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Van’s two-day workshop at The Walt Disney Family Museum got students to develop and refine their own 30 second story. No matter the experience level of the range of students, they all gained important skills for pitching a story and dug up what makes their personal life journey unique and exciting. By the end of Van’s class, each student’s pitch left us wanting to know more!
— Jenna Calvao, Community Program Coordinator, The Walt Disney Family Museum

Below is a talk I gave at a TEDx event. Learn more at

*To see my own personal “My Life In a Playlist” click over to the “Blogger”section on my website and view the post from October 15, 2018.



If the gold standard for creating a memorable character is a Disney or Pixar character, then what makes Cartman from “South Park” such a memorable character?   When experts say “write what you know,” does that sentiment also apply when you say, “draw what you know?”  My goal is to help people mine their own experiences to discover what makes them unique.  This accomplishes two things.  First, it prepares them to answer the inevitable interview question, “So, tell me about yourself.”  Second, it starts them off exploring the question, “What makes a character interesting?”  By looking inwards first, I challenge people to be open in how they categorize life’s experiences.  I offer them a lens to see everything from perspectives beyond what they know to what they don’t know they don’t know.


Having created one of Cartoon Network's original tentpole series, I have had the opportunity to observe the birth, growth, and rebirth of one of the top networks in the world.  I share my experiences working in every aspect of production both here in the states and across the sea in Cartoon Network Asia.  Whether it be in a panel discussion or a classsroom, I take audiences behind the scenes of some of their favorite shows and let them know how the transition from the studio system to the unit system changed the way television animation is produced today.  Being a collector, I also share never-before-seen photos and artwork from my years in the industry.




"Every outreach center you visited raved about how wonderful you are and how beautifully you interacted with the children. Your visit had such a positive impact on the morale of our injured troops. The family members of our military thoroughly enjoyed meeting you and are still talking about your visit."

—Elaine B. Rogers, President USO of Metropolitan Washington

"They liked you a lot and thought you were funny. They don't trust too many people, but they did like you."

—Leanne Turner, Art Specialist, Boy's Republic (a private, nonprofit, nonsectarian school and treatment community for troubled youngsters)

"We had over 12,000 people attend the day long event, and you, Johnny Bravo, and your flip books were always the center of attention!"

—Kathy Garmezy, Executive Director, Artist Rights Foundation