own studio space instead. That’s how the Creative Juices Art Show first came to be!

Bob: Everything that Hannah said. Keith Zulawnik, myself, and Jay LaCouture had been attending art shows at local galleries and figured, why don’t we do something like this? The inspiration behind the name came from a phrase Peter H. Reynolds was known to say: “getting our creative juices flowing.” It took a lot of work to get the first show in place, but each year we take advantage of what we learn from previous years.

What went into planning this event?
Hannah:
Though the art team spearheads the planning, we had to put our heads together with the marketing team to work on scheduling, branding, and outreach for the show. The art team takes on the role of finding and organizing people to participate and, with the marketing team, designs and prepares all our lovely labels, lanyards, and other print materials. Preparing the space is a combination of everyone pitching in and putting up their creative pieces and prepping the space for maximum fun and enjoyment.

How did you pick this year’s theme, and why is it important?
Bob:
I believe Christina and I came up with it together. We were tossing around ideas. I’m always searching for something simple that can be interpreted a number of ways. The idea of PLAY is synonymous with the spirit of the studio. You learn best when you play—where you’re allowed to make mistakes, start over, and improvise on perceived accidents. I feel my best when I’m in play mode.

Christina: Play is such a fun word. There are so many different things you think of when you hear it. It also allowed us to branch out from the usual 2D art we create at the studio and also make games and other types of projects!

What kind of work will we see at the show? Who is displaying?
Christina:
Anything you can think of. Art, poems, food, music, games. There’s going to be a really fun variety.

Bob: We have freelancers and staff who are working on games, which syncs up nicely with the theme. And the children of a few of our staff members are also displaying work.

Hannah: We’re lucky to be a studio with so many talented people, from all kinds of backgrounds and expertise. This is the night everyone gets flex their creative muscles in the many ways we have to make something creative. So we’re going to see all KINDS of things, not just art on the walls. It’s pretty exciting!

What are you most excited about for the art show?
Hannah:
Filling the walls and rooms with our creative spirit! And sharing that with some of the most talented and creative people in our area! Over the years our Art Show has become an event where you can’t help but run into some of the finest creative minds in our industry, many of whom are our collective friends and greater community. I love seeing some of my old friends and meeting new creative people. I also hope to make new friends and really glue our artistic and creative community together  over some good food, drinks, and creative work.

Christina: I love talking to new and old faces. It’s great having people come in to celebrate art and creativity with us. It’s also fun just to have an excuse to party with people.

Bob: It’s so great to see old friends. And conversely, it’s the best way to meet people new to the Boston animation, gaming, and educational media scene. I spend most of the night catching up with folks.

When and where is Creative Juices? How do I get my ticket?
Christina:
Friday, May 31! You need to RSVP on Eventbrite to get on the list. The ticket is 100% free, though. What a deal!

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May FableFriday: Julie Oliveira, Production Artist

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“I would describe my style as colorful, cartoony, and nostalgic. I think for me, my art style is continuing to grow and evolve, and it always has been,” says Julie Oliveira. A talented illustrator and animator, Julie joins the studio as FableVision’s Production Artist. Julie earned her bachelor's in animation from Massachusetts College of Art and Design, where she learned a lot about art and animation not only from the formal classroom setting, but also from her peers outside of classes. “I’m constantly trying to improve and learn from what inspires me while still making sure it always has a personal touch. I’m excited to learn from all of the talented people at FableVision, from the diverse projects, and from client interactions as well. I think working here will help me become a more versatile artist.”

In her role as Production Artist, Julie collaborates with the rest of the art team to bring ideas to life. Her part in the production process involves designing assets for interactive media, games, websites, and more. She creates concept art for animation, designs website style guides, makes new assets from existing style guides, and sometimes takes part in the animation process.

From finding inspiration from people and projects at the studio to learning new tips and tricks about areas she is less familiar with, such as game design, Julie continues to look for ways to grow in her career and in her art. The studio is excited, not only to see what Julie can learn from others here, but also what she can teach and bring to each project and team she joins. So let’s jump in and find out more about what drew her to art, what she looks forward to in her career at FableVision, and her favorite recipe to make from scratch!

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First and foremost, welcome to FableVision! How did you hear about us, and what originally drew you to the studio?
Thank you! I had heard of some of FableVision’s projects, such as Zoombinis, and looked into the studio more when I graduated. I always knew I wanted to create media for children, and the FableVision projects that focused on that are really what drew me to the studio in the beginning. I’ve always had a soft spot for cartoons, colorful characters, and games. I was also interested in  making educational media more inviting and engaging, so FableVision seemed like the perfect fit!

