OREM With a shock of red hair and saucer-sized blue eyes, animated Andy is ready to take the aviation, animation and education worlds by storm.
Traveling to and from different countries on a variety of accurately modeled, 3-D planes, Andy, the inquisitive young pilot, learns about the new cultures, new airplanes and how to make new friends all in 30 minutes and with the help of his pet ferret, Yaygrr.
"Parents are starving for good media," said Andy's Airplanes CEO Jon Pierre Francia, who grew up loving planes. "Moms and dads are starving for something they can put their kids in front of and feel good (about)."
The 30-minute animated program is a combination of Francia's love of children's media he was a co-creator of the ASL program "Signing Time!" for children and his love of aviation.
After several years of brainstorming and production, the first Andy's Airplanes DVD is out and selling like crazy, Francia said, and they're planning numerous future episodes.
In late March, Andy's Airplanes was awarded the Parent's Choice Silver Honor, and Francia said they're in deep discussions with corporate sponsors, major toymakers and major educational companies.
In the first video, Andy and Yaygrr travel to the USS Ronald Reagan carrier to learn about, then fly with, the Blue Angels. While there, they meet and befriend the ship's officers and Angel, the best pilot on the carrier.
In the next DVD, slated to come out in mid-July, Andy will fly to Hawaii where he'll meet new friends, explore a volcano and learn about the Polynesian culture.
"This is not some vapid, inane show," Francia said. "This is sneaky learning."
Eventually Francia hopes to take their program to TV. The dream slot? PBS.
That's what Idaho mother Kimber Tower is hoping for. She said she loves Andy, but her kids, 2 1/2-year-old Edward, whom they call Buddy, and 5 1/2-year-old Isabelle have watched the first DVD innumerable times.
"Everything is an airplane," Tower said. "Every time we play, it's an airplane." Even Isabelle talks about going on the USS Ronald Reagan with her Barbie dolls. "She loves it, but I'm surprised how drawn he is to it. As a 2-year-old, I didn't expect him to care."
Tower found the DVD in a Rigby grocery store around Christmas the first and only store to carry the movie until the company set up a kiosk at the University Mall last week.
"If your kid latches on to something that's educational ... this is one (product) I would be happy to own 100 of," she said, adding she hopes for books and even bed sheets per Buddy's request. He got Superman instead.
"People are always surprised," Francia said. "This isn't a home-baked garage attempt at entertainment, this is world-class."
Just ask director of production William Eggington, who orchestrated the worldwide production.
"I want (buyers) to see a show that is above and beyond what they'd normally get for $14 on a DVD," he said. "They get a feeling of what it's like to fly a plane, be around aircrafts. If they get it, they'll be excited about it, and they'll want more."
The project is worldwide because producers used a process called distributive rendering to put all the pieces together in each frame the first time Francia believes it's been done for a half-hour virtual animated show.
After animators and artist create the characters and plan how they should move in certain situations, those few seconds of animation, with 24 frames per second, are then sent to a rendering "farm," or bank of computers.
While at the "farm," the computers use lengthy algorithms to apply all the coloring, shading and movements, creating what viewers see on the screen.
The rendering process demands huge amounts of computer power, which can be prohibitive for smaller companies, like Andy's Airplanes.
But by using UTOPIA a high-speed, fiber-optic connection in select Utah cities Francia could do his computer-intensive rendering based in Orem and Highland, with the help of friends and family all over the world.
Willing renderers would link up to Francia's computer, allowing their computers to pull from Francia's hard drives and render files on their computer, then return them to the production studio in Orem.For more information visit Andy's Airplanes at andysairplanes.com.
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