By Vicki Kroll
You know Nemo and Dory and Woody and Buzz, Simba and Nala and Shrek and Donkey. But are you ready to meet Bink?
An adorable seafaring creature with yellow fur, blue spots that match an upright comb, and big brown eyes, Bink will be coming soon to a screen near you, courtesy of Eric Miller Animation Studios.
“We needed an animated short to show potential clients, so I wanted to create a main character that’s cute and likable,” said Eric Miller, a 2005 graduate of The University of Toledo, who now lives in Los Angeles.
He found inspiration in the Minions’ shorts that feature the yellow hooligans on a white background.
“I thought a similar style was a good idea; I could use a simple background and it’ll be character-driven and comedy-driven, and that’s where the initial idea for Bink started,” Miller said.
With former fellow DreamWorks Animation co-worker Charlie Petrek, Miller began shaping his small, sociable star.
“We started throwing around ideas. We came up with a creature that’s in a lab being tested, and each episode will be a different test,” Miller said.
His sharp focus on art and cartoons began when he was growing up in Canton, Ohio.
“I was inspired most by Disney, whether the company or the person. Originally, I had a few different things I really liked and was passionate about, animation or art being one of them,” Miller recalled. “I also found I really had a passion for business. I think it was learning about Walt Disney’s story and how he started his own company and brought the two together, the art world and the business world, and realized I could make a business doing animation and that’s where my dream came from.”
And Disney said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”
So the disciplined teen — he earned a black belt in kung fu at age 11 — started to look for a college to make it happen.
“I went to The University of Toledo and met Peter Patchen, and he told me about the cyber arts program and part of that was 3-D animation, something I was really interested in,” Miller said. “And I also really liked the school, so I decided to go to Toledo.”
At UT, Miller created two animated shorts: “Chessmate” in 2001 and “Mediocrity” in 2005.
“Eric was a creative and talented young artist who had a passion for storytelling through animation,” said Patchen, chair of the Department of Digital Arts at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y., and former UT associate professor of art from 1993 to 2006. “He was very demanding of himself and researched his projects independently and well beyond class assignments. He was also generous with what he learned and often helped other students.”
Miller headed West in July 2005 and joined DreamWorks Studios in 2007. Miller was central office coordinator for “Monsters vs. Aliens,” animation coordinator on “Kung Fu Panda 2,” cross-site coordinator for “Madagascar 3,” and modeling and surfacing production supervisor for “Home.”
But that vision of his own company still beckoned and he made the leap two years ago.
“July 3, 2014, was my last day at DreamWorks, and July 4 was my first day of independence,” he said and laughed.
His first client? Toys R Us. “We did visual effects for more than 40 commercials for them.”
Before long, Bink was calling. The first short is expected to debut online in June.