You studied animation at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. What was that experience like?
It was a great experience! For me, the most important part of my college experience was the community. I learned the most from the people around me: my friends, my peers, and my teachers. Being around a lot of talented and like-minded people helped me to grow and challenge myself in more ways than classes alone ever could. I made some of my best friends at MassArt, and I’ll never forget the late nights in room 721, when we would all work on our theses together while listening to music or podcasts and ordering food. Those are some of my favorite memories from school!

There’s a lot of discussion, now, involving the relevance of art schools. Personally, I think that tuition is certainly too high to be accessible to most students. It’s more convenient and affordable to get degrees online, but there is so much more to learn from than what you get out of class. This is especially true considering the invaluable relationships you make in college. It’s important for these experiences to be accessible for everyone.

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When and how did you realize you wanted to be an artist?
I’ve been interested in art and creative activities ever since I was in preschool. When I was little, my mom let me try all kinds of pastimes, like basketball and soccer, but the only thing that stuck was pottery class. In elementary school, I leaned more into drawing and creating characters. By middle school, I was oil painting. When it came time to decide where I wanted to go to college and what I wanted to do with my life, the answer was simple. I’d always been drawing and coloring, and I figured, if I could just keep doing that, I’d be happy. And I am!

From your vantage point, what do you think differentiates FableVision from other studios?
What drew me to FableVision initially were the types of projects. Everything the studio creates is fun and full of character, while also sticking to the goal of producing educational media and tools that help people learn and enjoy learning. For me, that was an important part of growing up and being in school. I think that’s part of what makes FableVision awesome, but also why it’s important to me as part of the team! Another thing that makes the studio unique is the people here; the staff is such a warm family.

What does a day in your life as Production Artist look like?
A day in my life starts with coffee and a pleasant walk across the river. Then, I dive into my projects for the day! Being a production artist involves being open to whatever direction the day takes you in. Sometimes you focus on one project for the whole day, and sometimes different tasks pop up throughout your time. It’s nice to be able to get into a groove and really sink into a project for a few hours, and then be able to pop over and see what others around the studio are up to. One of the best things about my job is that I’m collaborating with other people. It’s so much fun to contribute my portion to a larger whole and see everyone’s bits come together at the end to make something really amazing.

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Tell us about the graphic novel project you’re working on! What is it about and how does that process differ from the work you do at the studio?
I’m currently working with a writer on a graphic novel surrounding the lives of four kids who go to summer camp at Area 51 in New Mexico. I’ve always had an interest in paranormal stories, and it’s really lucky that I happened to cross paths with a like-minded creator! Working on a personal project at home is definitely a very similar process to what I do at work, although somewhat less organized. It’s wonderful helping clients create their visions and collaborating with a larger team at work, but it’s also nice to be able to inject my own personality into something a bit more with a project like this at home.

What are you most looking forward to in your career at FableVision?
I’m looking forward to growing more as an artist and continuing to learn new things both on my own and from the talented people I work with at the studio. Learning doesn’t stop when you graduate, and for me I still have a lot of goals I hope to achieve in the future. I know the types of different projects I’ll work on at FableVision will help guide me there. I’m also looking forward to the fun events we take part in together here, like board game nights, video game discussions, and participating in a weekly cooking exchange.

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You enjoy playing video games. What game is your favorite, and does the art in that game influence your own work or process?
A lot of games are very important and special to me, but Earthbound has to be my favorite. I played it for the first time a few years ago and just fell in love. It definitely felt like a connection to a piece of media I’ve never had before because I already saw so much of myself in it. Needless to say, once I played it, it certainly became a huge inspiration to me as a creator. I love the goofy artstyle, and as a whole, it just has so much charm and character!

Who is your biggest inspiration and why?
I’ve learned so much from all of the talented people I’m surrounded by, such as my friends, teachers, and coworkers, and I feel very lucky! My mom and grandma inspire me in many other ways, and I really see what kind of person I strive to be in them.

