[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Inside
Weather
Santa Clarita CA
Cloudy
Cloudy
69°F
 
Calendar
Today in
S.C.V. History
December 15
1987 - Incorporation: Santa Clarita officially becomes a city [story]


morgankelly2The family-friendly animated film “Free Birds,” which opened in theaters Nov. 1, has an artistic Santa Clarita Valley connection.

Morgan Kelly, son of R.J. Kelly, of Canyon Country, and Jolli Bernier of Sleepy Valley, worked on “Free Birds” as a character animator.

“This is Reel FX’s first film so there is a lot of anticipation,” said Kelly.Reggie, voiced by Owen Wilson, left, and Jake, voiced by Woody Harrelson, in a scene from the animated film “Free Birds.” Courtesy Relativity Media.

Kelly was born in Van Nuys, but grew up Canyon Country. He is a 1996 graduate of Canyon High School.

“My parents owned a horse ranch off Sierra Highway when I was growing up,” he said. Kelly said his parents divorced when he was a child and they both remarried.

Kelly’s career in animation has included some of the most famous animated movies in the last 10 years including “Shrek 2,” “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Madagascar.”

Among his other film credits are “Over the Hedge,” “Bee Movie,” “Monsters Vs. Aliens,” “MegaMind,” “Puss In Boots,” “Madagascar 3” and “Turbo.”

Kelly spent nearly 10 years as a character animator at DreamWorks.

He was hired by Reel FX in March to work on “Free Birds.”

A 2003 graduate of the character animation department of California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, Kelly always knew he wanted to be an artist.

“I’ve been drawing since I was a little kid,” he said. “I remember drawing on the walls, which I wasn’t suppose to do.”

His favorite classes in school, while growing up in the SCV, were art classes.

Kelly said he was fortunate to be mentored by his older step-brother, Eric Pigors, of Valencia, who worked as an animator at the Walt Disney Company.

“He was excited that he had a younger stepbrother who was interested in drawing, so he became a mentor to me,” said Kelly. “He worked at Disney during the resurgence of animation at the company, when they made ‘Little Mermaid’ and ‘Lion King.’”

Kelly said Pigors was an important and positive influence in his life.

“I was able to go to Disney and see the studio and how they worked there,” he said. “I would see all the artists’ crazy desks and the drawings all over the walls.”

FREE BIRDSHis parents were also encouraging to the young Kelly.

“Both of my parents were very supportive of my following an art career,” he said.

Kelly said his goal was always to attend CalArts.

“Growing up in the Santa Clarita Valley I knew about CalArts and I always wanted to go there,” he said. “There was no place else I wanted to go.”

Morgan Kelly worked as a character animator on "Real Birds" for Reel FX. Photo by Michele E. Buttelman.Kelly’s dream to earn at degree at CalArts was put to the test when he was denied admission to the CalArts animation program three times.

Failing to earn a spot at CalArts after graduating high school Kelly took art classes at College of the Canyons, Otis College of Art and Design in Santa Moncia, Art Center of Pasadena and private art classes.

He worked on his portfolio, attempting to earn admission to CalArts.

After he was denied a second time by CalArts Kelly said he was “frustrated.”

“I knew CalArts was hard to get into because the student body is small and they accept students from all over the world,” he said. “There’s a lot of competition.”

Kelly continued to work on his portfolio with an emphasis on figure drawing.

“I really wanted to go to the best animation school and CalArts is renowned for its animation program,” he said.

He obtained a meeting with a dean at CalArts and was told his portfolio was “great.”

“He told me to go ahead and submit it,” Kelly said. “I felt really positive. Then I got another rejection letter, I couldn’t believe it.”

After being denied for a third time Kelly refused to take “no” for an answer and arranged another meeting with CalArts officials.

“The dean was surprised and suggested we walked down to the animation department and find out what was going on, but the head of the department was out so the dean suggested I leave my portfolio and he would follow up,” Kelly said.

Three days later Kelly received his long coveted letter of admission to the CalArts program.

