Unique Short Film Inspires Collaborative Course

Created in Studio X, Thomas de Maleingreau’s Grounded is heading to film festivals worldwide


A still from 'Grounded.' Image courtesy of Thomas de Maleingreau.

For filmmaker and animator Thomas de Maleingreau, the collaborative class at Academy of Art University called Studio X was a pivotal point in his career. In Studio X’s collective environment, he not only created a totally unique style of animated film with his short film Grounded, but had a hand in shaping how different departments at the Academy work together. Grounded, a heart warming animated short film about the last journey of Hector, an old pilot, and Waldo, his pet goose, is groundbreaking in that de Maleingreau melted hand painted texture (from the School of Game Development) into his film to create a more stylized look.

As an animation student, his goal was to incorporate the School of Game Development in order to combine elements of game style in his film. “I literally created a collaborative class between departments,” said de Maleingreau. “I am very proud and happy about that. It was really a class created for Grounded. It will take place at Studio X and it’s a first step toward a bigger collaboration and could open so many new opportunities between game and animation students.”

Studio X is led by Catherine Tate and Sasha Korellis under the supervision of Chris Armstrong and gives students the opportunity to work on projects as if they were in the industry learning every piece of the production pipeline and collaborating with others.

Jamin Shoulet, instructor in the School of Game Development will teach the new course that will be run out of the department’s classrooms and labs. Shoulet has 15 years of experience creating stylized models and textures. He plans to call the bridge class, stylized textures for animation.

“Thomas expressed tremendous interest and really wanted to make this class happen,” said Shoulet. “We looked at his idea (Grounded) and provided a lot of guidance to make his film look much more unique than the typical Pixar looking thing. The animation department loved it so much they want to do two more collaboration courses.”

Shoulet’s role is to help solidify the look and the feel of the textures and silhouettes and guide students to apply this look in animation projects. “In the game, you have less control than in film,” said Shoulet. “So we actually have a lot more freedom to play with ideas, camera angles, styles and lighting, it’s a lot of fun! Students are very eager.”


A still from 'Grounded.' Image courtesy of Thomas de Maleingreau.

De Maleingreau has since graduated but is still working with the School of Animation and Visual Effects as a lab technician. “It’s convenient for me because I got a chance to finish my movie in the best condition, and I was able to keep managing my team as well as help new students on their own projects.”

Currently, de Maleingreau is wrapping up the final sound edits, adding logos and credits and fine tuning small details for Grounded. The next step is to submit the film to as many festivals as possible worldwide, targeting Europe, Canada, Australia and Russia as well as the U.S.

“It’s getting very exciting and I feel great,” he said. “It’s been quite an adventure the last two years and a half. I have the best hope for the movie. I believe and I hope it will do great in the festivals.”

De Maleingreau believes that the film’s unique style, merging the 2-D feeling into the 3-D, will give them an advantage in the festivals. He’s also started a small Indiegogo campaign to raise money for swag and for the crew to travel to some of the festivals.

“This part is very exciting too. It’s more like merchandizing and it’s very interesting. I keep learning a lot every day,” he said.

De Maleingreau gives credit to Studio X for enabling such great collaboration between departments.

“Now that Studio X can group everything together, the communication is so much easier; everyone can share opinions on the project,” he said. “It’s working very well for me and I think for other projects coming up.”

Stylized textures for animation has two new projects in the works, one called Coyote Place by Graduate Director Tom Bertino and one called Ruslan and Ludmila headed by Graduate Associate Director George Pafnutieff.


Academy of Art University animation alumnus Thomas de Maleingreau. Courtesy of Thomas de Maleingreau.

“They are going to use this class on the projects. It’s awesome. It was the stylization for Grounded,” said de Maleingreau.“It’s getting more official now.”


For more information about Grounded, please visit