Woody Woodman

Foundational Drawing / Illustration / Story Boards / Comics Instructor

Woody Woodman is an artist, storyteller and teacher with 20 years in the animation industry. After being honorably discharged from the United States Marine Corps in 1991, I began my pursuit to become a professional artist, and enrolled at Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota Florida, where I received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

I was recruited by Walt Disney Feature Animation and continued my education in their internship program in Orlando Florida in July of 1997. I began my animation career as an ‘inbetweener’ on the film “Mulan” with Barry Cook. I worked on several films; “Tarzan,” “The Emperor’s New Groove” and “Lilo & Stitch” Then I was accepted into the story department working with some of the finest storyboard artists and directors in the business. I also worked on “Treasure Planet” with Ron Clements, John Musker and Glen Keane. I continued to work for Disney in the story department on “Brother Bear” and a few films that where never realized, until the Orlando studio was shut down in 2003. Woody has continued his Animation experience working with such clients such as: Aardman, Lucas Films, Laika and 20 Century Fox.

Thomas Thorspecken


Thomas Thorspecken

Traditional Animation / Sketching / Foundational Drawing / Figure Drawing Instructor

Thomas Thorspecken, also known as Thor, attended the school of Visual Arts and Design in New York City.  In his 10 years as a freelance illustrator in the city, one of his assignments for the Daily News included sketching historic buildings throughout the city for a column called “Undiscovered Manhattan”.  Thor relocated to Orlando in 1993 to work for Disney Feature Animation.

After 10 years the studio closed, and he continued to pursue his passion for art through teaching and sketching.  His blog “Analog Artist Digital World” began in 2009 as a resolution to post a sketch every day.  He describes it as “his way to finally put down roots, to be part of the community, one sketch at a time.”  Thor has also been teaching Traditional Animation at Full Sail University and now is part of a great team of instructors at Elite Animation Academy.  Thor will continue his passion to teach and now will include Middle and High School students.  Some of the classes he will teach include Traditional Animation, Drawing Fundamental and Urban Sketching.

Chi Wang

Anime/Manga Comics & Cartooning Instructor

Chi Wang is a freelance graphic artist with 30 years of experience in the comic book industry. He started out in 1993 as an intern at Marvel Comics Editorial Department and has worked professionally since for all of the major American comic companies such as Marvel, DC, and Archie Comics.

He also provided lettering and prepress material for Japanese manga companies such as Viz Media, Tokyo Pop and Yen Press. These past work experiences have brought him extensive knowledge of both American and Japanese art-style and how it applies to story-telling in comics, anime and manga.

Chi Wang currently owns and operates “Excel Comics” a digital publisher  of original comic contents and illustrated novels.

Eddie Pittman

Digital & Traditional Instructor

Eddie Pittman is an award-winning cartoonist who works in animation, comics, and illustration. He began his animation career with Walt Disney Feature Animation, working on films such as Mulan, The Emperor’s New Groove, and Lilo & Stitch. Most recently, Pittman was a writer/story artist for Disney’s hit TV series Phineas and Ferb. He is the author online at redsplanet.com.

James Parris

Traditional, Character Design, Anime-Manga Instructor

James Parris was born in New York City, attending the High School of Art and Design and Pratt Institute before migrating to Los Angeles to become a multi-hyphenate filmmaker.

Cutting his teeth in traditional animation during the 90’s Disney animation renaissance, his traditional animation credits include The Lion King, Mulan and Tarzan. He later migrated to CG visual effects for blockbuster features like Spider-Man, I, Robot, Transformers 2 and The Oscar-winning Curious Case of Benjamin Button. James is also an Animation Director on popular TV series like Apple’s Doug Unplugs, as well as an avid live-action filmmaker and storyboard artist, directing short films and music videos, while developing feature and series content through his production company, Paper Tiger Films.

Tony Santo

Traditional Animation / Storyboarding / Foundational Drawing Instructor

Tony Santo has background in illustration, he is always eager to achieve new distinctions as an artist. Perhaps even more important is my commitment to provide the best visual solutions for my distinguished clients and the clearest instruction for my students.

Since 2009, I have been designing storyboards for History Channel (Vikings), WWE (Wrestlemania), Cartoon Network (Ben 10: Omniverse), Pepsi, Sports Illustrated, Indeed.com, Starz, Florida Hospital, HBO, Shriners Hospitals for Children, and others. With animatics, cinematics, video editing, illustration, and concept art, I have successfully presented campaigns for A & E Network, Microsoft, PHD, Carnival Cruise Lines, Budweiser, Henry’s Hard Soda, Sun Trust, Merck, Humira, and more.

I worked as a Clean-Up Animator on Disney films like Mulan, Tarzan, Lilo and Stitch, Brother Bear, and The Emperor’s New Groove. In addition, I served as Art Director on multiple iterations of the award-winning EA Sports games Madden NFL and NCAA Football.

As a Chartpak Art Ambassador, I find reward demonstrating and presenting art supplies and techniques for brands like Higgins, Grumbacher, Koh-i-Noor, Molotov, and others.

I currently reside in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, but my home is where my work takes me.

Stella Abelaez

Character Design & Anime Manga Instructor

Stella Abelaez was born in Cali, Colombia and arrived in New York City at the age of fifteen, when she was accepted to the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Arts as an art major. She continued her artistic development by attending the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT-SUNY) for Fashion and Fine Arts Illustration. In her senior year, Stella took part of a painting class at Scoula Polimoda in Florence Italy, which exposed her to academic painting from the masters. Stella graduated with honors and was recognized as a top competitor by The Society of Illustrators for her pastel portraits and acrylic paintings.

