News Column

Two animators launch campaign to get 'Art Story' off the boards.

July 19, 2013


A potential big-studio animated film is being created in Palm BeachCounty, and the directors are asking for $350,000 in donations fromthe public to help get it made.

Chuck Williams and Aaron Blaise, who spent 21 years with WaltDisney Feature Animation, rolled out a "Kickstarter" campaign July7 and have until Aug. 23 to get it funded, or get nothing. The twowere wooed to the area by former Digital Domain Media Group CEOJohn Textor and were to be co-directors of Tradition Studio's firstfeature film "The Legend of Tembo."

And being from Florida, the two envision staying here to do theearly work on "Art Story" even after the Florida State Universityfilm school, where Williams is filmmaker in residence, leaves forTallahassee in August 2014.

"We came here to make animated movies, and just because the bigvision went away" doesn't mean they can't make movies here, Blaisesaid.

The two have been making animated films together since they startedat Disney in the late 1980s and helped create "The Little Mermaid."Williams produced and Blaise co-directed Disney's 2003 "BrotherBear," which was nominated for an Oscar in the Best AnimatedFeature category.

So they are working on "Art Story," an idea that was plucked "fromthe ashes" of Digital Domain, as Blaise put it, when Textor boughtthe rights out of bankruptcy reorganization. Textor is a minorpartner in the endeavor, they said.

In "Art Story," a no-nonsense 11-year-old, Walt, and his eccentricgrandfather get stuck in a world of famous paintings and have tofend off ruthless characters from those paintings who want toescape into the real world. It calls for very complex animationskills, because the two will transform into the style of thepainting as they enter it.

"Art was the vehicle," Blaise said, "but the emotional story wasbetween the grandfather and grandson."

The film was envisioned as the second feature film for TraditionStudios.

China-based company Beijing Galloping Horse now has the rights to"Tembo." But Textor managed to rescue "Art Story" because it waspartially his young son's idea, so it cost little more thanattorney's fees, Williams said.

The idea also came from the minds of Williams and Blaise, who hadcome up with a similar idea in the pre-Digital Domain years. But itwas worked up into a concept at Tradition Studios.

Although it sounds like a lot, the funds get the two only a stepfarther down the road, paying for a script, some artwork and avideo reel that will hint at the future movie and a full- colorchildren's book ready for publication. The $350,000 is about halfof 1 percent of what the movie would ultimately cost.

But it's a key step.

"We think with that we will have enough to go to the studios andget funding," Williams said.

In fact, crowd-funding for a movie project is far from thetraditional way of doing things. Usually at this point, a filmproject is top secret.

But fans of "Veronica Mars" recently pledged more than $5 millionto get a movie based on the popular TV show. And many brands gostraight to fans these days when they are building buzz on newproducts.

The Kickstarter campaign offers even more. Donors, depending on thelevel of commitment, get access to the creative process. For$10,000, a donor can apprentice with the filmmakers or spotlighthis own painting in the movie.

'kickstarter' campaign

Website: story.Or go to and search for Art Story. A selection ofwhat you get:

$1: Suggest a painting to be in the film

$25: Hi-res copy of favorite Visual Development artwork

$40: Copy of the DVD when released

$100: Signed pre-production movie poster

$2,000: Original sketch and studio tour

$5,000: Join the story team

$7,500: Likeness on a character in the movie

$10,000: Apprenticeship or voice a character

Ambassadors ($10 minimum) get credit based on how many donors theyrecruit

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