Kelly spent four years at CalArts.

“It is so expensive to attend CalArts I tried to graduate in three years,” he said.

However, the effort became overwhelming, and officials at the school felt Kelly would benefit from attending the fourth year.

“I was fortunate to be offered free tuition and housing for that fourth year,” he said.

His decision to remain at CalArts for the fourth year would result in Kelly earning a job at DreamWorks Animation Studios after graduation.

“In my fourth year I was able to make a short animated film that got me hired at DreamWorks,” he said. “I don’t know if I would have had that opportunity if I had graduated after three years. I don’t know that I would have that showpiece in my reel.”

Kelly’s film was shown at an end-of-the-year screening at CalArts called “The Producers’ Show.”

“Every student wants to get their film in the show because they know the studios will attend the screening and see their work,” said Kelly.

Kelly was hired at DreamWorks right after graduation despite the company’s policy of only hiring artists with a minimum of five years experience in the animation industry.

“They saw my computer animation film and the company was just starting multiple computer animation projects,” he said. “My film was unusual because it was computer animation when most people were still doing hand drawn animation. It’s what got me hired at DreamWorks.”

After his struggle to get into CalArts it was gratifying to Kelly to be offered a position on the faculty of the character animation department.

He taught computer animation classes at the school from 2007 to 2011.

“It was cool to go back to CalArts and to be back on the campus,” he said. “It is interesting now to see some of my students being hired at DreamWorks and even at Reel FX.”

Kelly said the animation industry, like most industries in the United States, is seeing significant change.

“There are fewer staff animator positions,” he said. “People are now being hired just to work on a specific project.”

Kelly said there is also more competition among computer animation artists.

“There are more places teaching computer animation than when I went to school,” he said. “There are now online schools, too.”

Kelly, who has also worked six years as a mentor and instructor at AnimationMentor, said he advises artists who seek to follow in his footsteps to follow their “passion.”

“It’s important to focus on becoming the best artist you can, to learn from others and to always keep creating,” he said. “If you do that, then opportunities will present themselves to you.”

Kelly also advises students to never “burn your bridges. You never know where your next job might come from.”Morgan Kelly, left, mentors an aspiring animator. Photo by Michele E. Buttelman.

In addition to his work in animation Kelly also creates “art for myself,” he said.

His work has been displayed in gallery shows in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

“It’s good for your head and your soul to create work for yourself,” he said. “I still sketch a lot. When I get together with friends from CalArts, or work, we’ll meet at a restaurant and usually we all have our sketchbooks on the table.”

Kelly is currently working on Reel FX’s second feature, “Book of Life,” directed by Jorge Gutierrez.

“This is Reel FX’s second release and will come out in October of next year,” he said.

Kelly’s father is well-known SCV resident R.J. Kelly who has served on the board of directors of the Castaic Lake Water Agency since in 2003.

“Free Birds,” a Relativity Media release, is rated PG for “some action/peril and rude humor.”

The film is about two turkeys from opposite sides of the tracks who try to put aside their differences when they team up to travel back in time to change the course of history in an effort to get turkey off the holiday menu.

The film has a running time of 91 minutes and will be shown at the Edwards Canyon Country and Edwards Valencia theaters.

Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.

