Article and Photos by Lisa Bielmeier
Orleans/Niagara BOCES Public Relations Director
Recently, two alumni of Jennifer Manning’s Orleans/Niagara BOCES animation, film and visual effects program, Jack Gatto (Lewiston-Porter graduate) and Geoff Roberts (Niagara Wheatfield graduate), had the amazing opportunity to work on the animated video for the song “Video Games” by actor/musician Jack Black’s band, Tenacious D.
Gatto had several roles in the “Video Games” project, including CG supervisor, 3-D character and prop modeler, texture artist, rigging artist and environment and lighting artist. Roberts was a 3-D character and prop modeler and texture artist on the project.
The video was released on May 11 and, as of this writing, currently has over 24.5 million views on the official Tenacious D YouTube channel.
Gatto and Roberts first collaborated as classmates in the animation, film and visual effects program at Niagara Career and Technical Education Center (NCTEC). During that time, Gatto was also a two-time SkillsUSA New York state gold medalist in the 3-D animation and visualization competition, as well as a two-time national champion, winning the bronze medal in 2015 and the silver medal in 2016.
After high school, Gatto and Roberts both attended the animation program at Daemen University, graduating in 2022.
Jack Gatto (BOCES photos)
Earlier this year, Gatto was offered a supervising position on the Tenacious D project. Having already worked on several successful animations together, including some work for the YouTube Channel “Flashgitz,” Gatto approached Roberts to see if he wanted to be a part of the project.
Roberts jumped at the opportunity.
Gatto said, “The pressure was intense, but that's what pushed us to make something amazing. The cool thing about this project was the limited style we had to work with. It forced us to get super creative and make every frame count.
“Teamwork was the name of the game. Every single person on our team played a crucial role and, by the end, we had this well-oiled machine. It was a new experience for me because, as the CG supervisor, I had to delegate like crazy. Making sure everyone was on track and getting things done became my main job, and it was hard to not be able to touch every single aspect of the creation.
“At the end of the day, our main goal was to make an animation we could be really proud of, and we nailed it! Despite the challenges and the crazy ride, we created something that truly rocked. We brought Tenacious D's vision to life, and that feeling of accomplishment is priceless!”
Roberts said, “I can’t say I’ve had a million opportunities to work on cool animated projects for celebrities like Jack Black every day of the week! Getting to work with people like Adam Paloian (director of “The Cuphead Show!” and “SpongeBob SquarePants”) and animator Chris O’Neill (creator of the Let’s Play channel OneyPlays) was an awesome experience. There were countless other great people involved, too, such as the incredible 3-D artist Noah Williamson, and of course my dear friend, Jack Gatto, who really tied everything together on the computer animation side of things.”
He said he is thankful he had the opportunity to get his start in the animation, film and visual effects program at NCTEC.
“I know for a fact that I owe a great deal to my two years of the program,” Roberts said. “During my junior and senior years of high school, being able to look forward to going to school every day was not something I was used to. The sense of community, invaluable critique, and time to grow as an artist was something I’m very glad I was able to develop as early in my life as I did. It gave me confidence and very much prepared me for the rigors of the program at Daemen.
“The main element that I’m grateful for from Jennifer Manning’s class was the communal sense of camaraderie with other like-minded people. Almost more important than building your own artistic skills (which is another thing I got out of the class), is having a good group of friends that you can bounce ideas off of. Animation and filmmaking are almost always team sports, and even though something like critique can be scary, it prepares you for how the world really is. Despite how overwhelming it can feel to venture into this field, you’ll never be lost when you have a tribe.
“I’m so glad that younger people in Western New York have this opportunity, and I implore any teen animator/filmmaker in the area who’s considering joining the program to do so. Come meet your people and have a great time doing it!”
You can see more of Gatto’s work at jackgatto.com and Roberts’ work at geoffrobertsart.com and the houndkidz YouTube channel, as well as some of their collaborative projects on the Flashgitz YouTube channel. Check out the “Video Games” project on the official Tenacious D YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNJtPFXUnm4.