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We heard you like to cook. What is your go-to recipe when you have to bring a dish to a potluck?
My go-to recipe is definitely a pasta dish with tomato sauce from scratch. I grew up living within walking distance from my grandparents’ house, and every Sunday, my grandma would make homemade pasta and sauce with tomatoes and basil from my grandpa’s garden. My grandma taught me how to make tomato sauce, and my grandpa taught me how to make mozzarella cheese by hand. I still make my own tomato sauce in my apartment, but nothing compares to my grandma’s. It’s something I always look forward to when visiting home.


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More About Julie:

Most rewatchable animated series? Avatar the Last Airbender. I’ve seen the whole thing through about 11 times!
Favorite animated movie? Lilo and Stitch.
Smiley fries or curly fries? Curly Fries!
Favorite color? Burgundy.
Favorite childhood memory? Visiting the Museum of Natural History in New York City with my Mom.
Favorite Boston museum? The Museum of Science!
Dream vacation? I’d love to go back to Japan!
Animal you would most like to have as a pet? Realistically, a cat or dog. Unrealistically…a racoon. I love their tiny hands.

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Earth Day Spotlight: Sorajiro

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While we should do our part to protect our planet every day, Earth Day is a great reminder to stay educated and get involved. Here at FableVision, we are passionate about learning no matter what time of year. However, Earth Day is an especially important day of awareness because, if there is one thing that we can always learn more about, it’s the planet we live on.

This Earth Day, we’re highlighting the climate-control PSAs we created in partnership with Big Tent Entertainment, Nippon TV, and the United Nations. The PSAs feature Sorajiro, a well-known weather mascot from Japan, who, along with his friends Potsie and Kumo, encourage children and teens to make eco-friendly decisions.

Sorajiro, nicknamed the Weather Monster, frequently appeared on Japanese weather channels, and even had his own eco-educational television show. In four, 30-second public service announcements, FableVision wrote, storyboarded, and animated Sorajiro and his friends in cartoony and whimsical situations as they tackle environmental topics, such as marine litter, air pollution, climate control, and environmental health.

Anyone can be environmentally conscious. We want people of all ages to learn about how important it is to preserve the Earth. FableVision was proud to work on a project like Sorajiro because it’s important to start conversations about environmental conservation early and encourage both children and adults to get involved in their communities. After all, everyone, no matter their age, can make big changes by having the courage to speak up and “say something.”


Click here to learn more about our work with the Weather Monster Sorajiro, and don’t forget to get involved!

Check out our four PSAs on YouTube and below, and share your planet-saving tips using #BreatheLife, #BeatPlasticPollution, #CleanSeas, #ThinkEatSave, #BeatPollution, and #GreenYourLife.

Anyone can be an Earth protector!

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Moving Libraries Forward: A Libraries, Games, and Play Conference Recap

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Happy National Library Workers Day from all of us at FableVision! Here at the studio, we are acutely aware of the impact that libraries and the librarians who keep them running have on communities, access to literature and educational resources, and spaces for learning and creativity.

This is why FableVision was honored to co-host the inaugural Libraries, Games, and Play Conference on Saturday, April 6 at American University with the American University Game Lab. As longtime advocates of engaging students of all ages in their own learning through media and interactives, bringing educational technology and game-based learning tools and best practices into formal and informal learning spaces, such as libraries, is a topic very close to our hearts.

In their opening remarks, J Collins asked attendees to enter into the conference space with a lens of inclusion and an awareness of who is not in the room. Not all librarians are able to leave their libraries, and the children who rely on them every day, to attend a conference. In the spirit of the inclusion, access, and network that is at the heart of every library, FableVision Studios has created a recap blog of the one-day conference for everyone who could not be there.

From the opening keynote address and gaming workshops to FableVision Learning and the Reynolds Center for Teaching, Learning and Creativity’s showcase of the Fab@School Maker Studio and Paul Reynolds’ closing keynote, let’s dive in and see what the day held!


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Opening Keynote

Following the opening remarks, Lindsay Grace, Knight Chair of Interactive Media at the University of Miami and founder of the American University Game Lab, delivered the opening keynote. In his address, Grace recounted his own experience learning to code as a child using copies of Nibble Magazine he checked out from his local library. Libraries provided the access and the space for Grace to learn how to code, experiment with coding, and engage in his own learning through play.

In his keynote, Grace brought out that play itself is an evolutionary necessity. When we think of popular games that children play, many of them teach evolutionary skills. “Tag,” for instance, is a game of hunter and hunted. “Simon Says” is a game that teaches impulse control. The two purposes of play, according to Grace, are practice and laboratory. Games, in particular, are structured play that give players safe spaces for practice and experimentation. Game design creates problems and offers solutions, which is why games and game-based activities are so important for learning spaces such as libraries.

