There are a couple of things you find out about Robert Burden when you meet him. Right off the bat you notice that he is full of the same jazzy energy that powers many of the digital creations he works on. He talks fast and you need to pay attention because the next thing you'll learn is that he knows a great deal about his chosen profession – digital animation.
Burden's major film credits include animation and digital effects for the anime film Astro Boy, a sweet story set in a futuristic world about a robot boy built by a brilliant scientist to replace his lost son. He also worked on the hit Twilight Saga installment Eclipse doing digital makeup.
"Digital makeup is doing things like changing or removing parts of an actor," he said.
Next, Burden said that he's going to be working on a film staring Johnny Depp doing set extensions, which is digitally rendering or altering the background surrounding the actors after a movie is filmed.
Burden has also lent his design and animation skills to the business community on Long Island. He says that while the industry here hasn't fully caught on to the power of 3D animation, awareness is growing.
"Movies like Toy Story make people more conscious of 3D animation," he said. It's a trend he sees continuing as local businesses start to demand the glitzy, flashy look of 3D in their advertising.
It's a long way from when Burden landed here the mid-1980s to attend Stony Brook University and then went on to New York University. There he made important contacts that led to his first major industry experience working in children's television. His first gig: Blue's Clues.
"That was my first major experience with production," Burden said. "For the short time on it I learned the most in my career."
He loves working on kids' shows because of the shared attachment we all have to childhood.
"We were all kids," he said. "Some of us still are. To be able to express some kind of emotion or lesson to a child is an amazing thing."
This may explain why Burden also decided to start teaching 3D animation. Not only is he teaching young people in his studio to become top notch animators, he spends some time teaching autistic children.
There is one dream that Burden is currently working hard to make a reality.
"I want to produce the first full feature-length 3D animation film out of Long Island," he said. And he wants it to happen right at his Inky Dinky Animation Studios.
He's already got the story all picked out and he says he's started working on it. It's a poem titled "Nicholas Cricket" written by Joyce Maxner.
The story is about a cricket named Nicholas who plays banjo in a jazz band called the Bug-a-Wug Cricket Band. Burden describes the story treatment he has in mind as Cotton Club blended with a horror movie. It's going to be edgy and a little dark but still will work as a children's movie. Think Neil Gaiman's Coraline as opposed to Disney's Up.
Burden's hope is that by the time he finishes producing "Nicolas Cricket" a large studio will become interested enough to distribute the film.