Gaiaspora title screen.

Faculty Adviser

Jo Anne Adams


Matthew Mann

Original Pitch

Matthew Mann

Number of Characters





Daniel Beijbom

Premiere Date

April 26th, 2013



Gaiaspora is one of the two animated shorts produced in the Character Animation program by the 2013 graduating class. The sci-fi short was the first in the program to venture into this genre. The film was originally entitled "One Man's Trash," but due to changes made to the story, the title was changed to Gaiaspora in it's second year of production. The faculty director was Jo Anne Adams, and the original concept was written by Matthew Mann. The team's production consisted of 14 students. The story is takes place on a distant planet, where a father desperately struggles to restore his shattered world. As his home crumbles around him, he clings to the hope of one day being reunited with his son. The short premiered alongside the movie Ember on April 26th, 2013.


In the not-so-distant future, a waste-burdened Earth launches its refuse into space, believing that it will drift until it is destroyed by the sun. Unknown to them, it veers off course and impacts upon an alien world, causing a calamitous environmental disaster. With their world now uninhabitable, the people of this planet are forced to evacuate to space in order to survive. However, not all of them are so easily moved from their home, and one among them is forced to make a difficult choice. Sending his only son away with the rest of his fleeing people, one individual remains behind in order to mend his broken world. Using science, luck, and a little elbow grease, this last remaining occupant of this once beautiful world builds a fantastic machine with which to cure the ailing environment. To restore his world and reunite with his son, there is only one thing left for him to find: the final ingredient. He now spends his time searching through the detritus now littering his environment, believing that a solution to his planets problems is to be found among the foreign trash sent from the distant Earth.

The Team

Gaiaspora began as a team of 15 students with Jo Anne Adams acting as lead faculty adviser for the short. The production team became 14 with the loss of Amir. A list of the crew members and their roles are as follows:

Several members of team Gaiaspora at their premiere
posing for pictures. From the left: Jo Anne Adams, Sarah
Reinstein, Jason Gralnick, Sara Johnson, Benjamin
Rhoades, Matthew Mann, Nick Arbeiter, Matthew Trudell,
Angelo Gazzia, David Castillo, and Amanda Bell.
  • Matthew Mann- Director, Original Concept, Story, Textures, Animator, Rendering
  • Matthew Trudell- Assistant Director, Camera Lead and Layout, Character Design, Animator, Sound Effects
  • Sara Johnson- Production Manager, Story, Textures, Lighting, Rendering Lead
  • Nick Arbeiter- Editor, Story, Animator, Lead Compositor, Sound Effects
  • Jason Gralnick- Environment Lead, Modeling Lead, Effects, Rendering Lead
  • Amir Alequin- Environment Lead, Concept Art, Modeler
  • Benjamin Rhoades- Technical Director, Story, Character Modeler, Rigging Lead, Effects, Rendering
  • Aaron Bley- Lead Animator, Modeler, Textures, Sound Effects
  • Andrew Ahern- Lead Animator
  • Emily Gallagher- Art Director, Concept Art, Matte Paintings, Character Design, Textures, Sound Effects
  • Amanda Bell- Art Director, Matte Painting Lead, Textures, Lighting, Sound Effects
  • David Castillo- Lighting Lead
  • Angelo Gazzia- Visual Effects Lead, Modeler, Rigger
  • Melissa Jimenez- Matte Paintings, Textures, Compositing
  • Sarah Reinstein- Texture Lead, Rendering


Photo taken at the premiere of Ember and Gaiaspora.

Gaiaspora went through numerous changes throughout it's lifetime. Originally, the story was pitched by Matthew Mann. It was about a robot trying to figure out his purpose in life, with Bob acting as his creator. The story was set in a junkyard on Earth. Throughout the rewrite process with teams of four and eight, the story evolved into what became known as One Man's Trash. The story turned into that of a journey about a father, Bob, who was lost in depression over the loss of his son, and a robot, who was the son's toy, attempting to find a way to bring Bob back to what he was. The story was selected as one of the two that would go on into full scale production.

Even though it was chosen, it wasn't selected for it's visual attractiveness. The story always lacked a visual style that didn't do justice to the story. With the newly created team of 15, a process began in tandem with the classwork to create a setting for the story and a style that would give the story it's visual element. The group was ultimately split between rewriting the story in a more dynamic way on Earth, and recreating the story as it was in a sci-fi setting in space. One of the assignments for Phil Peter's Artifical Environment class had everyone pitch their own unique setting for the story to the faculty adviser. Jo Anne's number one choice was Emily's pitch, which revolved around a Titan-like planet. Emily's setting took the junkyard theme of the original story and turned it into a trashed planet that had been ruined by Earth jettisoning it's trash into space. The team took the new setting and redesigned the story, but instead of the son dying, he was forced to leave the planet, and the robot was still a toy of the son's. The story also took on a more environmental tone, as it became a new device to explain the themes of the story.

