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Alumna Animator Shines in Deadline-Driven Industry

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Farnaz Esnaashari-Charmatz long imagined herself in the world of animated characters and animals she first crafted in the classrooms of Cal State Fullerton’s College of the Arts.

Determined and talented, she honed her skills in sculpture. She took extra courses and spent hours at the computer, designing. The coursework and the deadlines were exhausting, she says. But the challenges of CSUF’s innovative curriculum trained her well for the deadline-driven reality at Nickelodeon’s colorful Burbank animation studios, says the 2004 bachelor of fine arts graduate.

As a CSUF student, she first walked the studio’s halls as the pioneering post-production intern —a role she refers to as “the ultimate job interview.” The short stint led to an assistant’s job with the animation trailblazer; today, she mentors others as the creator and executive producer of “Shimmer and Shine.”

The popular show is in its third season of the adventures of twin genies-in-training, Shimmer and Shine, and their best friend Leah.

“Cal State Fullerton has a very demanding art program and I had to work really hard to excel,” she says. “I learned all facets of animation, design, sculpting and storytelling, and all of those things gave me the basics — the structure, the bones — to do what I do here, on a daily basis now.

“It’s been a huge part of my life. If I didn’t have everything I learned at Cal State Fullerton, I wouldn’t be able to do this.”

Esnaashari-Charmatz says it was her community college instructor who boasted about CSUF’s master faculty, visiting artists and reputation for working with leaders in the art and animation industries. “Sign me up,” she recalls telling her instructor.

“Farnaz stood out from the start thanks to not only her conceptual skills but also her encouragement of others who struggled with their projects,” says Dana Lamb, professor emeritus of art. “I truly believe that these qualities were key in her current success as a creator and leader in animation.”

It’s been a huge part of my life. If I didn’t have everything I learned at Cal State Fullerton, I wouldn’t be able to do this.

— Farnaz Esnaashari-Charmatz

The program’s long tradition of focus on character animation and storytelling and its strong relationship with Hollywood have led to extensive student internship opportunities, says Chuck Grieb, professor of art. Most of the full-time entertainment art and animation faculty members have significant animation industry experience. The student clubs fill a dynamic role in organizing studio tours and invite industry veterans to speak to classes, he adds.

“CSUF art and animation alumni have built careers serving in a variety of creative and production roles throughout the animation industry, including storyboarding for PIXAR, Disney, Cartoon Network and DreamWorks; directing at DreamWorks; animating at Disney, DreamWorks and Blue Sky; creating game art for Riot Games, Activision, Blizzard; designing theme park attractions with Walt Disney Imagineering; and [designing] toys with Lego,” Grieb says.

Nickelodeon also has many Titans who benefitted from the art and animation curriculum and solid internship partners. Fellow Titan, Chad Woods ’01 (B.F.A. art), is an art director and edits images for “Shimmer and Shine.”

“It’s a very exciting and overwhelming feeling to be able to influence a generation and to get to be a part of children’s imaginations and their memories as they grow up… in a way that you don’t get to do in a lot of other careers,” Esnaashari-Charmatz says of her role in animation. “It is a way to express myself and be a part of something bigger — and part of the future.”