Friday, March 13, 2009

Sandman Studios contributes to 'Witch Mountain'

It's in the details: Utah's Sandman Studios contributes to 'Witch Mountain'

By Sean P. Means
The Salt Lake Tribune

Updated: 03/12/2009 03:20:37 PM MDT

By the time you swallow your first handful of popcorn during "Race to Witch Mountain," you already will have seen the handiwork of Pleasant Grove special-effects firm Sandman Studios.
"They open the movies with our work," said Stephen Sobisky, Sandman's CEO and visual-effects supervisor.

The first scene of the Disney adventure movie opens in a NORAD control room, where the flight of an incoming UFO is being tracked. The images on the NORAD screens were produced and animated by Sandman.

Sandman received about a month's notice to produce the "motion graphics" that appear on video screens and monitors within the film. In addition to the NORAD scenes, Sandman created the computer-screen images read by a UFO conspiracy expert, played by Garry Marshall.
Then Sandman's team, led by Sobisky and lead animation artist Christian Perry, had a month and a half to produce 60 shots.

When it was all finished, Sobisky said, they had to tweak it to make it look a little less authentic. "The NORAD people said it looks better than their stuff," he said.

Sandman was founded in 2002 and has been making animation and visual effects for major Hollywood productions -- such as animation for the much-loved, but short-lived ABC series "Pushing Daisies" -- since 2007, said company president Lee Baker.

Sandman landed the "Witch Mountain" gig after impressing Disney and director Andy Fickman with its work on "The Game Plan." For that movie, Sandman created a realistic copy of the Madden '07 video game, featuring Dwayne Johnson's character.

The company is hard at work on its next project, a feature-length musical titled "Lost in Love," based on the music of Air Supply. For the movie, Air Supply singer-songwriter Graham Russell -- a Park City resident since 1994 -- wrote three new songs.

Utah's lower cost of living allows Sandman to compete with Hollywood effects houses. "They're able to get the same kind of work [from us] for a much lower price," Lee said.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Theater: 'Petalbump' finds Air Supply singer and songwriter in a plant costume

By David Burger The Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated: 10/05/2008 12:11:08 PM MDT

At this point in his career, Air Supply singer-songwriter Graham Russell has been reduced to playing a plant in a children's musical in Salt Lake City. But he says he couldn't be happier.

Russell, one-half of the famed soft-rock duo, will wear a plant suit during the five-night world premiere of a children's musical, "Petalbump," which he wrote and composed. The 90-minute, one-act show will run Oct. 27-31.

"It really has been his dream project," said friend and illustrator David Habben, who early on worked with Russell and his wife, Jodi, on the project.

"I love the medium," said Russell, a Park City resident since 1994. "I love theater. I always wanted to write a major theatrical piece."

After the world premiere in Salt Lake City, Graham and Jodi Russell hope to stage other productions of it elsewhere. Plans are also under way to turn the story into a children's book and an animated film, with the help of Pleasant Grove's Sandman Studios.

"We have always seen the first production at the Rose Wagner as a stepping stone to having multiple shows worldwide," Jodi Russell said.

The story of a woman's relationship with Petalbump, a fairy, first came to Jodi through several dreams more than a decade ago. "I became interested in everything 'fairy,' ² Jodi said, but it was Graham who came up with the idea to write a children's ballet.

Since Air Supply still records and tours, Graham and the group's pianist, Jed Moss, began collaborating on the ballet, which took about a decade to finish, while working intermittently. Eventually the musical took form, unfolding the story of Lucy, a woman in her 30s who returns to her childhood home. Lucy's childhood had become a nightmare after her parents died. She plans on selling the family home, but then discovers some artifacts from her youth that transport her into a fantasy, idyllic world, full of fairies who have been waiting years for her to return. Petalbump is the lead fairy, acting as Lucy's guide.

"Maybe I wanted to get into that world again, a world of fantasy," Graham said, explaining the story's autobiographical notes, rooted in the death of his mother when he was 10. Graham's wife said the death was traumatic for him, and he didn¹t speak to anyone for a year. (³That is what turned him inward to start writing poetry and music," she said.)

