CARL ROSENDAHL graduated with a BSEE from Stanford University in 1979. Seeking a way to combine his passions for filmmaking and technology, he founded Pacific Data Images in 1980. PDI became, and continues to be, one of the pioneering and most highly innovative creators of computer animation for film and television. During his 20 years of leading the organization, PDI produced over 700 commercials, worked on visual effects for over 70 feature films and, in partnership with DreamWorks SKG, produced the hit animated film “Antz” and the Academy Award winning “Shrek.” The company has received multiple Emmy Awards and in 1998 Carl was recognized with a Technical Achievement Academy Award for PDI’s contributions to modern filmmaking. In early 2000 he sold PDI to DreamWorks SKG, where the company continues to develop and produce animated feature films, including the “Shrek” series and “Madagascar.” Carl is currently an Associate Professor at Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center, and is a Co-Director of the Silicon Valley satellite campus. He mentors and advises students working on their Masters in Entertainment Technology degrees and teaches a course on entrepreneurship. In addition, Carl is an advisor for a number of companies, where he specializes in helping to direct and manage creative organizations that are technology based.




28 thoughts on “OCT 14- CARL ROSENDAHL

  1. Erik Dumas says:

    I would like to start off by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed Carl’s seminar way more than I thought I would. I’ve never had any interest in starting my own company or managing any of the business side of one, but by the end of the night, I had half a mind to start my own studio someday. It was really good to hear someone speak about that aspect of the industry (and with such candid honesty). I think that a lot of that side of things is sort of left out of your education in school, but they are incredibly useful things to know, even if you have no intention of being involved with that kind of thing directly. Lessons like knowing when to walk out of a bad deal, or knowing when to cut your losses, or knowing the things you might need to do in order to be a good boss, can still be incredibly useful in anyone’s career.


  2. Evan Tedlock says:

    Carl Rosendahl was a pleasure to listen to. He outlined his professional career as well as his early involvement with CGI and it’s progression towards feature films. After hearing his points about creating and maintaining a successful company, I’ve come to the conclusion that I would be a terrible businessman. I could handle the long term vision and creating a strong culture but my business acumen is terrible. If I had been in his shoes for some of the tougher decisions he and his company faced, I would have made the wrong choices. All that being said, I found his talk to be extremely insightful into a much less talked about aspect of the animation world, the biz.

    The most exciting part of the discussion was at the end when he began to discuss what he feels what the next big thing is. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are becoming a true reality and Carl is excited. VR and AR present us with an opportunity to create ever more immersive media experiences and ever more realistic digital insertion into everyday life. As science fiction warns us, this is a razors edge between a truly enhanced way to experience life and total abandon of physical reality for a digital one. It will be exciting to observe these new forms of media as they roll out in the next few years but we must be cautious and responsible when it comes to both creating content and consuming it.


  3. Yu Yu says:

    Carl Rosendahl told us about three right, wrong and self reflection in his career life tonight. I especially like the company culture and negotiation part, they are really helpful for us. When you work in a small company, the culture is extremely important. A good atmosphere will make people want to work together. The stop motion studio I stayed is only five people in it. Minus the boss and the accouter, the ones who are really working on animation are only three people. We are very busy, but the working mood is pretty fine. For I’m the only animator and director, the boss decided to add another animator to help the filming process. We all think that’s a good idea at the beginning, until we found out that it was extremely hard to find the right one who fit in the group. After tried other three animators and interviewed eleven ones, we decided to stop and stay what we were.

    The hardest part of the whole making film process for me is to communicate with clients. Carl Rosendahl told us to believe in ourselves and values when making the contract. It sounds easy, but people forget that and compromise all the time. We eager to have our work happened, and agreed on many things that we actually don’t have to do. After his speech, I will take it as a reminder before signing any contract.


  4. Katie Smith says:

    It was really interesting to hear Carl’s advice and stories of his career. As he went through his presentation, you could tell immediately that this is someone who is whip smart and a savvy businessman and creator. I liked his advice- the series of three things- and especially how he emphasizes culture in a company. It is so true, especially in the animation world where you work very long hours and these people practically become your family.