After graduation, Stella furthered her life drawing skills at The Art Students League of New York while freelancing in the fashion illustration field. She was then invited to join the Walt Disney Feature Animation studio in Orlando, Florida as an animation intern and later as a special effects artist. Stella was part of the “Pocahontas Animation Discovery Tour”, where she drew on stage demonstrating the art of animation to audiences in 13 countries while promoting Disney’s “Pocahontas” before its global release. Eventually, she moved to Los Angeles, where she worked for other studios as a 2D special effects artist.

While raising a young family in Burbank, Stella became a homeschooling mother and freelanced props for a variety of TV and film productions. She pursued a certificate in Early Childhood Education from UCLA and volunteered her talents and time to worthy causes such as Girl Scouts.

Stella is now located in central Florida, where she is focused on following her artistic vision and working on private commissions.

Matt Sveum

Traditional Animation / Digital Animation Instructor

Matt Sveum graduated from the University of Central Florida with a BFA in Character Animation. Later he received a certification from Animation Mentor, working with top industry professionals from studios such as Dreamworks and BlueSky. In his career, he has directed short films and animated for Netflix. Growing up, Matt was drawn to anime and manga such as Mobile Fighter: G Gundam and Rurouni Kenshin.

These works also inspired him to pursue martial arts, which he taught for 11 years. In his free time, he enjoys writing fantasy and science fiction novels. His preferred tools are Autodesk Maya, Adobe Premiere, Photoshop and good old pencil and paper!


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Joe Zaffuto

3D Animation / 2D Animation & Gaming Instructor

Joe Zaffuto is a graduate of Ringling College of Art & Design, receiving a BFA in Computer Animation in 1999. I then obtained a MFA Degree specializing in Modeling from The Academy of Art University of San Francisco.

With over 14 years that span over a plethora of different projects from college instruction, movies, television, and video games. My true passion is for lighting, and art direction, but I also love to instruct, inspire and lead.

Amanda Moldovan

Digital & Traditional Instructor

Amanda Moldovan is a skilled animator, painter, illustrator, graphic designer, and professional weirdo. In school, she crawled her way through the jungles of the amazon to get her BFA in Animation. Being a University of Central Florida student taught her what it was like to work in a studio environment and create a short animated film. Since then she has had animation jobs around the US, started her own art business, directed a short, and worked as a painting instructor.

In her first job as an instructor she taught people of all ages how to get creative and pick up a brush. She has animated on short films, music videos, video games, YouTube series, and Television shows. She also is an avid member of Women in Animation, where she was lucky enough to be in a mentorship group under a head of animation at Pixar.  Her hobbies include Dungeons and Dragons, rock and roll, and re watching old Muppet show episodes. Raised in the state of Florida (home of the mouse himself), she found herself inspired by the world around her and began to create. The world hasn’t been the same since.

Mechelle Saunders

3D Animation Instructor

I am a Veteran of the United States Air Force. My first bachelors is in Aeronautics.

I am currently earning my Emerging Media BFA in Character Animation degree at UCF (Graduate: May 2025).

I have wanted to be an animator since I was 8 years old and first saw animators painting cells for The Little Mermaid at a tour at Disney’s MGM Studios (now Hollywood Studios). I love to draw and paint utilizing my observational abilities to create beautiful works of art. I’m also knowledgable and certified in the Adobe Software Suite, Autodesk Maya, and Toon Boom Harmony.

For over 20 years, I have led and trained thousands of people and hundreds of companies. I have created, developed and implemented numerous training programs through the years. Seeing people learning and watching their knowledge grow, is one of the best experiences in life. I have more than 20 years of expertise in world class customer service as well. I am able to share and teach others in a way they can understand.

Sophia Hidalgo

Digital & Traditional Instructor

Sophia Hidalgo is a young animator, digital, and traditional artist skilled in 2D & 3D character animation, storyboarding, illustration, and editing. Some programs that she frequently uses are Autodesk Maya, Adobe Photoshop, After Effects, Premiere, Substance Painter, Illustrator, Animate, and Clip Studio Paint.

Graduated from University of Central Florida with a BFA in Character Animation where she produced a short film with her team. She is an intense anime enthusiast, avid video game player, and was also certified as a Veterinary Assistant. Going through a scientific and artistsic field she couldn’t let go of what she was truely passionate about, creating characters and stories through the world of art. ”

Rachel Sacks

Instructor – 2D Animation / Character Design with Photoshop / Video Editing & Special Affects / Comics & Cartooning

Rachel Sacks is an upcoming third-year MFA candidate in Animation and VFX at the University of Central Florida.

She is skilled in 2D animation, storyboarding, video editing, illustration, and graphic design. She has a deep love for all things fantastical and surreal, and is a life-long fan of the works of Studio Ghibli directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. Currently, she is working on her 2D Animated Thesis Film for her MFA, which will be released in Spring 2025.

Prior to attending UCF, Rachel earned a B.S. in Radio-Television-Film at the University of Texas at Austin. As such, she also has experience in live-action film editing as well as screenwriting. She is currently a Graduate Teaching Assistant at UCF, and was the co-president, instructor and workshop course designer for the Animator’s Club at UT Austin.

Outside of art, she enjoys reading (both literature and manga), writing short stories, and writing music. Ask her about her favorite film soundtracks!