James Davis “The Academy is a great resource. It’s really terrific. And $11 bucks a unit? Come on…. You can’t beat that price anywhere!”

“Toy Story.” “Ants.” “A Bug’s Life.” Other than box office boffo, what do these recent animation wonders have in common? Well, they share a secret called ‘Maya,’ a special-effects computer program that has the rapt attention of long-time animator James Davis. “Maya is basically a program that allows you to create a three-dimensional illusion of space for your characters to roam around in,” explains James. “It’s vastly different from the traditional 2-D, which is flat and more oriented towards cartoony sorts of programs. And what this does, essentially, is to allow you to create—right inside ‘the box’—entire alternative worlds.”

James is no stranger in the strange land of “alternative worlds.” “I was an assistant animator—among other things—for about two years at Disney, and I’ve worked for many different studios throughout the industry. But I’m back being a student full time now,” he says, “because—for one thing—my job ended. I was working for a dotcom company, and they, you know, ‘scaled back,’” he says with a rueful laugh. “I was working on the Internet in new media stuff, but now I’m happily back to 3-D.”

Whether it’s 2-D, 3-D, flash animation, HTML, or website design, James is involved in it all, thanks to the high-tech menu of classes offered by SMC’s Academy of Entertainment & Technology. “I’ve been exposed to a lot of incredible stuff here that I never would have experienced otherwise,” he says. “The Academy is a sort of integration of the whole Industry: students and teachers, all at different stages, from the up-and-coming talents to those who’ve been in other areas of graphic arts and are just now getting their computer ‘chops.’ Whatever my future holds, it’s shaping up very nicely at SMC.”

Read more stories from present and past years in the SMC Student Spotlight Archive.