David Wolter '04

David Wolter '04

After his short film, “Eyrie,” won the gold medal for animation at the 2012 Student Academy Awards, David Wolter started thinking about his next project.

By day, he continues to serve as a story artist for DreamWorks Animation near Los Angeles. After years of production, his work soon will be featured in two upcoming animated films. “The Penguins of Madagascar” will hit theaters later this year, and “Home” will be released in 2015. The latter film is based on the children’s book, “The True Meaning of Smekday,” and stars Steve Martin as the voice of the main character.

But by night, and on the weekends, Wolter is working as his own story artist for his new online comic, “Mascot Zodiac,” an ongoing chronicle designed to “capture a flock of elusive ideas I’ve been trying to wrangle for years, and express them as a satisfying, unified whole.”

Wolter says the comic will tell stories of events that influenced his life.

The first chapter, “The Pink Bat,” tells the story of a young boy shooed out of the house by his mother who tells him, “It’s too nice to play inside today.”

Bored, the boy takes to cruising around the neighborhood on his bike, stopping when he finds a pink-colored bat sticker on the sidewalk. After attaching it to the front of his bike, he uses his imagination to assume the role of a super-charged kid on “bat patrol.”

“Suddenly I had a purpose ... a mission,” the boy thinks. “Everything I did was shot through with fun.”

Without giving away its ending, “The Pink Bat” easily stirs up nostalgic memories of innocent summer days when kids can pedal their way to adventure wearing sneakers and riding a two-wheeler.

Wolter says he has about 12 stories, spanning from his youth, through adolescence and into his 20s, he wants to tell in subsequent chapters of “Mascot Zodiac.”

“My goal is to reflect my life experiences and not to shy away from difficult topics."

“I haven’t drawn a comic since my time at Augie,” Wolter said, referring to his work as the cartoonist for “The Back Alley,” a comic strip that ran in The Mirror, the Augustana student newspaper. “This is a new beginning. My goal is just to finish.”

At the Office

"Drawing comics is so much fun. It makes me feel like being a kid again,” he said.

“I think, on some level, that my job is to stay a kid. Yesterday at work, I drew an octopus doing a tango with a walrus – my nine year-old self would have been pretty thrilled with that assignment.”

Living in Burbank (what he calls the “center of the animation world”) with his wife, Amanda, Wolter has also started teaching a film workshop at California Institute for the Arts, where he studied animation and cartooning after graduating from Augustana in 2004.

“I work with six students who are all making short films of their own,” he said. “It’s been a fantastic experience to see their passion and talents.”

He still holds his film, “Eyrie,” his first major project and one that earned him national recognition, close to his heart.

At 24 drawings-per-second, the four-minute film took months to create. It’s a tender story, set in the Old West, that follows a young boy as he discovers the connection between responsibility and love.

After its acclaim, Wolter began a Kickstarter campaign to produce a limited edition DVD of the film. He raised more than $4,000 from friends and fans of the film.

Because of his efforts to share joy and tell stories through art, Wolter will receive the Horizon Award during Viking Days this fall. The Horizon Award recognizes young alumni (graduates of the last 15 years) who have quickly demonstrated outstanding vocational achievement, have provided faithful service to their community and/or church, and who exemplify one or more of Augustana’s core values.

Read Wolter’s new comic, “Mascot Zodiac,” at davidwolter.com.