    Carl was also very honest, and spoke at length about when to leave a job or cut your losses, and what it’s like when negotiating contracts. I thought it was pretty incredible how he always stuck to his guns and wasn’t afraid to walk on deals with the big wigs. This is a guy who knows what he wants, how to get it, what to do with it, and how to successfully leave it when he’s finished. His views on VR and Augmented Reality and where they’ll go were very interesting… I can’t imagine having devices where they have little animated characters telling you where to go in the real world. Or, with VR, that people will soon just be in tune with that and never leave their apartments. Personally, I don’t like that at all. It reminded me of the book ‘Ready Player One’, where the world practically just lives in this virtual reality and the ‘real world’ is in shambles. It’s a little unsettling to hear someone like Carl say that these type of things could actually become a reality.


  5. Mayra Flores says:

    Carl Rosendahl’s presentation was definitely informative but I was unable to connect with anything he was saying. In fact, I was was left even more disillusioned with the film industry than ever before. It did however leave me thinking about a lot of things, one being the culture in the entertainment industry and how this advancement in technology will negatively affect interpersonal relationships. I was really thrown off by Carl’s use of “rape” to describe a bad business deal. I thought it was insensitive and inappropriate. Perhaps I was the only one that noticed it but I find it difficult to overlook given the current gender bias in the industry and the world. I think comments like these are made all the time with no accountability, which is incredibly depressing. Words, just like the legal jargon in contracts, matter. I have not made it out the industry yet but this, along with the startling statistics, is unsettling. But it’s show business, right? It’s a tough game and you have to know how to play it if you want to be successful. The future of VR and AR are also upsetting. Outside of the “wow” factor, the responsibility behind the content created is immense and I don’t think I can trust a society that is primarily interested in gaining capital to be cautious of the power it holds. Social media has already proved to be destructive so anything more advanced could potentially be worse. “At least we will be looking up” is not comforting in the slightest because for every well intentioned person working with this technology, there are five waiting to exploit it for monetary gain. I do not need an elevator to automatically know what floor I need to go to. I will take the stairs.


  6. David Nessl says:

    Carl was very engaging, funny and most importantly informative. I thought his stories of dealing with Hollywood executives while keeping control of his business painted a pretty good picture of life as an entertainment entrepreneur. After hearing about his experience I really respect his work ethic and set of values that molded PDI into such a successful company. Somehow he was able to navigate the treacherous waters of the movie studio business, and keep a positive outlook on life…;) I would definitely not hesitate to buy Carl a beer.

    From what we’ve heard, some studios out there really seem to be ruthless. I now have a cringing fear of ever starting a company in the movie business. It’s as if every Hollywood satire, exposing Tinsel-Town as a fake, swindling jungle full of steep competition and heartless business was true all along and we are trying to drive directly into its belly as animators for the picking. Yet, now the industry is halfway around the world, forcing us into VFX slavery or outsourced bankruptcy.

    It was interesting to hear Carl’s opinion of the next big thing. Augmented reality blows my mind but I still find it another way for us to live life alone together. There is always some aspect of an emerging technology that becomes a huge influence on our culture. In the end, happiness is only real when shared. We seem to be blockading ourselves into a fake and unfulfilling virtual screen.


  7. Amir Arzanian says:

    I found Carl Rosendahl’s lecture informative and insightful. His experience as an entrepreneur is unique so It was interesting to listen his stories and advices. I think business management is something essential for everyone. His lecture opened a different vision for me. I tried to run my own business before and when I was listening to Carl I found out how much terrible I was in running a business.
    He talked about a vision for a company that I think it is the most important thing in a company. A company without an specific vision is just wearing out through time. It was interesting for me that his vision in 1981 was making a CG movie, something that seemed impossible by that time but that was the engine of his company. They based their company on that goal so he was well equipped and ready to achieve it when it was the time. It was also surprising for me that how he dealt with a giant company like Dreamworks. He had a such perception and confidence to get what he wanted from his business deals. I learned from him to be more decisive in business and negotiations. I am not good at business but this lecture showed me how important it is to have a good businessman beside of you and your team.


  8. Joseph Etemadi says:

    I definitely would like to give a big thanks to Mr. Rosendahl for taking the time to come speak to our seminar class. He is a smart and talented individual, and I appreciate the industry knowledge he shared with us. Like Mayra, I also felt extremely disconnected from his presentation. It was really hard to follow what he was talking about because it went all over the place. I think some slides, video clips, images, would also help add some flow.