0 Comments

You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment


ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT LINKS
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT NEWS
Friday, Dec 15, 2017
Valencia-based Princess Cruises, voted the #1 international cruise line in Japan, announced its 2019 program featuring Japanese-built Diamond Princess returning for her sixth season, sailing roundtrip from Tokyo (Yokohama) and Kobe.
Friday, Dec 15, 2017
Valencia-based Princess Cruises released its 2019 Canada and New England cruise schedule, featuring Regal Princess and Caribbean Princess on the line’s largest fall deployment and the opportunity to visit Greenland roundtrip from New York
Thursday, Dec 14, 2017
Here is a list of Santa Clarita arts-related events for Friday:
Thursday, Dec 14, 2017
This Friday and Saturday (Dec. 15-16), The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance brings their annual Winter Dance Concert to the REDCAT stage.
Wednesday, Dec 13, 2017
The Caribbean is back, better than ever, and Valencia-based Princess Cruises is offering the best fares of the season during the “Exclusively Caribbean Sale,” on 7-, 8-, 10-, 14-day sailings departing February through April 2018.
Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
The National Weather Service has called a Fire Weather Watch for this weekend for Los Angeles and Ventura County mountains and valleys including the Santa Clarita Valley due to gusty northeast wind and low relative humidity.
Weekend Fire Weather Watch Called for SCV
Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station deputies arrested a 21-year-old man who had an outstanding warrant and was allegedly in possession of cocaine in Canyon Country early Thursday.
Bicyclist Arrested for Warrant, Cocaine in Canyon Country
Valencia-based Princess Cruises, voted the #1 international cruise line in Japan, announced its 2019 program featuring Japanese-built Diamond Princess returning for her sixth season, sailing roundtrip from Tokyo (Yokohama) and Kobe.
Princess Cruises Unveils 2019 Japan Cruise Program
Valencia-based Princess Cruises released its 2019 Canada and New England cruise schedule, featuring Regal Princess and Caribbean Princess on the line’s largest fall deployment and the opportunity to visit Greenland roundtrip from New York
Princess Cruises Sets Fall 2019 Cruises to Canada, New England
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department looks back at five years of work by its Domestic Highway Enforcement Team, which has disrupted the operations of the drug cartels by confiscating millions of dollars in illegal drugs and drug money.
Elite LASD Drug Enforcement Team Disrupts Cartel Operations
College of the Canyons quarterback Andrew Brito, wide receiver Desean Holmes and linebacker KJ Latu have been named to the 2017 Region III All-California Community College Football Team.
Brito, Holmes, Latu Represent Cougars on All-State Team
Tickets and sponsorships are now available for the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce's 2018 awards ceremony and installation of new officers at Tournament Players Club in Valencia on Friday night, January 26.
Jan. 26: SCV Chamber of Commerce 2018 Awards, Installation Gala
Sponsorships are now open for the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation's 2018 Economic Outlook Conference, set for Thursday, March 8, 2018 at a location to be announced shortly.
SCV 2018 Economic Outlook Conference Tickets, Sponsorships Open
SetPoint Medical, a Valencia-based biomedical company developing therapy for chronic inflammatory diseases, has received approval from the FDA to initiate a pilot trial in the U.S. for patients with drug-refractory rheumatoid arthritis.
FDA OK’s SetPoint Bioelectronic Therapy Study for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., representing the United States - and states and regions leading on climate across the globe - joined world leaders at the One Planet Summit Tuesday, the two-year anniversary of the Paris Agreement.
Brown in Paris: ‘We Can’t Wait for White House to Wake Up’
The regular Planning Commission meeting scheduled for Tuesday, December 19 has been canceled, according to a notification from the city of Santa Clarita today.
City Cancels Dec. 19 Planning Commission Meeting
The next meeting of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is set for Tuesday, December 19, starting at 9:30 a.m.
Dec. 19: L.A. County Board of Supervisors Meeting
L.A. County's Bringing Our Loved Ones Home Task Force officials unveiled their final recommendations, endorsing a plan to use a voluntary system of trackable bracelets to find people prone to wandering, like those suffering from Alzheimer’s or autism.
County Task Force Calls for Tracking Bracelets to Locate Lost Individuals
