Dallas animators turn to CGI

With Texas-size ambition to augment its staff of six, Dallas-based indie DNA Prods. has in 10 years managed to rise through the strata of festival projects, regional commercial and service work to become a network-level player in the field of animation.

This season alone DNA will provide computer-animated sequences for an NBC special featuring performer-writer-director Steve Oedekerk, segments for CBS’ new fall Saturday-morning series “The Weird Al Show” and a half-hour animated Christmas special for ABC. In addition, the company is hammering out a pilot deal with Nickelodeon for a project called “Johnny Quasar,” which if greenlit would be the first all-CGI series produced within the U.S.

All this from a place more than a thousand miles outside the cartoon mainstream.

“It’s kind of a double-edged sword being in Dallas,” company partner John H. Davis says. “We get different types of responses. On the negative side, some people tend to say, ‘Oh, you’re in Dallas, why aren’t you out here?,’ with the assumption being that we can’t make it (in L.A.). But then we pitched (‘Johnny Quasar’) to Nickelodeon and they flipped over it, and the William Morris guy who was in on the pitch turned to the Nickelodeon people and said, ‘Isn’t it great seeing something that’s not from around here?’ ”

Another factor that has helped close the mileage gap is a little help from such A-list friends as Oedekerk, director of feature films “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls,” “The Nutty Professor” and the current “Nothing to Lose,” who read about “Johnny Quasar” after the CG toon had nabbed a Lightwave festival best-of-show award and called the company, expressing an interest in bringing it to television. Oedekerk, who would serve as exec producer of the proposed series, also angled the studio’s deal with ABC.

“Having someone with the clout of a Steve Oedekerk makes it a lot different sell than having us go in by ourselves,” Alcorn notes. “He’s a movie guy, and all the people we’re talking to are TV guys, and they get excited about working with a movie guy.”

“Our goal is to do 3-D (CGI) cartoons,” says Davis, “not 3-D photo-realistic dinosaurs or something that looks like ‘Beast Wars’ or ‘ReBoot.'”

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