    A lot of us are going through production processes right now in the semester, and we are all working to become better artists/animators. It’s hard sometimes to take a break from our work and think about the business side of animation. It’s a harsh reality, but one we all must face when this is all over. I just wish Mr. Rosendahl was more clear about what we need to do or look forward to.

    One thing that I have heard over and over, and now seen come true several times, is that everyone in the animation industry literally knows each other. Better play nice 🙂


  9. Tuo Kan says:

    After Carl Rosendahl’s lecture, I learned a lot of analyze my life. Achievements and lost, good or bad. It’s wonderful that Carl showed us the way he run the company. And how to negotiate. I like the way he tells his stories. He told us his story with a good rythem. So we are following his mood all the way when he talked. That is a good example to give a good speech. And I also found out that when a successful business man is talking about a big number of money, it sounds like more fascinating: D And the chill attitude that he has when he talked about once the big lost of money 20 years before, I see being a man with rich experiences is helping him to treat everything more easily.


  10. Shang Song says:

    Thank Mr. Rosendahl very much for sharing his story with us. He was very honest, and his real experience surprised me. He was very honest with us about some of the things that we’ve been told about the animation / film industry.
    There are a lot of things I as an artist never thought: for example, I as an animator, or an animation director, biggest goal is “how to be a good animation”: “it has artistic value?” “Can I make the children laugh?” Something like this. But to my surprise, Rosendahl Mr. told me more, I never thought of “how to run a company,” “a company’s culture,” “business negotiations”. God, I was so naive!
    This once again reminded me of the relationship between art and business, a good balance of the two, is a branch of learning


  11. Yingzong Xin says:

    carl’s speech is different, unique, very happy to hear Carl’s speech, my favorite part of his speech was about his part of the corporate culture is the core of a company’s most important part of the business and his culture, if a business does not own culture just as dead, and the atmosphere becomes depressed, alone and without a creative goal. If one has a common goal of business as usual in our studio to create the same atmosphere and full of passion for work, even if a lot of work, they themselves would be very happy to work. Meanwhile Carl also talked about his own life experiences in Hollywood, although it makes me feel very cruel reality, but I think this is what I might face in the future, I will not give up my dream and hope, I hope I later through their own efforts, they have to give me directions, flat contradiction between the ideal and the reality mark, have a wonderful happy future.


  12. Kun Xia says:

    Carl Rosendahl’s presentation is inspiriting and fresh. He talked creating a clear and effective vision delivers many benefits to business. Not only does a clear, shared vision help define the values of company and its employees, but it also helps guide the behavior of all employees. A strong vision also leads to improve productivity and efficiency. Without a strong vision, strategic plans cannot be properly delineated since there is no guiding principle or ideal to plan. Company culture defines the way in which organization interacts with one another. It’s the formula that guides the team, as well as inspires and motivates employees. It is also responsible for attracting and attaining great talent, as well as creating a fun, happy and exciting work environment. A great company culture also attracts a great partner which, in turn, creates great success. For companies, culture is the formula that guides the team, as well as inspires and motivates employees. It is also responsible for attracting and attaining great talent


  13. Okike Franklin says:

    Carl Rosendahl’s presentation was helpful. His take on having a strong vision is something we tend to overlook sometimes. I appreciate his talk on having a fun and productive work environment and also being nice to the next person you meet because the world is a small place and the animation industry is a smaller one.

    His personal experiences with the industry was touching and an alarming preparation for us young artists.

    Like most people, I think Carl’s presentation was a bit wild and I couldn’t really connect most things but in all he gave a good presentation.


  14. Megan Simon says:

    Carl Rosendahl outlined perfectly ideas a person should consider when approaching the film business. A true visionary, he developed the company behind Ants, Shrek, How to Train your Dragon and many more. Before CG was even considered adequate as a method of making movies by the general populace, Carl Rosendahl was investing hsi time, energy and interest in developing new ways to animation with CG. His company began working commercially, creating small title screens or animations. Their goal was to eventually create stories. To do that, however, they had to take risks. Such as investing in a character only department, despite not having any character work.

