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Happy Easter!

The Characters Engage team would like to wish our readers and contributors a very Happy Easter. We hope you will have a joyful and relaxing holiday period.

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Alina Chau grew up in Hong Kong, where she obtained an undergraduate degree in Digital Graphic Communications.  During her studies, she was exposed to multimedia design, animation, photography, live action film making and general studies in various communication fields. 

Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" inspired her to become an animator, while "Jurassic Park" sparked her curiosity in CG animation. Alina was among the first generation of students in Hong Kong, who were able to study computer visual art at college level.  Compared to today's standards, the program was relatively primitive and ended up being an experimental learning experience for both teachers and students.  After completing her undergraduate studies, she had learned enough to know that she didn't know enough, so Alina went to UCLA film school to embark on a graduate degree in animation.


During her time at UCLA, Alina used to dream of becoming a traditional character animator for Disney features. While she was in her last year, however, traditional feature animation began to experience a downturn.  The two major feature animation studios, Disney and DreamWorks were downsizing their traditional animation division, and there were very few traditional jobs for new graduates without work experience.  Fortunately, Alina had aquired some 3D animation experience, which secured her an internship at Electronic Arts.  That internship eventually became her first animation job.


Since then, Alina's skills base has become nothing short of astonishing.
She has worked in many roles, including storyboarding, animatics, animating in traditional 2D, digital 2D and CGI on many high profile productions, such as “NeoPets”, online projects for “Digimon” and “Lilo and Stitch”, games such as “Medal of Honor”, and “Spyro - Eternal Darkness”.

The reason for such diversity is a valuable lesson Alina learned during the year she graduated.  The American economy was not very good at the time, and between the writer's and actor's strikes and huge layoffs at major animation studios, Alina realized that her original plan of only looking for a job in traditional character animation was no longer realistic.  


She picked up a production assistant internship at a new production house called Marina Motion.  Even though it wasn't an artistic position, Alina learned a lot about the film production pipeline, professional communication and organization.  When that internship ended, she landed a Flash illustration job at Neopets.  This job made her realize that she enjoyed illustrating and that she was pretty decent at it.  At EA, beside 3D character animation, Alina had the opportunity to work on game programming and she assisted with managing the animation team. Those management skills later helped advance her career at Technicolor. 

At Technicolor Alina was a lead animator. Part of this job was leading and managing a team in America and in India, simultaneously.  Given that Technicolor is a service production house with a wide range of projects and clients, Alina had the opportunity to be involved in various production tasks, such as visual development, storyboarding and previz. These opportunities helped her discover her interest in story development and painting, which eventually took her to where she is today. 



Her career path was very different from what she had envisioned as a student. It was a path that pushed her to adapt and learn many skills. Alina today thinks that her greatest strengths are flexibility and diversity. 


Apart from all the other things Alina is involved in, she is currently working on her first picture book for children. The Tree House Heroes (THH) is a story idea, which her writer friend, Phil Amara and Alina have worked on for a long time.  Phil, who has a successful career in comic/graphic novel publishing and the animation industry, and who is also a forth grade teacher, has always had a passion for developing books for young readers.


As a book worm, Alina shares this passion. Both believe that kid's stories should be fun, hip, action packed and adventurous like a comic or cartoon. They should also be educational without being obvious about it.  Phil and Alina brainstormed many ideas, and eventually THH took shape. Phil came up with the original concept, and together they create the THH universe and the many adventures of its characters. 



The story of The Forgotten Beast takes place in a mythical world, inspired by ancient Asian culture.  The main plot revolves around a group of kids with unique powers, who learn about themselves and their special talents, through their adventures. Along the way, they help save distressed villagers from a tyrant and rescue a mythical creature from a trap.  This X-Men meet Miyazaki story combines exciting action with plenty of heart and warmth.

The Tree House Heroes will be published during the fall of 2012 and Alina and Phil hope that it will be the first of a long series of books.  Please check out Alina's blog for regular sneak previews of the project's progress and fun, behind-the-scene stories surrounding THH:



Alina Chau currently works as a 3D story artist on the "Star Wars, The Clone Wars" animated series for Lucas Film.  She creates 3D animated story reels to previsualize the scripts and still finds time to advise students on their school and career development at Woodbury University in Burbank, California. Please check out Alina's wonderful work... here.


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