The play was meant to be a ballet, but Jodi and Graham happened to stop by Vibe, a dance studio in Lindon. Besides ballet, many of the dancers were well-versed in other styles of dance: hip-hop, jazz and ballroom. The ballet was quickly refashioned into a musical including all those varieties.

"We started casting the lead principals of the show through the kids at Vibe and they again blew us away," Jodi said. "For not only do they need to be great dancers in the show, but also singers and actors. And at the age of 14, they amaze and inspire us."

The musical will rise or fall on the shoulders of children, because, of the 30 cast members, only two are adults. In Salt Lake City, Jodi plays the adult Lucy and Graham is a, well, plant. "Being a plant, I don't have to dance," he explained.

Lindsay Arnold, 14, of Provo, plays Petalbump. She has danced since the age of 4, but admitted some trepidation about the larger role. "It's nerve-wracking," she said. "I've never sung or acted before."

Brandon Armstrong, 14, of Lehi, plays Echo, another fairy. He and the dancer who plays Lucy as a child, Brittany Cherry, won the junior division of "Dancing With the Stars" last season.

He, like Arnold, his castmate, didn't immediately recognize the name of Air Supply, Graham Russell's band. "Once my mom and dad found out who it was, they started cracking up and started singing all of their songs," Armstrong said.

With Graham still touring throughout much of the year, Jodi has been the producer, and has assembled a talented crew to accompany the cast and full orchestra. Rose Brown is the head costume designer, Jared Potter is the head set designer, and Nicholas Cavallaro is the lighting director; all three are employed by the Utah Opera. Six new songs have been written by Graham and Moss, with Graham singing one of them, a duet. Moss, the band's pianist, also plays with Ballet West.

For choreography, the Russells chose Rick Robinson, the co-artistic director of Vibe. Robinson, along with co-artistic director Kellie Messerly and choreographer Alan Salazar, designed a high-energy stage show meant to inspire people to believe in themselves.

With the final rehearsals wrapping up, all involved hope that Utahns won't be scared off by the label "children's musical." The lessons to be learned are cross-generational, cast and crew claim.

"It can touch adults and even the elderly," Robison said.

"I don't think there's anything like it," Graham said.

"Petalbump teaches Lucy how to be herself and to believe in herself," Arnold said.
"There isn't anything specifically designed for children," Jodi said. "I feel this is a show for families. Living in this high-paced life, we tend to forget the joys and innocence that surrounds us daily, and that is what the adult Lucy discovers throughout the story."

After each show, there will be a meet-and-greet with the cast. If you're lucky, maybe Graham will wear not his rock star clothes, but that plant costume. Just don't expect him to dance. David Burger writes about popular music.

Contact him at or 801-257-8620.

Radical Publishing and Sandman Studios Announce the Launch of Radical Comics' Website

Radical Publishing and Sandman Studios Announce the Launch of Radical Comics' Website
Posted: Friday, September 19, 2008Posted By: Kevin Powers

Radical Publishing, in conjunction with Sandman Studios has created a state of the art website for industry professionals and fans alike. Led by CEO Stephen Sobisky, and his design team at Sandman Studios, offers visitors unprecedented interactivity and ongoing content.

“This project has been a pleasure for our team to work on. Being able to express our creative ideas and put those ideas together with amazing artwork made this project bigger than either company was able to imagine. Sandman will continue to provide new phases to this website and other innovative elements that help bring awareness to the Radical Publishing brand.” states Sobisky.

Featured elements of the website include animated menus, content from the Radical Publishing library, links to the Radical Publishing blog and access to the Online Radical Merchandise store offering copies of all available Radical books and Radical apparel.