    Another thing that stuck with me from Carl Rosendahl’s lecture was his discussion of business negotiations he had in the past. Rosendahl knew what he was worth, and wasn’t about to let a need or desire for a certain kind of work cause him to lower his standard of pay. In fact he even walked out on a few offers, before eventually resolving contracts with Dreamworks Animation.

    The basic principles Carl Rosendahl gave us was this:
    Have a Long Term vision: a goal to constantly work towards. This was truly inspiring for me, because I know one day I want to make my own feature film or series, of my own invention created in my own universe. I never felt I should have a goal this large and seemingly impossible, but now I feel it is a necessity.
    Culture is vital in a creative environment. Carl Rosendahl felt strongly much of the success of PDI was due to the close knit environment of his company’s community. Everyone knew each other, were friends, there for eachother – and there was a flow to things. When the culture changed after Dreamworks, Carl Rosendahl felt it was time to leave.
    Business Acumen: Gotta know when to hold’em, and know when to fold’em. It’s a well known fact that being savvy at negotiations will lead to greener pastures. What was interesting about Carl Rosendahl’s lecture was that he outlined the times he succeeded in business, and the times he felt he failed. That the failures still haunt him today show not only the care he put into his work, but also the lessons he felt resonated from his worst experiences.


  15. Carl Rosendahl’s presentation was clear and logical. I deeply impressed by how he sorted every ideas and experiences he had in a systematic way. It always takes time to clarify every thought. So there are three main things he classified: right, wrong, reflection. It’s simple but easy to understand. And each has three important elements. In my viewpoint, the most significant part is “culture” because family-oriented environment in a company can be really supportive to help everyone work well and efficaciously.

    Besides, he said that VR will become the mainstream in the near future because it is more immersive than film. Within fifteen years, we can even have possibilities to interact with imaginary characters which populate in the real world. What a fascinating and inspiring idea!


  16. Sequoyah Madison says:

    How do I start? I think first it’s worth mentioning that I really appreciated how clear his presentation was and how he broke the information into three separate sections. Secondly I appreciate how even though you can tell Carl is extremely knowledgeable about technology and business he discussed it in a way that is easily palatable for all audiences. So the technology aspect brings me to the main point – cg character animation has dominated the animation industry and hand drawn techniques are now ultimately a thing of the past. If creating feature film character animation was the vision, the ultimate goal, isn’t there some responsibility to keep working on it, keep developing software to try to improve the issues of cg characters? If computer generated animation was abandoned by Carl, who was paramount to its success, what effects does that have on the cg animation? And if we look at the jump from moving broadcast graphics (1980) to Pillsbury dough boy commercials to Antz (1998) those technological advances seem overwhelmingly huge. And while some may disagree and say there are equally huge jumps from Antz to say Inside Out, I don’t think they are big in terms of the appearance on the screen. I’m not looking at oh lets either make the hair and face more realistic (The good Dinosaur backgrounds/ Tangled hair) or oh let’s make the hair and face represent the feel of Photoshop painting (Paperman/Feast). I’m talking about creating software and technology that makes an even larger jump, like maybe a feature film in VR or a technology that takes hand drawn art and uses it. 1980-1998 is eighteen years so if we calculate the same amount of time a revolutionary new look in animation should be coming (1998-2016) next year. All this really to say that I think if Carl had kept developing the software and pursued further goals in feature film character animation maybe things would be different, more grand, in computer animation, than they are today.


  17. Hyeon Jeong Cho says:

    It was very interesting to see the film industry through the eye of business aspect.

    My favourite parts were that he stressed “Thing ‘we’ did right” and “Things ‘I’ did wrong”. Taking responsibility is always a core thing to bear in mind when we work with others(and especially when you are a decision maker) but it is also the thing that easy to be forgotten. Considering the points he mentioned; Long vision, culture, business acumen, cutting losses, BOD and mentors, and let culture slip… I don’t think I can be a good business person. I do respect his long vision towards for 15 years later, and ability of determination.


  18. Jing Huang says:

    Carl’s presentation is really great. I have a dream to start my own studio someday. And the talk of Carl has impressed me so much of his own life. He also gives me suggestions on how to balance the study and the work. I have not enough time to make sure both of them been done well thus learning how to allocate time is also important. Lessons like knowing when cut your losses or knowing the things you might need to do in order to be a good boss or colleague, can still be incredibly useful in anyone’s career.
    Thanks again for Carl’s nice presentation and his life story. Wish someday I can be outstanding as him.


