as animator for The Simpsons
Piggy Nation cartoon
and new book available
Helen E. McKinney
CRESTWOOD, Ky. (January 2012) Having the ability
to bring animated characters to life is something that comes easily
to Shane Sowell. Whether on-screen or in the pages of a newspaper or
book, he is constantly developing a character that will give everyone
a good laugh.
Ky., resident Shane
Sowell began his career in animation
while attending college at UCLA.
I think what drew me most to animation was the life
that is captured in the medium, said Sowell, 28. Originally
from South Bend, Ind., he graduated from Adams High School in 1997 and
attended Columbus College of Art & Design in Columbus, Ohio.
While in his senior year at Columbus College of Art & Design, Sowell
snagged his first animation job by working as a freelance ink and paint
artist on Disneys 101 Dalmatians II: Patchs London
Adventure. After graduating with a bachelors degree in fine
arts in 2001, Sowell then began an internship at Film Roman animation
studio while studying for his Master of Fine Arts degree in animation
His big break came while working on his internship when he began working
on the Emmy-Award winning shows The Simpsons and King
of the Hill, carrying out various pre-production tasks.
Most of my time was spent on King of the Hill, and
I got to know the crew pretty well, said Sowell, who now lives
in Crestwood, Ky., with his wife, Jennifer, and daughter, Alyssa.
As his graduation date approached, Sowell applied for work on King
of the Hill. He was hired the Monday after graduation. He worked
on the series for a couple of seasons before rumors surfaced that it
might be cancelled.
Looking for a new show to go on to, I naturally applied to work
on The Simpsons and was one of the few lucky ones that they
hired from the old King of the Hill crew, he said.
After living in California for five years, his wife was transferred
through her company, Amgen, to Louisville in 2007. Sowell was given
permission to continue working on The Simpsons as a full-time
freelance artist, which he still continues to do.
Sowell was part of the crew that brought The Simpsons Movie
to the big screen this past fall. The TV series was originally created
by Matt Groening 20 years ago as a series of crudely drawn shorts. It
has evolved into the longest-running comedy in TV history.
Although he wasnt initially chosen to work on the movie version
of the popular TV show, Sowell ended up creating and revising storyboards
for 11 months. He added additional main character poses and acting to
Technically, we are actors with pencils; the acting seen in the
scene comes from and out of the animator that worked on that particular
scene, he said. To many people, the characters are real,
and to be able to be part of creating that experience still amazes me.
The most rewarding part of the job, though, is hearing and seeing the
reaction of the fans.
Sowell has a new project under way as he has been instrumental in creating
a chapter book, Piggy Nation: Lets Go Camping. Sowell
worked on this project with Richard Rosser, a working relationship that
actually began when they created Piggy Nation: A Day At Work With
Dad. Rosser had worked on childrens programs for Nickelodeon
and The Disney Channel.
The general theme that runs through the books is identifying Piggy
(rude) behavior, said Sowell.
He said Rosser created Piggy Nation after dealing with a piggy
event himself. After his mother-in-law was waiting patiently for a parking
spot, another driver swooped in and took it from her. As a result
of wanting to do something, Rosser created a Piggy Ticket that someone
could leave on the windshield explaining they had exhibited some kind
of piggy behavior.
Friends encouraged Rosser to take Piggy Nation further, and he created
a childrens book. After searching for an illustrator for
a few years a friend of mine recommended that we work together,
Currently, the pair produces a weekly Piggy Nation comic published in
two newspapers and carried on several online publications and blogs.
Working with Shane is an absolute joy, said Rosser. Shane
is an incredible artists, illustrator, designer and animator. Our creative
styles really complement each other. He brings the characters of Piggy
Nation to life with such subtle expressions.
The idea for their current book, Piggy Nation: Lets Go Camping,
came directly out of a two-hour writing workshop Rosser taught for a
Girl Scout troop. The book was published in time for a Los Angeles Girl
Scout Expo, Girltopia, held in October 2011.
Not content to stop anytime soon, Sowell is now working on the illustrations
for a second picture book. Rosser is writing the next chapter book.
The concept of Piggy Nation seems to resonate with children and
adults alike, said Rosser. Everyone seems to understand
and love the concept of Piggy Nation.
For more information, visit www.PiggyNation.com.
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