Get to Know Us

Get to know our world-class staff and see why we’re one of the top arts universities in the country.
Want to get in touch with us? Visit the Directories.

Chris Armstrong

Executive Director

Before joining Academy of Art University, Chris worked for over ten years at ILM as a senior and lead animator on over a dozen feature films including The Mask, Lost World, Mars Attacks, Flubber and Men in Black II, as well as animation supervisor on Galaxy Quest and Star Wars Episode II.

Sherrie Sinclair

Graduate Director of Traditional Animation

Sherrie H. Sinclair joined the Academy over ten years ago, after almost nine years as a clean-up animator with Walt Disney Feature Animation in Orlando, FL. Her film credits include The Lion King, Pocahontas, Mulan, Tarzan, and Lilo and Stitch.

Tom Bertino

Graduate Director

Tom Bertino is a renowned animator with more than 25 years of experience. He is credited with animation direction on Son of the Mask, Men in Black II, Star Wars: Episode I, and many others. Prior to working at the Academy, Tom worked at Industrial Light + Magic for nearly 20 years.

Charles Keagle

Online Director of Animation

Charles has been part of the Academy family since 2003. He currently lives in Los Angeles after many years in San Francisco as the on-campus Animation Lead during that time.

A doodler since birth, Charles came to the amazing realization while at Northwestern University that adults, not kids, created cartoons. He promptly dropped his political science major and majored in art, creating his first animated short using only Disney's The Illusion of Life as guidance.

His first job in animation was as a production assistant on the film Ferngully, the Last Rainforest. He then attended the Character Animation program at CalArts, where his animated short "Are We There Yet?" was selected for the "Best of the Year" show as well as the Spike and Mike Festival of Animation. After Cal Arts, Charles worked on The Ren & Stimpy Show.

Charles was hired as an animator at Pixar and then given the opportunity to work in story on Toy Story 2. Later, he storyboarded and animated for South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut. As Story Supervisor for Pulse Entertainment, he oversaw production of Kung Fu 3D, an online series for Warner Bros, and co-designed an interactive Coyote and Roadrunner project.

Charles' work has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

During his free time Charles likes to write. He has written a screenplay and is currently working on children's book ideas so that he can read them to his son Charlie and his daughter Alex.

David Nethery

Online Director of 2D Animation

David has been teaching at Academy of Art University since 2007. Prior to teaching for the Academy, David enjoyed 25 years of experience in the field of classical animation specializing in theatrical feature film projects as an animation artist for various studios, including a long stint at Walt Disney Feature Animation. His work has been featured in animated films such as Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Lion King, Pocahontas, Mulan, Lilo & Stitch and Brother Bear among others.

David has said that as a teacher he still considers himself a student of animation and is constantly interested in learning new techniques about the art and craft of drawn animation. In recent years he has focused on adapting his classical pencil-on-paper animation training to digital paperless animation using a graphics tablet and is enthusiastic about inspiring his students with innovative applications of classical hand-drawn animation principles to modern production pipelines.

George Pafnutieff

Assistant Director

George teaches courses in Maya fundamentals and pre-production principles, and was previously a Senior Systems Engineer at Apple Computer, Inc., Technical Supervisor for ILM, and Systems Administrator for Reliant Integration Systems. George holds a BS in Information Systems Management from San Francisco State University.

Elizabeth Sousa

Director–BFA 2D Animation

Beth has been teaching at the Academy of Art University since 2003. She started her career as a professional artist in 1978 and double majored in Painting and Metalsmithing at the University of Houston where she also studied animation. She has created work for ABC, Fox, NBC, Paramount, Virgin, Maxis and Disney and specializes in teaching stop-motion and experimental animation. In addition to teaching at the Academy of Art University, she also works on her own art and animation projects in her San Francisco studio.

Dennis Blakey

Online Associate Director, Animation & Visual Effects

Dennis Blakey is a visual effects and computer graphics artist, inventor and producer that began using Wavefront 3D software in 1986, and Side Effects Software since its beginning. His early computer graphics work includes Project Galileo at JPL, creating the morphing effects for the security character "Odo" on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for which he received a visual effects Emmy in 1993, and film visual effects and animation for Digital Domain and Walt Disney Feature Animation, now Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Robert Steele

Undergraduate Associate Director–Portfolio

Robert studied Fine Arts at Santa Monica College, and is an accomplished art director for animation, storyboarding, and computer animation with a wide range of traditional and interactive entertainment production knowledge. Credits include Disney's Jungle Book, NFL '97, numerous commercials, and the Terminator and RoboCop vs. Terminator games. He has worked at Sega Technical Institute, Virgin Interactive, Cinemawave Inc. and Captivation Digital Laboratories and has over 12 years of professional experience and game credits include Half-Life, Diablo II, and Die Hard Arcade.

Diana Coco-Russell

Associate Director, 2D Animation

Diana Coco-Russell has spent most of her artistic career in animation, with her longest run at Walt Disney Feature Animation as a clean-up animator. Beginning with Beauty and the Beast in 1992 and ending with Home on the Range in 2003 her credits appear on most films from that decade. She was known for specializing in animals and villains, and focuses her skills on costumed gesture drawing for animation and storyboard in addition to introducing students to the skills and craft of classical hand drawn animation.

Gil Banducci

Online Portfolio Coordinator

Gilbert Banducci of San Francisco, California, majored in Film and Animation at the Academy of Art University. He is a successful producer, writer, and director of commercials, documentaries, and animated projects, as well as CEO of Helpful Bear Productions, Inc., a visual development company.

One of his major focuses and interest is creative education – how the entertainment industry works, and how its creative resources can crossover and revitalize education. Gil has also written and is currently teaching graduate level courses concerning the science and nature of the entertainment industry.

In addition, Gil has acted as art director and editor on several books on concept art, and is currently the producer and co-creator of Tales of Amalthea, an online, ongoing, and interactive grand epic adventure that combines science, art, and story.

Gil finds his highest satisfaction in working with creative, passionate people on collaborative projects, to achieve the same goals, and creating resources so that others may do so as well.

Virginie Michel d'Annoville

Online 3D Animation Coordinator

Virginie Michel d'Annoville is an animation supervisor, animator, rigger and professor of animation with over 25 experience in feature animation and visual effects, commercials, and games for various studios with most of that time spent at Industrial Light + Magic in San Francisco in addition to Lucasfilm Animation in Singapore and Sony Pictures Imageworks in Los Angeles. She was a technical animation supervisor on the Academy Award winning animated film Rango as well as a sequence supervisor and a character lead. Virginie has also worked on a large variety of other films such as Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones, Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, The Hulk, Superman Returns, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.

Virginie has been teaching at the Academy of Art University since 2011 and she currently lives in San Francisco.

Tareq Mirza

Online Modeling Coordinator

Tareq Mirza has been creating since his parents bought him his first LEGO set at the age of three. For hours each day throughout his childhood he would build whatever came to his mind and create a story to go with it. Lego was eventually replaced by a love of comic books and a desire to create his own characters and content. He received his BFA from George Mason University in studio art and computer graphics and went on to work in the visual effects industry.

After several years in Los Angeles working on television visual effects and animation, Tareq relocated to the San Francisco bay area to work at Industrial Light + Magic on Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. His other credits include Matrix Reloaded, Matrix Revolutions, Pirates of the Caribbean and Van Helsing.

Tareq left the film industry to pursue a career in education. His faculty position as Online Modeling Lead at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco allows him to create curriculum, improve his teaching skills and become a better artist. He is currently exploring possibilities in 3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing for artistic and educational purposes.