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Alumni News

Animation Grad Directs Escape From Planet Earth

February 14, 2013

Animation graduate Cal Brunker is Director and Co-writer of the latest 3D animated feature film to hit the big screen. The action-comedy Escape From Planet Earth, opening Feb. 15, boasts an all-star cast including Sarah Jessica Parker, Brendan Fraser, Rob Corddry, William Shatner, Sofia Vergara, George Lopez, Craig Robinson, Jane Lynch, Ricky Gervais and Jessica Alba.

A Director with Rainmaker Productions in Vancouver, Cal (Classical Animation, 2003) came to Escape with a strong background in storytelling. In his years as a storyboard artist, he was responsible for visualizing and staging some of the most memorable sequences in the hit animated films Horton Hears a Who, Despicable Me, and Ice Age 4. Cal has worked for major studios including Warner Brothers, Disney, 20th Century Fox (Blue Sky), Universal (Illumination) and The Weinstein Company. Prior to his work in features, Cal directed animated and live action commercials at House of Cool in Toronto.

Not bad for someone who applied to Sheridan’s animation program three times before being accepted. Growing up in Kitchener, Cal discovered the world of animation which combined his love of art, writing, acting, and music. But it would take extra courses, plus lots of practice and determination before he was able to enter the college and build on his skills.

Those skills have stood him in good stead since graduation. “Sheridan was an amazing springboard for me. I still draw at work every day,” says Cal. “Young animators regularly ask me what software they should use, what online course they should take. These are great tools, but it all comes back to drawing and knowing how to communicate with pictures.”

Ploughing through those first few lean years in the field will also pay off, adds Cal. “Once you’ve shown that you are professional and good at your craft, you will have plenty of work.” For Cal, learning from a mentor helped open doors for him. “Right after I graduated, I volunteered to work on a short film that Ricardo Curtis (President, House of Cool) was directing. Later, when he was hiring a crew, I was his first call.”

Regardless of where you gain experience, be sure to enjoy what you’re doing, Cal advises. “Find out what part of the animation process you love best and work on that. I think too many new grads chose which jobs to pursue based purely on what will make them the most money, but that won’t necessarily bring success or happiness in the long run.”

Despite his enviable career trajectory, Cal hasn’t lost the hunger to get better. He and Escape co-writer Bob Barlen are now putting the finishing touches on a new script. “Considering all that we’ve learned over the past two and a half years, we think it’s going to be fantastic.”

Follow Cal on Twitter @calbrunker

Escape Cast

Cal and members of the cast at the LA premiere of Escape from Planet Earth