In many ways, T.J. (Todd John) Galda exemplifies the new face of college graduates. His degree in kinesiology from the University of Waterloo and a Centennial College certificate in digital animation have given him a unique skill set that has led to his success as a technical director in the digital animation industry.
Galda never imagined he would be applying his knowledge of the human body and biomechanics to anyone other than his prospective patients when he was studying at Waterloo. Yet today, working as a "rigger," he figures out how imaginary characters will move on screen after examining models presented in traditional clay.
Centennial graduate T.J. Galda has come back to the college's Centre for Creative Communications to teach the tools of the trade to other up-and-coming digital animators. Galda recently returned to Toronto after working at DreamWorks studios in Burbank, Calif.
"My job is to put the skeleton and bones in to make it move," Galda says of his contribution to the 2004 DreamWorks hit movie Shark Tale. He consulted with supervising animators, studied textbooks and utilized some imagination to realize how a creature with half-shark, half-human features might look and act.
Growing up in the tiny hamlet of Oustic, Ont., Galda's love of the outdoors and physical exercise fed his curiosity about the human body. He enrolled in Waterloo's respected kinesiology program with the expectation that he would eventually practice medicine.
While at Waterloo, Galda befriended a computer science grad who worked for a film effects company. Touring the facility, Galda was amazed to find people who were paid to do such fun, interesting work. It prompted him to look into studying digital animation after completing his degree. His research brought him to the doorstep of Centennial's Centre for Creative Communications in Toronto.
"The school has a really good reputation. A lot of people I met in the industry kept recommending Centennial to me as the place to go and learn about digital animation," he recalls. The intensive 30-week program immerses students in every aspect of the profession, from story and character development, to 3-D modeling, animation, lighting and texturing for special effects.
Galda took full advantage of the program's 30-day placement in Toronto's booming animation industry. He networked with animators and quickly found employment. He also felt a need to give back to the college and inquired about teaching. Centennial took him up on his offer.
Immediately after graduating in 2000, Galda returned to the classroom as an instructor, helping students in both full-time and continuing education classes get the most from their program. He taught project management and technical courses in popular industry software.
In addition to teaching, Galda began working at some of Toronto's animation houses, progressing to ever more complex work while he honed his skills. He ended up at Nelvana, Canada's premiere animation studio, which exports many well-known children's cartoons and digital animation programs to broadcasters around the world.
His talents were recognized by DreamWorks, which offered him a dream job at their main complex in Burbank, Calif., in 2003.
It was an offer the young man, just 27 years old, could not refuse. Galda joined one of the top animation studios in the world as one of the youngest animators to ascend to that level so quickly.
Working in the epicentre of the film industry meant tight deadlines and long nights, but there were also perks. DreamWorks' staff enjoy fresh-cut flowers daily, gourmet food and free movie screenings, all in a resort-like campus setting. Lunchtime road hockey games with other transplanted Canadians was another cool benefit.
Galda recently returned to Toronto to begin a new job at Soho vfx, and he's teaching part-time again at Centennial.
Rewarding his rapid rise to the pinnacle of the industry, Centennial's T.J. Galda has been selected as one of five Ontario college graduates to receive a Premier's Award for 2004.
The award recognizes outstanding contributions community college graduates make to their communities and the province.
Premier Dalton McGuinty will present the awards at a gala dinner next February.
For more information about Centennial College's Digital Animation program, visit www.thecen tre.centennialcollege.ca/animation.
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