The Community Development Commission of the county of Los Angeles looks back on 35 years of advancing its core program areas: affordable housing and housing, community and economic development.
County Community Development Commission Marks 35th Anniversary
Metro is seeking two new members to join the Measure M Independent Taxpayer Oversight Committee.
Metro Seeks 2 New Measure M Oversight Committee Members
The California Air Resources Board approved a $663 million low-carbon transportation plan Thursday to increase the use of clean cars, heavy-duty trucks, buses and freight equipment.
Air Resources Board OK’s $663 Million for Clean Vehicles
The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station has released its public safety and crime information report for Saugus (Zone 4) for December 4-10, 2017.
Crime Blotter: Shoplifting, Petty Theft in Saugus
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has filed his strong opposition to the Trump Administration’s illegal attempt to suspend the 2015 Clean Water Rule for two years.
California AG, 10 Others Oppose Feds’ Suspension of Clean Water Rule
Conservation groups on Friday lobbied a federal judge for permission to join a fight between the federal government and a ranching association over a trio of California amphibian species.
Conservationists Lobby to Join Fray Over Frog Habitat
1987 - Incorporation: Santa Clarita officially becomes a city [story]
With an offense that challenged the program’s single-season goals record, The Master’s University women’s soccer team was almost almost never out of any game it played: The Mustangs were always within striking range.
Lady Mustangs Within Range of Directors’ Cup Top Spots
When Ed Jackiewicz met Tera Trujillo in spring 2015, she was studying at a desk she’d carried to the corner of the California State University, Northridge soccer field, in a “time out” of sorts, unable to practice because she’d just earned a D in an economics class.
CSUN’s “Under Armour Faculty” Promotes Academic Success in Student-Athletes
When Rafael Munoz recalls his time at the Layer 8 Computer Security Club at California State University, Northridge, he feels proud and thankful.
CSUN’s Tech Education Makes Top 10 List
The city of Santa Clarita Arts and Events division is currently seeking proposals for solo exhibits for 2018 in the gallery space at The MAIN, the City’s newest arts venue in Old Town Newhall.
City Seeking Artists for 2018 Solo Exhibits
NORTHRIDGE, Calif.---CSUN Men's Basketball returns to the road for the final time in the non-conference season this weekend.
CSUN to Face-Off Against Formal Rival Eastern Washington
Here is a list of Santa Clarita arts-related events for Friday:
Dec. 15: Santa Clarita Arts Calendar
This Friday and Saturday (Dec. 15-16), The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance brings their annual Winter Dance Concert to the REDCAT stage.
Dec. 15, 16: Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance Concert at REDCAT
The William S. Hart Union High School District Governing Board has approved naming Dr. Collyn Nielsen as Chief Administrative Officer and Jan Hayes-Rennels as Director of Special Programs and Staff Development.
Hart Appoints Nielsen, Hayes-Rennels to District Office Positions
NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - The CSUN men's volleyball team was picked to finish third in the inaugural Big West Men's Volleyball Preseason Coaches Poll announced Thursday.
Big West Pre-Season Coaches Poll Puts Matadors Volleyball at No. 3
A 44-year-old transient was arrested by SCV Sheriff's Station deputies Wednesday afternoon after he allegedly tried to pick up his 8-year-old niece from a school in Santa Clarita.
Suspect Arrested in Attempted Kidnapping
It was a night to honor exceptional mentors at California State University, Northridge, but the five recipients of the 2017 Don Dorsey Excellence in Mentoring Awards just wanted to talk about their students.
CSUN Pays Tribute to Mentors Who Have Made a Difference
The words leapt right off the page and hung in the air, heavy, encircling the audience. Their creator stood, offering his gifts of verse — shared in a powerful baritone voice.
Literary Star Power Comes to CSUN
While critical fire conditions continue through Friday, the final numbers for the Rye Fire have been released.
Officials Release Final Numbers on Rye Fire
The William S. Hart Union High School District Governing Board held it’s annual reorganizational meeting Wednesday night, naming Steve Sturgeon as Board President.
Steve Sturgeon Named 2018 Hart Board President
Castaic Elementary School is collecting gently used children's clothing and toys for the victims of the Creek Fire in Sylmar.
Local School Collecting Clothes, Toys for Creek Fire Victims
Gusty Santa Ana winds fanned the Thomas Fire's eastern flank Thursday, prompting officials to call for mandatory evacuations for areas near Fillmore.
Officials Issue Evacuation Orders for Fillmore Residents