Rex Grignon, Reading Between the 'Toons The head of character animation at DreamWorks, Rex Grignon, tells us what he's reading. Grignon worked on Shrek, DreamWorks' first film Antz, and on the new comedy Madagascar. His book choices are usually not job-related.

Rex Grignon, Reading Between the 'Toons

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From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Liane Hansen.

We continue our summer reading series this week with Rex Grignon. He works in Redwood City, California, as head of character animation for PDI, the animation division of the movie studio DreamWorks SKG. Rex Grignon and his colleagues at PDI created the on-screen magic in the animated comedies "Antz," "Shrek" and "Madagascar."

(Soundbite of "Madagascar")

Mr. BEN STILLER, Mr. DAVID SCHWIMMER and Ms. JADA PINKETT SMITH: (As Alex the Lion, Melman the Giraffe and Gloria the Hippo) (Singing in unison) Hmmmmmm...

Mr. STILLER: Happy...

Ms. SMITH: ...birth...







Mr. STILLER: ...a zoo.

Ms. SMITH: You...

Mr. SCHWIMMER: ...look...

Mr. STILLER: a monkey...

Mr. SCHWIMMER: ...and...

Mr. STILLER: smell...



Mr. STILLER and Ms. SMITH: (In unison) ...too.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CHRIS ROCK: (As Marty the Zebra) You guys are just embarrassing me and yourselves!

HANSEN: After a long digital day at the office making cartoon characters sing and dance, Grignon likes to read non-fiction, especially history, science and math. He just finished "A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson. Grignon enjoyed Bryson's telling of the Earth's history from the big bang through modern times.

Mr. REX GRIGNON (Character Animator, PDI): And it's just amazing hearing these stories of pioneers over the centuries piecing together little bits and pieces of the universe and our Earth and, you know, figuring out that there was an atom there, but it took them a couple hundred years to figure out what it was. And I just couldn't put it down. It was great.

HANSEN: Grignon, an amateur bass player, also reads about music. He keeps a copy of Tony Levin's "Beyond the Bass Clef" close by. In it, Levin writes about his years playing bass with, among others, jazz drummer Buddy Rich, progressive rockers King Crimson and Peter Gabriel and experimental violinist Laurie Anderson. Grignon recently read "Broken Music," a memoir by Sting, and he sheepishly bought "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Music Theory" by Michael Miller.

Mr. GRIGNON: It's always embarrassing to buy these "Complete Idiot's" books, but it really takes you through. It's really helpful. It filled in a lot of holes in my understanding of music theory. And as much as I had to swallow my pride to buy a "Complete Idiot's Guide," it was--I'm better because of it.

HANSEN: For his summer reading, the Ontario-born Grignon has just started "Testaments of Honor" by Blake Heathcote, which tells the stories of Canadian World War II veterans. Next, he hopes to read "Chronicles: Volume I," a collection of photos and musings from singer Bob Dylan, and "iCon Steve Jobs," which features conversations with the Apple Computer co-founder's peers. Even when he's on vacation, Grignon tends to shy away from what he calls junky novels and thrillers, and often chooses biographies instead.

Mr. GRIGNON: I don't typically differentiate between my spare time and being on vacation. To me, reading is just a luxury and a pleasure, so it's usually the quest to find that first chapter or two that keeps me hooked.

HANSEN: Another book Grignon will definitely pick up this season is "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince." He and his eight-year-old daughter, Grace, are eagerly awaiting the arrival of J.K. Rowling's sixth book, which takes place during Harry's second-to-last year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Rex Grignon is the head of character animation for PDI/DreamWorks. PDI's latest efforts can be seen in the new film "Madagascar." To find out more about our summer reading series, please visit our Web site at

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