In a few short years, Dani Bowman has created an animation empire. She’s the chief creative officer, animator, illustrator, and graphic artist at Powerlight Studios, which she first dreamed up at 11. Recently, ABILITY Magazine’s David Zimmerman chatted with Bowman; her aunt, Sandra Vielma; and uncle, Patrick Eidemiller, over a scrumptious Mediterranean lunch in Los Angeles. David Zimmerman: You’ve been busy.
Dani Bowman: I had four animated shorts premiere at the recent San Diego Comic Con, and I’m working on a fifth animated short, which is going to premiere later this year. It’s called The Adventures of Pelican Pete: A Bird is Born [based on a book by Frances and Hugh Keiser].
Zimmerman: You founded your own studio at the age of 14.
Bowman: I actually came up with the concept of Powerlight Animation Studios when I was 11, and launched it at 14.
Sandra Vielma: When she was 10, she started to draw everything. She used to do animation with books—
Patrick Eidemiller: Stop motion—
Vielma: And one day she came to me with a little flipbook, and said, “I want to publish this. I want to sell this. I want to make money.” It was perfect. Even though the whole thing was handwritten, it was perfect from beginning to end. It had a dedication, it had everything. She stapled it together. I was like, “This is great, Dani, but we can’t publish this.” She turns around and goes, “Nobody ever listens to me.” … My heart broke, and I said, “No, Dani, come here, let’s look at that book. We’ll figure out how to do this.”
Bowman: My original career was illustrating books. Aunt Sandy thought I was kidding when I said I wanted to start my own company.
Vielma: Now she’s got five published books.
Bowman: My company is named after my Nintendo DS user name. It was originally called Volt Girl because I was into the character, Nine Volt, from Nintendo. But then I got bored, and the flashlight commercial just got in my head, so I renamed the company Powerlight.
Eidemiller: She would start with Microsoft Paint and Pixel. She would do simple PowerPoint animation. She’d grab a camera and do stop motion when she was 5 years old.
Bowman: They were originally just my Dani doodles, tiny simplistic stick figures. You don’t need backgrounds or any complicated character design. All you need is a good story.
Eidemiller: She would do the characters, the dialogue, the story in a six-panel format.
Bowman: Usually graphic novel style.
Zimmerman: I was looking on your website, and discovered all these characters that you created.
Bowman: There’s Fleen the Alien, Gemstar, and Hydro the Mako. So far there are 10 different series I’m working on. Gemstar and Friends is one of my animated shorts that was recently released on DVD. Also The Namazu is out on DVD; it has [section on it with] the information about what I’ve done over the years, including Tom Kenny. Do you know Tom Kenny?
Zimmerman: He voices SpongeBob!
Bowman: Right. I also have some videos of Tom doing his SpongeBob Squarepants voice on YouTube in the behind-the-scenes part of The Namazu.
Zimmerman: Do you do any voices for your shorts?
Bowman: Typically for the minor roles, except for Air- Burst: The Soda of Doom, where I did some of the major roles.
Zimmerman: So you do it all—direct, animate, voice, etc?
Bowman: For some projects. For Mr. Raindrop, The Namazu, and Hannah Lost Her Smile, I did the animation. Ray Martino from Inclusion Films directed Hannah. It’s about a little girl who lost her tooth. When I was teaching animation at HEAL Foundation in Jacksonville, FL, he gave me the script.
Zimmerman: I cast the short film Spud for Joey Travolta and Ray Martino years ago. In fact, I saw a picture on your website, and the Spud poster was behind you, and I thought: “Small world!”
Vielma: Mr. Raindrop was a story by a woman who wrote it at 15, but it didn’t get made until she was almost 80. So Mr. Raindrop is meant to look like an old animated short from way back when; it’s done really well and has won a lot of awards. The woman wanted a girl to animate her; that was Dani’s first animated short, from when she was about 15 or 16.
Bowman: The Namazu is based on the 2011 Japanese Tohoku earthquake; it’s also one of my first animated shorts.
Vielma: Dani started animating when she was little; she [was inspired by] playing Airburst, a video game.
Bowman: When I was, like, 11, my uncle downloaded Airburst Extreme, the sequel. The Airburst designers, Aaron and Adam Fothergill, are two brothers from England. I got to meet them there.
Vielma: They had become friends on Facebook a couple years before, when Dani did a fan page for Airburst. They liked it, contacted Dani, and said, “Can we put it on our website?”
Vielma: So last year, she emailed them and asked: “Is it okay if I do this animation, and gave them the whole pitch. And they gave her the rights. Mostly everybody involved, including the voice actors, is in the autism community. Every time Dani meets a big actor, she says, “Would you ever do a voice for me?” They always say “yes,” and she always records it. (laughs)
Zimmerman: How long is The Adventures of Pelican Pete?
Bowman: My animated shorts typically last about six minutes, and it takes about four or five months to make them.
Eidemiller: But when she did The Namazu, she did it in three weeks.
Vielma: She had some help.
Zimmerman: I have a friend who animates for Disney, and he did his own five-minute short. It took him three years, mostly because he was animating for major films, and could only work on his project when he had a week off or day off. He drew everything by hand.
Eidemiller: That’s time-intensive. ...To read the full article, login or become a member --- it's free!