Area native works as animator on Seinfeld's 'Bee Movie'
Fitting name for an animation studio that brought the talent of Pittsfield native Kevin Andrus from computer animation classes at Berkshire Community College to a theater near you.
Andrus, 25, said it felt like he was living in a dream when he arrived at his Hollywood studio each day to craft, refine and manipulate computer animated characters with the laid-back and talented crew of the recently released "Bee Movie," starring writer and voice actor Jerry Seinfeld. Andrus received almost daily input about his role in helping to bring almost every major character to life.
"Obviously, working alongside Jerry Seinfeld isn't your average situation," said Andrus. "Celebrities aren't usually on the grounds every day like he was giving ideas, interacting with the animators. But it was an exciting challenge to work with him, and he's just as funny in person."
In his senior year at Pittsfield High School, Andrus wanted to be a marine biologist. Sure, he loved the creative effects process behind films like "Star Wars" and "Jurassic Park," but he had never attempted so much as a drawing of a bowl of fruit let alone entertained thoughts of a career in animation.
Mere months before his graduation from Pittsfield High in 2000, Andrus let himself dream, following a newly discovered artistic talent he attributes to his father, who was an illustrator. He enrolled in BCC's animation program where he "lived" in the labs and landed an internship a year later with Kleiser-Walczak Studios (now Synthespian Studios), an animation studio based out of Mass MoCA, integral in the creation films such as "X-Men," "Fantastic Four," and "Exorcist: The Beginning."
President and co-founder Jeff Kleiser said he isn't surprised to hear Andrus's talent landed him a job in the City of Angels.
"He did great work for us, and we were sorry to see him go," said Kleiser. "A lot of people who have worked for us have moved on to do great things at places like DreamWorks, and we're proud to see him move on and do well."
Andrus refined his skill at the summer internship and crafted a portfolio to apply to Ringling College of Art and Design. After two attempts to get into the school's top-rated computer animation program, his acceptance put him on a path toward Hollywood success.
Kevin's mother, Nancy Andrus, and a group of family and friends filed into seats at Berkshire Mall's Regal Cinemas on Saturday to celebrate the creative hand of her son. The movie took in $39.1 million nationwide in its opening weekend, just behind "American Gangster" at $46.3 million.
"We stayed 'til the very end to see his name in lights," she said. "I had knots in my stomach waiting for his name to come up. I could only imagine, being from Pittsfield, to have a son that would go and do something like that."
Though Andrus says life in Los Angeles is night and day from his humble beginnings in Berkshire County, he is settling into life in the fast lane. DreamWorks has enlisted his services to work on a second film, "Monsters vs. Aliens," which is scheduled for release in 2009.
"It's surreal to me to see my name in the credits seven and a half years after I started at BCC," he said. "But after almost a year and a half at DreamWorks, the excitement hasn't dwindled a bit. With animation, there are just barely limits in playing with these static images. You sit down at a desk and create something living and breathing, and it becomes addicting."
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