GTMS Life > July 26, 2021

Musa Brooker

When Musa Brooker was 5-years-old, he told Anne Arfaa, “In school I like to play with Adrian and John. And I like to play with the thousand chain. After school, I like to look at cartoons and at Sesame Street.” When Musa recently read this quote from 1978 on Greene Towne’s Facebook page, he remarked. […]

When Musa Brooker was 5-years-old, he told Anne Arfaa, “In school I like to play with Adrian and John. And I like to play with the thousand chain. After school, I like to look at cartoons and at Sesame Street.” When Musa recently read this quote from 1978 on Greene Towne’s Facebook page, he remarked. “I guess the whole watching cartoons thing worked out!” 

Today, Musa (that’s “Moo-say”) is an accomplished Los Angeles based 3D Stop action animator, director, and producer collaborating with a broad assortment of commercial and independent film makers, musicians, and creative friends to create quality hand crafted animation. His varied credits include the holiday classic, “Elf”; series such as “Tumble Leaf”, “Robot Chicken”, and “Sponge Bob Square Pants”; ads for Google, McDonalds, Honda, and Bacardi; and music videos for The Foo Fighters, Jane’s Addiction, The Raconteurs, and Plain White T’s.  Musa is also an educator, teaching in the Division of Animation and Digital Arts at University of Southern California. Whether teaching, directing a big production or producing a small labor of love, Musa approaches each project with a respect and appreciation for the beauty and rich diversity of creative opportunities stop action animation affords.

Maria Kaminstein was Musa’s teacher in his first year at Greene Towne, when he was 3-years-old. She recalls that Musa didn’t want anything to do with art, painting or drawing, which she took note of because Musa’s dad, Moe Brooker, is an established Philadelphia artist. Maria remembers having to make him do a painting for the end-of-year art show. Musa thinks that is so funny considering where he ended up. He must not have minded because today the art fair is among his fondest memories of Greene Towne. “I remember the art fair on the last day of school when all the kids made a painting and hung it up. And I remember the 1000 chain and being excited to use it. I remember the desks with circles and the church we were in. I have fond memories of the church, the hardwood floors, the openness and that the classroom was very colorful. The colors and beauty of the classroom stand out most. We had graham crackers for snack and now every time I eat a graham cracker, I think of Greene Towne.” 

Musa’s mom, Virginia, was a school teacher. “My parents saw the value of a Montessori education and we lived nearby; it was the perfect match.” After Greene Towne, Musa attended Friends’ Central School in Wynnewood along with other Greene Towners, Tori Curl Wolgin, Forrest Curl, and Walker Gilmore. After graduating from FCS, Musa earned his BFA in animation from University of the Arts in Philadelphia and an MFA in Experimental Animation from California Institute of the Arts where he was a Jacob K. Javitz Fellow.

Musa notes that his work is spatial, very dimensional and hands on. All qualities that one finds in the Montessori materials. “Knowing what I do about Montessori, I see how my experiences in that environment affect me to this day. In my professional work and personally, I enjoy talking to people of different ages.  I work with students, veteran animators, and people new to the industry and I find it very easy to interact with them, just like in the mixed age Montessori class.”  In his own classroom at USC, Musa talks a lot with his students about freedom within limits; “that comes from Montessori too. Having limitations and boundaries in the creative process helps focus the work. I give my students boundaries and I get better work from them.”

When we caught up with Musa this summer he was just wrapping up his latest project, directing and overseeing production of the new Bratz web series. Musa was excited to work on this project because the new series takes these controversial dolls and makes them an engine for good, emphasizing positivity and empowerment for women and girls, encouraging individuality and addressing modern-day challenges like video game addiction. “There are 10 episodes, giving us time to develop the characters and their personalities. The new generation of Bratz are creative and contemporary, engaging in urban farming and crafting, and they think for themselves.”

“The heart of what I do is telling stories, whether comical or serious; it’s evoking emotions. I like telling stories and the problem solving that comes with telling the story through animation. I especially like the tactile nature of stop action, touching an actual, physical thing. There’s something crafty about it that I really enjoy. I studied all forms of animation in school, 2d, 3d, and CGI but when I was working at MTV as a layout artist they had a show using stop motion and I started doing that and fell in love with it. 3D stop action animation is physical and concrete but it’s still animation.”

Above all, Musa remembers having lots of fun at Greene Towne.  “When I look at the class photos on Facebook I remember a lot of those faces. I’m still friends with Krista Ruah, who is an artist and a chef. Walker and I went to Friends’ Central with Tori and Forrest; we’re still Facebook friends. Greene Towne gave me life-long friends. Knowing that it is where my education started I see that it set me on the right path to combine work in a creative field with the responsibility needed for the business side. It provided me the opportunity to learn how to solve problems in my own time frame and to work collaboratively with others.”

“By 5-years-old I knew I wanted to work in cartoons and animation. I feel incredibly fortunate that I get to do that every day.”  See a sampling of Musa’s projects at platypuspictureworks.com.

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