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Alumnus Marty Sixkiller Succeeds at DreamWorks Animation

With a name that was made for Hollywood, LSU alumnus Marty Sixkiller has had a hand in nearly every DreamWorks animated feature for more than a decade: “Antz,” “Madagascar,” “Shrek,” “Over the Hedge” and “How to Train Your Dragon,” to name just a handful. And the list continues to grow.

Photo by Jim Zietz, Senior Photographer, Communications & University Relations

Like the DreamWorks character Shrek, Sixkiller’s story began in the swamp and took him to a distant land, “Far Far Away,” where dreams are made true. However, Sixkiller’s fate has been largely determined by his ability to recognize and act on opportunities and his determination to pursue a career that he loves.

While studying graphic design at LSU, Sixkiller worked as a paintbox artist at a local video production company. Though art came naturally to him, he credits his LSU design professors with helping him craft his own style, as well as urging him to learn the business side of graphic design. Simultaneously, his burgeoning video production career helped him grow in a new artistic direction and cemented his desire to work in animation.

“My degree translated into all of my jobs in computer graphics in the sense that I had a well-rounded background in understanding good design, balance and aesthetics,” said Sixkiller. “Graphic design instruction was very different from that of video production, particularly in the areas of color theory. There was some adaptation that had to occur transitioning into video, simply learning different rules and applications of working with color in a different medium.”

While at LSU, Sixkiller was also a member of Tiger Band and had no thoughts of leaving Baton Rouge until a month after he received his diploma. That’s when his passion for 3-D computer graphics began beckoning him to broader horizons. He decided to venture out of his safe zone and move to Miami.

While there, Sixkiller was working on a special effect for a TV spot. The client, a director in New York, complimented him on how quickly he was able to turn a job around with little to no instruction. Then, recalled Sixkiller, the director asked him something that sparked a new career desire: “Why aren't you working in Hollywood for a big animation company?”

After researching the top special effects and animation companies in California, Sixkiller set his sights on Pacific Data Images, or PDI, and landed a job there as a generalist, doing computer modeling, animation, lighting and compositing.

“I didn't want to work somewhere that was using off-the-shelf software. I wanted to work for a company that was raising the bar in the field of computer graphics,” Sixkiller said. “DreamWorks acquired PDI in 1995, so I became an employee of DreamWorks Animation via the acquisition.”

That same year, the first full-length, computer-generated animated movie was created and Sixkiller found himself on the front lines in the growing world of sophisticated computer animation.

How To Train Your Dragon ™ & © 2010 DreamWorks Animation LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Since then, he has moved into the role of editorial/post supervisor in the DreamWorks Research & Development division. He supervises a small team that handles the movie production process from inception to completion, tracking digital workflow of storyboard panels and digital media for all production departments until the movie is delivered.

“It gives me a great sense of pride to be associated with DreamWorks and be a part of the incredibly talented team of artists, animators and production staff,” said Sixkiller. “My biggest accomplishment to date would be the work on ‘Shrek.’ I was a part of the visual development team and worked closely with several other production engineers to help shape our workflow.”

Through his accomplishments, Sixkiller has not lost touch with LSU. He keeps up with university news online and has taught his children the “Geaux Tigers” cheer that he fondly remembers playing while in the band.

“I proudly hang my LSU flag outside of my home on LSU football game days,” added Sixkiller. “Both of my children love LSU.”

Aside from LSU, his kids also love having a dad who works on movies.

“They are old enough to understand what I do, as they tag along with my wife to join me at the studio for lunch,” said Sixkiller. “They especially love when we get to go to private screenings that occur about one week prior to opening day of movies we've recently finished. Their favorite DreamWorks movie is ‘How To Train Your Dragon,’ with ‘Kung Fu Panda’ being a close second.”

Sixkiller worked on the studio’s latest release, “Megamind,” which is about a super-smart, super-villain whose every plot is thwarted by his nemisis Metro Man. It opens nationwide on Nov. 5.

“The studio is booming!” said Sixkiller. “We are also working on ‘Kung Fu Panda 2’ and ‘Puss in Boots,’ which both open in 2011. Then there is ‘Madagascar 3,’ which opens in 2012. We are also working on two other projects that open in 2013 that have not been publicly promoted at this point.“

As busy as he is, Sixkiller intends to eventually get a master’s degree, with a goal of teaching computer graphics. And he already has some advice for students: “Never give up. Network like you've never networked before. It's not what you know at first ... it's who you know. Then, you have to prove yourself once you've gotten your foot in the door!”


Headline photo by Juli Gumbiner.