Professor Profile: Stuart Sumida

By Angel Beltran |Staff Writer|

 

CSUSB biology professor, Stuart Sumida has for two decades been using his skills of anatomy to help animators accurately portray animation of characters.
Sumida has helped on many critically acclaimed films such as Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King.”
“When [I was] in graduate school getting my PhD, [my good friend] Charles Solomon, one of the world’s most respected critics and historians of animation, and I simply shared a mutual interest in art, animation, and anatomy,” said Sumida.
It was Solomon who arranged for him to speak to animators at Disney about horses and wolves for “Beauty and the Beast” explained Sumida.
“Disney liked what I had to offer so as I was coming to CSUSB in 1992, I helped them on ‘The Lion King’, and the snowball has been rolling since then,” said Sumida.
When asked which film was his favorite to work on Sumida had a tough time choosing  just one.
“it’s hard to pick a favorite, but there are some that stand out… Disney’s ‘The Lion King’ really got me rolling in the business and was my first screen credit.”
“Disney‘s ‘Tarzan’ was a blast because we worked in Paris on that,” explained Sumida.
Sumida  says that ‘Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron’ for DreamWorks was particularly gratifying because he had to work months and months on the anatomy for the film.
Sumida has worked on several productions including; Pixar and DreamWorks.
“I’ve only worked on one film with Pixar, ‘Ratatouille,’ but that was great because they’re so much fun to work with… And I have to say I’m quite proud of what we accomplished on ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ with DreamWorks,” said Sumida.
Professor Sumida uses his knowledge of anatomy, particularly of animals, to help the animations look realistic.
“The toughest biological problem in animation, for me, is flying characters. Making them look like they’re properly interacting with the physics of flight is really tough… So, the dragons in ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ were a challenge, as was the parrot in ‘Rio’ – which is coming from BlueSky Studios April 15th,” said Sumida.
Throughout the years, Sumida has worked on over 50 films while still retaining his title as a biology professor.
“I’m a biologist and a teacher at CSUSB first. In fact, I pursue film work because it makes me a better teacher… The most important thing to remember is that the studios value me as a scientist and that comes from my work as a professor here at CSUSB and as an active researcher,” said Sumida.

Sumida says that the combination of activities allows him to tell his students about the importance of both science and the arts, in which he believes are both under attack in society.
“For some reason, scientists are held up as political villains. When budgets are cut, the arts are often the first to go.  Big budget films show that art needs science and math, so it’s important that we teach them all,” said Sumida.

 

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