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January 01, 2011
CIA Around the World
Kevin Geiger ’89 is CEO of Magic Dumpling entertainment, a Beijing-based developer of original content for animated films, TV series, and mobisodes (short episodes edited for viewing on a mobile device). in a recent email interview from Beijing, he talked about his career and his education.
Q: You graduated with a BFA in painting but made a career in animation. What were the most valuable of the skills you gained or strengths you honed at CIA and were able to transfer to animation?
A: I came away from CIA with visual and conceptual thinking skills that were not necessarily as quantifiable as engineering or programming skills, but ironically more valuable with respect to animation — even in relation to a “high tech” form such as 3D CGI. The principles of creative exploration and visual problem solving that were emphasized at CIA assisted me not only as an animation artist, but later as a supervisor and now as a producer. You learn to see the world in a different way, which is what animation is all about.
Q: You left Disney Feature Animation after 12 years to focus on independent filmmaking. Was that a huge leap of faith, or just a natural progression in your career?
A: It was a natural progression in my career that was a huge leap of faith. Leaving behind a very good, steady paycheck was one thing. Moving halfway around the world to Beijing was quite another. I had worked on my own independent short films throughout my career at Disney, and had always aspired to produce my own animated feature films. Ironically, the country that affords the most latitude to pursue that dream is China. The Chinese animation and film industry is the fastest growing in the world, but also rather a mess. However, there is golden opportunity and great potential within that mess. My company, Magic Dumpling Entertainment (magicdumpling.com), combines Chinese cultural cues with Hollywood development and production techniques to create “stories for the global family,” as we say.
Q: Magic Dumpling sounds very savvy about international business. Do your creative talents help you approach the challenges of business development?
A: Ha! Yes. The two assets I appreciate the most on this front are my creative education from CIA, and the improv classes I took while at Disney. As a creative industry, the business of animation requires you to think outside the box and also to think on your feet. Everything is changing so fast — especially now. Ed Catmull, president of Pixar, is fond of saying, “You learn from your mistakes, so at Pixar we try to make our mistakes as fast as we can.” That’s certainly a good way to describe my own career learning curve. I’m known for jumping headfirst into areas that I don’t know much about, and ramping up to speed in very short order. It’s good, scary fun. If we are afraid to step outside of our comfort zone, we might as well crawl back into the womb.
Q: What do you miss most about Cleveland?
A: My parents! I was born and raised in Cleveland, so it’s truly my home. There is a relaxed quality to the city that makes it very livable, and Cleveland of course is a great center for the arts. People might laugh if you called it a seat of culture, but it really is. (OK, perhaps a folding chair of culture, but you hopefully get my point.) I also miss the trees and the lousy winters.
Read more of kevin Geiger’s ideas about animation and living and working in China at cia.edu/geiger. read about CiA’s new animation major at cia.edu/majors_animation.asp.
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