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UNB alum eyes the big screen as writer director

Author: Communications

Posted on Nov 1, 2013

Category: UNB Fredericton

Animator and visual effects expert Andre LeBlanc (BCS’99) is striking out on his own in Hollywood as a writer and director.  The University of New Brunswick computer science and engineering grad's work has been featured in some of Hollywood’s biggest animations, including Shrek and, most recently, The Croods.

Read the full Times and Transcript article by James Foster below.

Riverview animator takes next step
Times & Transcript (Moncton)
Mon Oct 28 2013
Byline: James Foster Times & Transcript Staff

You've admired his work in such Hollywood hits as the Shrek series of movies, Monsters vs. Aliens, How to Train Your Dragon and most recently The Croods, but you probably didn't even know it.

Now, Campbellton-born and Riverview-raised Andre LeBlanc, much-sought as a master animator and visual effects expert, is striking out on his own as a writer and director.

"That's the next step for me," LeBlanc, 37, says from his Los Angeles-area home.

LeBlanc parlayed a passion for drawing into a career with DreamWorks Animation, which has been consistently at the forefront of the continuing surge of animated Hollywood feature films that has captured audiences' imaginations for the past several years, thanks mostly to attracting the top talent in the field.

After training in computer engineering at the University of New Brunswick, hand-drawn animation at the Vancouver Film School and later animation and computer-generated imaging at Sheridan College in Toronto, LeBlanc has spent 10 years with the firm widely acknowledged as the leader in the field.

"I can still remember that first day coming down here," he says. "It feels so recent."

Ever the modest Maritimer, LeBlanc credits good timing for much of his success, noting his field exploded with the advent of blockbusters which were heavy with computerized imagery and animation just as he graduated from Sheridan.

It's a painstaking pursuit, LeBlanc says.

You start off with a small group and a general idea of where you are going, working on tiny pieces of the film at a time, sometimes for years. The whole film only comes together in the final months, and by then you are working with a cast of hundreds.

If you saw the fire come from the dragon's maw, the raindrops and the explosions in How to Train Your Dragon, then you bore witness to LeBlanc's life, 10 hours or more per day, just about every day.

As a youngster delivering the Times & Transcript door-to-door in Riverview, LeBlanc used his paper money for comic books. The storylines as well as the artwork captured his imagination.

"It was mostly the art side, though," he says.

And though he didn't know it at the time, his fate was quite likely already cast. By Grade 4 he was drawing his own comics. By high school he was consumed by the art of computer graphics. Computer engineering in university wasn't his thing, so he moved back into the graphical side of the business.

Now, LeBlanc wants to hold the reins to his own destiny and the latest of his directorial efforts, a short film dubbed The Storm, can be viewed online where the influence of comic books (curt dialogue, every scene sets up the next) and computerized animation that takes viewers well beyond the borders of reality (just try not to jump while watching some of the effects that trademark this suspense film) are not only tangible, but credible.

The Storm is not the first short in which LeBlanc can boast both writing and directorial credits. You can add 2009's Mindbender to that list. He also directed Handle With Care (2007) and Parallel (2003.) He was executive producer on all three.

It could be the start of a new Hollywood career path for LeBlanc - or one that goes beyond Hollywood, given the booming popularity of original content these days on new media such as Netflix, iTunes, Vimeo, Amazon and the like.

"The web is just exploding with this stuff," he says.

Think of The Storm, LeBlanc says, as his calling card, one that he hopes will open new doors.

It's a long and unlikely step from Riverview to Los Angeles, he acknowledges, but dreams can come true for those willing to take the chance on themselves - but who are also willing to pay the price. That price is not being afraid to make mistakes, but most importantly, to learn from those mistakes and to try again.

"It's all about persistence," LeBlanc says.

"As long as you're persistent and are always improving, things will break your way."

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