VFX/Animation News & Developments for August 2020
  • Friday, Aug. 7, 2020
Prem Akkaraju

Weta Digital Launches Weta Animated
Wellington, NZ-based Visual effects house Weta Digital has named Prem Akkaraju as CEO and will begin producing original content for the first time in its 25-year history. The appointment of Akkaraju reflects the continued growth of the company, which will leverage the capabilities of its award-winning VFX business to produce original animation under the banner Weta Animated. The company will develop original animated content for both cinema and streaming platforms.

This has been a long-held dream of majority owners, Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, who will write, produce and direct several animated projects for the company. Multi-Academy Award winners Jackson and Walsh will play a key role in the development of Weta Animated. The new production company will work alongside Weta’s visual effects business for the film and television industry.

Weta Digital sr. VFX supervisor Joe Letteri said, “Now is a great time for us to be developing original animation, something I have long been excited about exploring. Storytelling is an essential part of what we do in visual effects and being able to bring our creative experience to new stories in early development opens up a world of unique possibilities.”

Weta Digital is known for revolutionizing the VFX production pipeline for some of the biggest films of all time, including Avatar, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and Avengers: Endgame. Over the past 25 years, Weta Digital has developed over 100 proprietary tool sets and groundbreaking AI technology. Comprised of 1,550 artists and engineers, Weta Digital has won six visual effects Academy Awards®, 10 Academy Sci-Tech Awards and six visual effects BAFTA Awards.

Akkaraju co-founded film industry technology company SR Labs with Sean Parker (vice chairman on the Weta Digital board). Akkaraju was CEO at SR Labs and still serves as its executive chairman. 

ASIFA AEF Names Scholarship Recipients
ASIFA-Hollywood’s Animation Educators Forum (AEF) has announced its scholarship recipients for academic year 2020. This year’s scholarships total is $40,000 and will be distributed to 11 students--four graduate and seven undergraduates from six countries. The scholarship funds will be used to cover costs for necessary software and hardware, academic research and tuition. 

The AEF scholarships are merit-based and designed to support college students in continuing their education in the field of animation. Each individual student’s written proposals, letters of recommendation from faculty, and demo reel/still art were taken into consideration as part of the selection process. 

AEF’s scholarship committee is making accommodations in light of the pandemic. Recognizing that course offerings and school schedules may be adjusted due to COVID-19 challenges--with courses being moved online from face-to-face--scholarship winners will have the option to defer the award until the spring 2021 or fall 2021 semesters.

The 2020 AEF Scholarship recipients are: 

  • Iris (Irida) Zhonga, University of Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands 
  • Monireh Astani, Maynooth University, Maynooth, Co Kildare, Ireland
  • Alexandre Mougenot, Ecole Mopa, Arles, France
  • Jaime Florian, Universidad Pontificia, Bolivariana, Medillin, Columbia
  • Daniel Haycox, Lipscomb University, Nashville, TN USA
  • Frida Ding, School of Visual Arts, New York, NY USA
  • Mikaela Daoust, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • Natalie Ruybal, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA USA
  • Sam Hrabko, Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, MO USA
  • Tabo Tang, California State University, Long Beach, Long Beach, CA USA

In addition, this year ASIFA-Hollywood’s AEF is awarding its first AEF Thesis/Completion Grant to Eva Louise Hall, recent graduate of School of Visual Arts, New York, and current faculty member of Kansas City Art Institute, MO. 

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