Showcases

During the conference, the Reynolds Center and FableVision Learning showcased their innovative, STEAM-powered edtech product Fab@School Maker Studio. The Fab@School Maker Studio, an affordable and easy to implement digital design and fabrication software that introduces students to 2D and 3D printing and model creation, was a big hit with the public and private librarians at the conference.

Schools, libraries, and programs from across the United States have already been using the research-based Fab@School Maker Studio to create practical and affordable makerspaces using paper, cardstock, and inexpensive digital fabricators. The software provides hands-on opportunities for students of all ages to get comfortable with easy, paper-based digital design and fabrication tools.

FableVision Studios was also able to share more information on our portfolio of engaging media and interactives that educate, inspire, and move people to action. In particular, we shined a spotlight on CyberChase Fractions Quest and Project Here Games. CyberChase Fractions Quest is an immersive, story-based mobile game that engages 3rd and 4th grade students in fractions learning we created in partnership with THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET and the Education Development Center’s Center for Children and Technology (EDC/CCT). Project Here Games is a collection of games dedicated to ending substance abuse in teens that we designed and developed in partnership with Health Resources in Action, the GE Foundation, and the Massachusetts Attorney General Office. These projects, along with the various others in our portfolio, highlight the power of using games and other media to supplement traditional educational tools and engage students on a variety of topics.

Closing Keynote

The day ended with a closing keynote address from FableVision and Reynolds Center co-founder and CEO Paul Reynolds. Paul began his talk by expressing his love for libraries and their role in inspiring the next generation of creative problem-solvers. Especially in this rapidly emerging age of technological and climate shifts, libraries are becoming more relevant as they embrace change and offer exciting new portals into playful learning.

Libraries not only foster learning through gameplay and making games, but they are also the key to growing the creative human potential the world needs. In a punitive and assessment-focused culture where many students are afraid to do things they don’t know in fear of getting marked down, creativity and playful learning are crucial to providing students with a safe space to learn, fail, and learn from their failures.

Using personal accounts of teachers who encouraged him and his twin brother Peter H. Reynolds to create bravely, his own advocacy work with the Dedham Library Innovation Team and other schools and public libraries in the country, and digital tools FableVision and the Reynolds Center have developed to support storytelling and self-expression, Paul spotlighted and celebrated librarians and other creative educators who understand the critical mission of developing and protecting creativity.

Following the keynote, Paul signed books sold by local independent bookstore Politics and Prose.


FableVision would like to thank everyone involved in planning the Libraries, Games, and Play Conference. Thank you, as well, to all who attended. And for those who couldn’t, we hope to see you next year!

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April FableFriday: Beth Santarpio, Senior Producer

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Senior Producer Beth Santarpio took a risk early on in her career to find what she truly wanted to do professionally. Upon graduating from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Science in Communication, Beth drove to Los Angeles with no job or housing lined up in search of a meaningful job.

“The desire for a fun job wasn’t a new revelation upon graduation, but rather one that had been evolving for quite some time,” says Beth. “I knew that I wanted to do something that would be impactful to people, and it was Jerry Bruckheimer who ultimately inspired me to go against the grain and pursue something in the media arena. There’s something unforgettable about reaching and resonating with an audience and having them affected by your work.”

After working for Disney Character Voices and Buena Vista Games in LA, Beth moved to Boston and worked as a producer for a game developer for a few years before ultimately joining the FableVision team. As Senior Producer for FableVision Studios, Beth manages a number of multi-faceted creative and technical projects. A seasoned media producer, Beth expertly balances product quality and client service in her all of her work with FableVision partners.

Beth’s path to FableVision shows the importance of taking risks and adapting to change in the pursuit of her passions. A skillful and accomplished producer, Beth has a lot of advice for up-and-coming professionals interested in entering the media and edtech fields. So let’s dive in and learn more about how Beth came to FableVision and how she creates a supportive and creative team dynamic!

You’re a new FableVisionary. Welcome aboard! What brought you to FableVision and what are you most looking forward to?
I actually encountered FableVision a couple of times in different capacities throughout my professional career. I was first introduced to FableVision by a business colleague a long time ago when I moved to Boston. Then, a handful of years later, I worked with FableVision as a client during my time at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. As a result, several months ago, when I began to reevaluate what I wanted to do professionally, FableVision immediately came to mind. One thing led to another, and here I am! I’m excited by the diversity and purpose of our projects and the amazingly talented team of people I get to work with on those projects.