The group continued to run into new complications with the story. As it progressed, it became increasingly complex. This began to worry the group, as it was always intended to be a silent short, but it seemed difficult to get the story's points across without some form of dictation. Especially considering the newly added environmental themes of the story, which had caused the creation of a pseudo-character to be created, which was the giant plant bulb. These issues led Sara to try a rewrite of the story that didn't involved the robot as a character, but merely a very prominent prop in the story. She pitched the idea to the group, and then a new rewrite process began with this ideal in mind. The story continued to grow. With Sara's rewrite, a new story team devised what the short ultimately became.


posterconcept.jpg gaiaposter_2.jpg
Left: The original poster design while the
short was still named One Man's Trash.
Keeping to this image, Sara eventually
created a second version of the poster,
updated and in 3D, for the final

Halfway through the 3D production process of the short, the team began to come to the conclusion that their title, One Man's Trash, no longer fit the themes of the short. While the story had been set on Earth, the title had worked because of it's literal and implied meanings. Literally, it referred to the setting, a restoration business turned junkyard where human Bob was wallowing in depression. It also referred to a close theme of the story based on the saying "one man's trash is another man's treasure," which played on the ideals of the robot devising a way to break Bob out of his funk. But as it developed and transformed into the sci-fi based story, the title and it's multiple meanings no longer applied. This ultimately prompted the team to have a series of meetings specifically designed to try and yield a new title for the short.

Ben was the one who finally came up with the idea for the final title. The meetings had caused the team to begin looking into specific scientific theories that might apply to the elements of the story. A list was created, mostly by Ben's research, and the team began to look at several that fit the short. It was decided that the title should be a combination of two theories that were both applicable. The two theories that formed the final title were the Gaia Hypothesis and Diaspora.

The Gaia Hypothesis:
A principle or theory that states that the biological organisms of a planet work with their inorganic surroundings to create a system that is self-regulating to maintain an environment that can support life. This references how the planet devises a method to help and combat the toxicity introduced onto it.
Is the movement or migration of a group/culture of people, usually involuntary in nature because the migration is spurred on by an event. This principle references Bob's people leaving their home world after it became toxic and inhabitable.


The music for the film was created and composed specifically for the film by Sweedish composer Daniel Beijbom.

In Memory Of

Amir Alequin while still on a presentation day.

Gaiaspora is dedicated to team's late member Amir Alequin. Amir became a member of what was at the time "One Man's Trash" back when there were only eight members on the team. Amir's digital painting skills helped to carry the team in securing a position as one of the two chosen pitches for the 2013 class productions. Amir's forte was concept art and digital paintings for environment designs. When the short's setting was switched to a Titan-like planet, he quickly got to work creating the new environment to the short. Using only a single topographical map designed by Nick, and using the stylistic choices of Emily for the exterior environment, Amir single-handedly created all of the movie's exterior. Almost overnight, he was able to design a dirt and rock landscape that mimicked the movies underwater themes. He described his environment as "what it would look like if we took what the ground was like in the ocean, and just took away the water." Amir went on to be the group's Leand Environment Modeler for the exterior, alongside Jason, who took control of the interior set.

Amir modeled the exterior environment using a combination of Maya and Zbrush. He was still in the process of finessing the environment models when the Thanksgiving break of his senior year came. He went home Wednesday for his birthday, and he a couple days with his family. Amir lost his life to a car accident on the morning of November 24th. The team was saddened, but a week later was even more determined to complete the movie in his honor. Jason took over Amir's environment and became the sole environment lead for the short. The short was completed on April 24th. The animation lab where seniors work in their second year of the Character Animation program was dedicated to him as well as the movie.

Gofundme, Amir's Support, and Software Purchases

After Jason bought a set of gas masks on sale
in honor of the film, Amir would constantly don one
and meander the halls of the Center during down

Due to the high aspirations of the group and the resourcefulness of several of the members of the team, several people began to look for software that would help achieve the goals they wanted more easily than the software they already had. This led Emily to create a listing for the production to try and raise $800 to gain student licenses for several software packages. Amir had been one of the largest supporters of the gofundme, and when he went home for his birthday, proceeded to show all of his family and friends the web page and his team's production, so that they could see what he was working on and if they wanted, could donate some money to the team. After his death, many of his family and friends decided that a way they could honor his memory by donating to the production. Because of the love of the people he had touched, the gofundme page not only met it's goal, but exceeded it and became a record-setter for the site, raising a total of over $2300 dollars. Honoring Amir's wishes to create the best production possible, the team used the earnings to get licenses for the software packages: Headus UV Layout Tool, ZBrush, the Adobe Creative Suite, Realflow, and Houdini.

Festivals and Contests

Gaiaspora had it's official, limited premiere on April 26th, 2013. Since then, it has been entered into several contests and festivals.

Festival Title Result
Central Florida Film Festival Best Animated Short Finalist
Cartoon Brew 4th Student Animation Contest Entered
Atlantic Film Festival Entered, Denied
International Film Festival Manhattan, NY Entered
Toronto International Film and Video Awards Entered
Slamdance Film Festival Entered, Denied
Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival Entered
AniMazing Spotlight Animation Shorts Festival Accepted and Shown
Philadelphia Film and Animation Festival Entered, Denied
Glovebox Short Film and Animation Festival Accepted and Shown
California International Animation Festival Entered
Adventure Film Festival Entered
Innsbruck Nature Film Festival Entered
2013 SE Shorts: San Francisco Festival of Short Films Entered, Denied
Roseville Animation Festival Entered
AHOF's Savannah International Animation Festival 2014 Entered, Denied
The Biritish Animation Film Festival Entered
Praxis Film Festival Accepted
SoCal Creative & Innovative Film Festival Entered
United Film Festival Entered
Shockerfest 2013 Accepted and Shown
Savannah Film Festival Entered
NBCUniversal Short Cuts Festival Entered
Warsaw Film Festival Entered

External Links

The Gaiaspora Facebook page can be found at:

This article was written and edited by NickArbeiterNickArbeiter.

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