Also exclusively developed by Sandman Studios for the website are animated trailers for CALIBER: FIRST CANON OF JUSTICE, FREEDOM FORMULA: GHOST OF THE WASTELAND and Yoshitako Amano’s MATEKI: THE MAGIC FLUTE, combining music, sound design and art from the books. These comic-trailers further expand the Radical Publishing experience through multimedia entertainment. Also a CITY OF DUST: A PHILIP KHROME STORY trailer will be posted within the next week.

“The goal of our site is to create an online home for Radical Publishing that matches the strength and distinct stylization of our titles,” states Barry Levine, President and Publisher of Radical Publishing. “The incredible talent and vision of Sandman Studios sets a presentation standard not only for comic publishers, but for all producers of narrative entertainment.

” Radical is proud to invite all fans of high concept, as well as genre entertainment to our new website and we urge you to continue to visit for Radical Publishing updates, announcements and the latest content from the constantly growing Radical Publishing library.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Air Supply and Sandman Studios Partnership

Famed 80’s hitmaking duo Air Supply’s production company A Nice Pear has entered into a development and production partnership with Sandman Studios (, a visual effects, animation and film production company.

The partnership is in development on a book called “Petalbump,” which is a fairy tale written by Graham Russell of Air Supply ( and has been adapted into a stage musical and dance production that will open in Salt Lake City at the Rose Wagner Theatre on October 27th, 2008 for 5 nights.

The book “Petalbump” will be released to the public through the Lundon’s Bridge School Fundraising Franchise distribution system ( along with “Lundon's Bridge and the Three Keys” book number one in a series of five books that are being produced as feature films by Sandman Studios and C-It Entertainment Group. Fifty percent of the gross revenue of book sales of “Lundon's Bridge and the Three Keys” and “Petalbump” in the United States will be given to schools within the U.S.

Also in development is the upcoming stage musical “Lost in Love” written by Melissa Bell. “Lost in Love” is set in late nineteenth century Europe and America and has a “Sense and Sensibility” and “Pride and Prejudice” atmosphere. The love story is filled with the power and emotion of all of Air Supply’s hit songs as well as several new songs from Graham Russell. Lee Baker is to write the screen versions of “Lost in Love” and “Petalbump” and the partnership is set to produce the feature films.

Nearly 30 years after Air Supply first charmed the world with their ultra-romantic hit parade (“All Out Of Love,” “Lost In Love,” “The One That You Love,” “Making Love Out Of Nothing At All,” etc), the continuously globetrotting duo of Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock are still touring the world. Beyond their always exhilarating shows, their latest jaunt overseas (from early June through mid-July 2008) had its share of transcendent, once in a lifetime moments. They had dinner with former Philippines First Lady Imelda Marcos; performed for the King and Queen of Malaysia; and had drinks with the U.S. ambassador to Singapore and her husband.

Air Supply also got to play a concert in the venue (Areneta Coliseum) where “The Thrilla In Manila”—the legendary 1975 boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier—took place. Later, after their first ever performance in Tel Aviv, they enjoyed the sacred dual experience of visiting the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and appearing on Israel’s version of “Dancing With The Stars”!

Harper Collins Children

The popular publishing company, HarperCollins Children, has contracted with us to create a new website for Neil Gaiman’s property The Mouse Circus. We have also been asked to create a cinematic trailer for Gaiman’s upcoming children’s book called The Graveyard. The website is now live at

Osmond 50th Tour

Donny Osmond asked us to create a visual show for the Osmond family 50th Anniversary tour for his song Yoyo. We created an animated factory that constructs yoyos and many other animations. We also brought in professional yoyo champions from around the country to be filmed and perform for the visual presentation. The final result is being shown on three large screens behind the singers as they perform around the world and Donny has said that it is a highlight of their show.

Electronic Arts Flash Games

Sandman was contracted by EA Salt Lake to create online mini-games that will advertise some of their upcoming Wii, Playstation and DS games. In the contract we have been asked to create fun, interactive online games for popular board games and Hasbro toys such as Monopoly, Littlest Pet Shop, Nerf, and a wonderful concept called Family Game Night which will showcase several games to bring the family together on the Wii.