What advice do you have for budding producers?
Be confident, be humble, and work your butt off.

As a senior in college, I interned at the Miami-Dade Film Office and worked 40+ hours a week at a local advertising agency, handling South Florida film marketing and PR for Buena Vista, Paramount, and MGM. After graduation, a great student resume put me on the short list at a few go-to temp agencies in LA. One of my first jobs was with Disney Character Voices as Production Coordinator. To say I loved it was an understatement. I learned every inch of the department and even designed an online production management system (that was innovative back then!) for them. After about 6 weeks, though, the position I was trying to fill was temporarily given back to a former employee. I was devastated. However, I trudged forward and paid some dues, putting in a week at Hollywood Records and a week at Def Jam Records (both in Finance) before getting the call that Disney wanted me back! And that’s how it all started.

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How do you create a supportive environment where everyone feels they can share ideas?
I really encourage my team(s) to be as involved as possible from the launch of a project. This gets everyone invested from the beginning and helps to establish a good foundation for the inevitable production tensions. I also communicate with my team regularly and try to create a dynamic where they feel comfortable expressing their thoughts, even when there are disagreements. Although the producer is in charge of keeping the team on course to meet the client’s objectives, the process won’t run smoothly if operated like a dictatorship. My role as producer is to provide information, resources, support, and guidance, as well as to empower my talented team members to do what they do best.

How do you balance the creative and production processes?
I tend to share a lot of the big picture thinking behind any particular project. There are often a lot of competing objectives on a project, and I feel like everyone has a much smoother time tackling the “what” when they’re informed of the “why.” When working with tremendously passionate people, it’s natural to get attached to your own part of the process and lose sight of how it fits into the larger goals, especially in the context of change. Change is inevitable in production, as are creative differences and sacrifices. Production is as much managing the human element as it is dollars and deadlines. There’s an art to it all; every day and every project brings new opportunities to learn from and build upon.

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What team dynamic do you feel is most important for a production team?
There’s never just one, or a couple of things, that make or break a great team. Personally, I’m big on accountability. Early on in my career I was told: “As the producer, it’s always your fault.” This sounds harsh, but it taught me that, to be a successful leader, you can’t defer blame or make excuses. You have to own it and move on. Getting bogged down in mistakes or setbacks doesn’t benefit anyone. There’s a tremendous amount of respect that comes from accepting responsibility and maintaining the focus and determination needed to reach a successful outcome.

It looks like you’re a Disney veteran. What were some of your most magical moments as a Disney employee?
Every moment was magical, of course! I had an amazing role with Disney Character Voices for a number of years. I’m grateful for the time I spent there because we really were like family. The hours were long, but we all truly loved what we did, so we couldn’t imagine it any other way. It was an incredible time in the company too. From attending VIP Walt Disney World press events, to being on board the maiden voyage of the Disney Wonder to roaming New Orleans with the Fab Five, I don’t even know where to begin!

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We heard that you’re a “tinkerer.” What project(s) are you currently working on and how does making in your spare time relate to your professional life?
My chickens are my latest personal passion. I love animals, but I never thought I’d be a chicken whisperer. When my flock grew from six girls to twelve, I decided I would design and build a larger coop out of primarily salvaged materials. Let’s just say that it’s coming along at its own pace. It’s kind of an enigma really, to thrive and enjoy working in a deadline-induced panic professionally, but to have personal projects that seem to get caught in the perpetual hamster wheel.

Rumor has it you and your husband enjoy the outdoors. What are your favorite activities?
We’re a couple of adrenaline junkies. At various times in our lives, we’ve been avid motorcyclists, motocrossers, and snowmobilers. These days, mountain biking is something we enjoy and can do as a family. Even our German shepherd gets in on the action!


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More About Beth:

Favorite Disney character? Scuttle from The Little Mermaid.
Cubs or Red Sox? Bruins.
Sweet or salty? Sweet.
Favorite season? Fall.
Favorite animated movie or TV show? I love SO many of them, but I will always have a soft spot for The Little Mermaid.
Which has the worst winters: Boston or Chicago? Chicago, no doubt!
Best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? “It’s always your fault.”
Favorite vacation spot? Disney!
Favorite place to mountain bike? I’ll try any location as long as the odds are decent that I won’t break something!

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