In my life, I’ve come across very few people who don’t like to go to the movies. As a kid, sitting in a dark theatre with a bucket of popcorn on my lap was the height of luxury. And Wittenberg students today were lucky enough to grow up around the peak of one particular movie studio, DreamWorks. We grew up laughing with Shrek and Donkey, exploring with Alex the Lion and Marty the Zebra, and learning discipline with Po and Master Shifu.
Color my surprise when I found out that one of the creators of these movies is a Wittenberg University graduate. Before Jason Waltman, class of 2001 from Zanesville, Ohio, was an effects designer at DreamWorks, he was a computer science major, as well as a mathematics and studio art minor at Wittenberg.
“DreamWorks was my first job out of college,” Waltman said. “I was hired into the effects department, but I wasn’t immediately working on effects that would show up in the big screen. I was more of a technical support person.”
After helping out and proving his skills, Waltman was able to work creatively “on the Shrek and Madagascar movies, which were a lot of fun.” But the thing he is most proud of to this day is his work on the standalone film Megamind. Instead of modeling by hand the city where the film takes place, Waltman and one other developer “built a system that would ‘grow’ a city based on director needs.” After two years of development, Waltman was able to work on the rest of the movie in order to ensure that the system kept working as needed.
All of life’s chapters, however, have an end. DreamWorks closed Waltman’s studio in 2015, causing him to take a year off work rather than move down to another studio. After a few of his co-workers had been hired at Apple, one of them reached out with a job he thought Jason was well suited for. He interviewed and was hired.
“The jump from DreamWorks to Apple was actually not as big it might seem,” Waltman said. “My job is definitely different. I’m not making cartoons anymore, and most of my day is spent programming now—but the majority of my current team is actually former colleagues from DreamWorks, and I even use some of the same tools I learned at DreamWorks now at Apple.”
Jason enjoys his work at Apple and feels like this is a place where he can make a difference.
When asked about his time at Wittenberg and how it helped him in his career, Waltman noted, “Wittenberg gave me an opportunity to explore multiple interests and first introduced me to computer graphics.”
He very much appreciated being able to flip back and forth between the art and science buildings during his time at Wittenberg in order to exercise both sides of his brain. He is also grateful that his Wittenberg art professors gave him “a language with which I could use to collaborate with DreamWorks’ artists and directors.”
Jason met his husband, Jon, at DreamWorks. Together they love to travel all over the world and seek out new and interesting foods. His favorite hobby is photography, an interest that was also sparked during his time at Wittenberg.
-By Emma Seibert ’21, University Communications