  19. Jinyue Wan says:

    It’s really fresh to me to know how a leader thinking and work in the industry. And Carl’s speech just offer me a chance to understand how a good boss should be and he also give us a chance to think what we should do if we become the leader someday.

    I also admire his charming and the way he told his story. We can see, he is really good at presentation, in another word, he really know how to express himself, and how to control the audience, let them follow his steps. This kind of ability is which I really want to get, I hope someday I can be a great leader and advisor as him.


  20. Min Shi says:

    Carl Rosendahl’s lecture is very informative l. As an entrepreneur he is unique . In my opinion , business management is something important for everyone.

    It is also important to attracting and hiring great talent work for you, creating a nice and harmony atmosphere is essential too. For entrepreneurs, culture is the formula that guides the team, which can inspires and motivates employees.


  21. yudu says:

    To be honest, I was slightly disappointed by the presentation. When I first see the images about HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON and ANTZ on the blog, I thought the presentation will more about how to make those great films, especially I am a big fan of HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON. It seems like CARL is more like towards to the businessman side than the artist side. However, I do learned a lot about how to range your own business and how to lead a team, and that knowledge are equally as important as art skills! One thing that is especially worse to mention. He said when you are leading a group, when something goes well, you should credit your team and think as if “we” did right! However, when things go wrong, you should think as if “I” did wrong. It is a simple thought but it is hard to do when you are in the situation.


  22. Jinzhi Du says:

    It is hard to do something perfectly when you are focusing on another thing, So it is easier to be a great animator than to be a great animator and businessman. Carl Rosendahl did it. I dream that I can start my own studio some day. It looks not an easy thing to do. Cuz you should think every aspects of things even which you are not good at it. Still need to learn a lot of things. Thanks Carl lead me into the door of it.


  23. Aya Kashima says:

    It was good opportunity for me to have lecture from him. As I do SA for seminar class, I realize that person who success in certain industry is open-minded and feel comfortable to talk with. Carl Rosendahl is one of them, I enjoyed his lecture and it encourage me to think about my future career. I understand he is good business man because of his business skill but at the same time I felt his personality could be a reason why people want to work with him.


  24. xiruiliu says:

    For me, I really like Carl Rosendahl’s works and appreciate that he can come to our seminar. He is really a business man and knows how to make the world works. I am so glad that he is really kind to sharing his career experience to us and lead us to know some tips and how to negotiating contracts in the future.

    Also, he is really a wisdom man, he is keeping encourage us to do what we like and push ourselves to further way. Also, he showed a lot of pieces of his work. The famous one is How to train your dragon, the beautiful lighting makes the scene more dramatic and in emotional way. I totally love the way he combine the technique and story perfectly.


  25. Joe Stucky says:

    Carl Rosendahl’s presentation was educational on the business side of the animation industry. This is often overlooked in ones early studies and career, because makers don’t want to think about how the things they make need to be sold. However business is what keeps your career afloat.

    He talked about an idea of financial transparency. This idea is interesting and it seemed to work well for Carl. I like this approach rather than more traditional systems, that really on more secrecy among ranks.


  26. mengna Lei says:

    he offers us a good view of how to deal with the business in the industry. I really like his idea of how to lead a team and how a leader take the responsibility of the team.


  27. Yijie Li says:

    Thanks to Carl Rosendahl for telling us the real stuffs and situations in the industry. We always focus on one particular field and ignore the other parts that might support or collaborate with us. Carl’s words are really honest and give us the notice that we need to prepare for entering the real artist world not only with our skills but also with our mature mind. His prediction of the next technology trend is quite exciting and I feels that the VR tech has some unnoticed drawbacks.

    His topic of managing the business is realistic and it is necessary for us not avoiding it even we are dedicated artist. However, to some extent, it kind of confuse me and drive me out of the presentation.


  28. Ruchia Masuko says:

    It was pleasure to listen to Carl’s presentation,
    His presentation was different than others, he told us more of about business and producing films.
    Because I couldn’t imagine how the business goes, I was very surprised how people conflict each other while the films are made.
    Even we are animators, I feel that I should know more about the business behind the films.


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