The Making of a Superhero

What is Your Superpower?!,our animation studio’s most complex project to date was commissioned by the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation (MEAF) for their 30th-anniversary celebration. This video is both a powerful message of inclusion and a shining example of a true philanthropic partnership.Artists are employed on films such as Marvel's TheAvengers series and Oscar winners Green Book and Black Panther. Graduates also go on to careers at media companies such as Disney, WarnerMedia, and ViacomCBS.
“The original concept was to follow a cartoon character through the Exceptional Minds experience, culminating with employment in an actual studio. Our animation team decided that the story would be best told through actual interviews with our young adults that literally became animated,” said Howie Hoffman, Creative Director of the Animation Studio. 
This Foundation's loyal support has provided our school and studio with much needed financial backing needed to secure a future for ou…

Behind the Screen: The Making of "What is Your Superpower?!"

Created for Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation (MEAF) by our graduate animators, What is Your Superpower?! involved the usual deadline pressures (“Is it July already? What happened to June?”) punctuated by moments of pure creative genius (“Are you thinking what I’m thinking? How hard would it be to morph Craig’s head into a goldfish bowl?”) The making of What is Your Superpower?! also involved several unusual challenges. Mid-project, Exceptional Minds moved its whole animation team home due to the pandemic to continue collaborating over Zoom, which presented its own set of challenges. (“Zoom “lag" can make an animation render like a 2D drawing and appear as incomplete work. Oh Zoom!”)Still, the pandemic didn’t stop the crew from filming fellow artist Kate Jorgensen at Nickelodeon near a “secret” door that only a few in the industry know about (Howie Hoffman, an industry veteran who knows the back doors to more studios than he cares to admit, was the Exceptional Minds creative …

Remote Possibilities: Autism and the Different Normal

A pandemic wasn’t on the list of challenges for most young adults on the autism spectrum. 
No one could have predicted that they would overcome so many social stigmas in the workplace, only to have the very foundation crumble beneath them. 
And, yet, many individuals with autism are coming out the other side of COVID-19 stronger than before. 
Now months into the largest unanticipated social experiment in the history of business, companies are discovering that employees with autism are adapting to working remotely. 
Many, in fact, are good at it.  
Companies report that their team members with autism excel at complex projects and communicate better in remote work settings, a new finding for a population that is twice as likely to be under- or unemployed than people without disabilities. At least one global IT firm has concluded that hiring more people with autism is the answer to a tech skills shortage.  
These findings confirm what we’ve long suspected at Exceptional Minds but hadn’t…

The Inclusion Factor and Autism

By Benjamin Maixner Exceptional Minds Director of Programs Behavior Analyst (MA ABA, BCBA)
Imagine you’re at a party. This party is not your party or your friend’s party, but your friends’ friends from work, party. You happen to arrive a little early and your friend seems to be running late.  You are familiar with some of the names, but definitely not the faces. The longer you are there the more awkward it feels. You can feel that people are sensing your panic and they start to look you over, but no one comes to talk to you. It’s not that you’re not unwelcome, no one is going to kick you out, but you weren’t exactly invited.
Now take a second to imagine that this anxious and lonely moment lasts for the rest of your life. That’s how one person on the spectrum described to me what it is like to have autism.
Autism affects many aspects of daily living, the most likely well-known of which is social skill deficits. While social interactions can be difficult for many on the spectrum and work can …

Meet the Minds: 1st Year Student Leona Tates

"I don’t know what my artistic superpower is, but that is why I’m here at Exceptional Minds to help me find it."
- Leona Tates, Rising Second Year Student
Right before Covid-19, we had a chance to sit down with a number of students and artists at Exceptional Minds to talk about their backgrounds and their hopes and dreams. This first interview is with full-time Exceptional Minds student Leona who thus far has a strong interest in animation and shares a few of her Disney and Cartoon Network favorites.
Hi, my name is Leona Tates and I am a first-year student at Exceptional Minds. 
EM: What were you doing before Exceptional Minds?
LT: Before I came to Exceptional Minds, I was a volunteer at the Hunter House Victorian Museum. 
EM: What has surprised you the most about Exceptional Minds? 
LT: My biggest surprise about Exceptional Minds was, meeting industry professionals and having them as my teachers. 
EM: Since starting at Exceptional Minds...

LT: Since I have been here, I was recogniz…

Industry Spotlight: Richard Goldsmith on the State of Animation

The entertainment industry is experiencing unprecedented change and with it, opportunity. Here to tell us what recent events mean to the animation space is Richard Goldsmith, President and CEO of Cyber Group Studios, who also serves on Exceptional Minds’ Industry Council.
EM: We’re hearing very encouraging reports about the increase in animation as a solution to the content development challenges brought on by the pandemic. What are you experiencing there at Cyber Group Studios?
RG: The most immediate reaction to the pandemic from the major platforms that air animation was to acquire existing animated series for kids who were home from school, namely educational content. As of today, a few platforms have indicated that they are going to cut their budgets for content, whether animated or live-action, due to the projected decrease in corporate revenues caused by the pandemic. Otherwise, we have not seen a change in the desire for animated content, so all indications are that the current b…

EM Graduation: Speaker Rob Paulsen (Animaniacs' "Yakko")

On Friday, June 5th, Exceptional Minds hosted its first-ever Zoom graduation and it was amazing to see all our third-year students "virtually walk!" Our keynote speaker Rob Paulsen, known as the voice of Yakko in Animaniacs and Pinky from Pinky and the Brain, captivated the graduating class with his many impressions and offered up his own acronym for autism: Astonishingly Unique Terrifically Irrepressibly Superhuman Magicians.
Click the video below to watch Rob Paulsen's keynote speech.

Exceptional Minds is a professional training academy and working studio for young adults on the autism spectrum. We are a 501(3)(c) nonprofit organization based out of Los Angeles, CA that specializes in training young adults with autism spectrum disorder for meaningful careers in post-production and digital animation. Subscribe to our Newsletter here.