New Freestyle animation teacher begins work after months of searching


Natalie Arbatman

After receiving word that old Freestyle animation Instructor Adriana Copete’s work visa was denied a week before the school’s start, the Freestyle team was forced to quickly find a new teacher for the course. 

Finally, after an extensive search, the new animation teacher was announced to be Tommy Cho, a 3D Animator, Modeler, and Texture Artist. 

Cho came to the campus from LA for an in-person interview with Freestyle Director, Leo Florendo. 

“I walked around the facility, classrooms and met the students. I immediately fell in love with the atmosphere… with the young, talented students,” said Cho.  “At that moment I decided this is the place where I can come in to teach young, passionate students.”

New freestyle teacher Tommy Cho helps a student with an animation project. He started work after months of substitute teachers filled in for the class.

Cho plans to give students all assignments involving modeling, texturing, lighting, building up characters, rigging, and key frame animations. According to Cho, he is also planning on “having them make some simple game projects.”

Cho is hoping to implement new technology to make the animation process faster. 

“I’m going to bring new industry technology into the classroom for bigger procedures,” said Cho. 

According to the Freestyle Academy website, Cho has a “MFA, BFA in Computer Arts/Animation from the School of Visual Arts, NY.”

Cho has worked for TV commercial studios such as Curious Pictures, Studio Xoop, and Brand New School as an animator and 3D artist in New York. He has also worked for Nickelodeon, MTV, AT&T, Intel, among other clients making music videos, animations, modeling, texturing and lighting. 

“I immediately fell in love with the atmosphere… with the young, talented students.”

According to Cho, he was inspired to begin teaching by a mentor if his who suggested he work at Art Institute. He worked at Art Institutes’ San Diego Campus, Orange County Campus, Cypress College, Irvine Valley College, and Orange County School of the Arts High School.

“Many of [my old students] became really successful game and movie industry professionals,” said Cho. 

Although he starts on Monday October 14, Copete’s visa from Colombia was denied only a week before school started leaving the program “scrambling to find a replacement teacher.” In the meantime, the class was being taught by a substitute. Copete left all of her materials. 

After former freestyle teacher Adriana Copete’s work visa was denied a week before school started, freestyle scrambled to find a new animation teacher.

“Students have been using the materials that [Ms. Copete] set up for the past two years,” said Florendo. “And the substitute [was] doing his best to keep up with all of that.”

Florendo added that the senior animation students came to help the juniors through the class without a teacher. 

“Animation students, in general, are a very tight community… they really have each others backs and help each other as much as they can,” Florendo said. “They all realize everybody is struggling because animation is not easy, so they all help each other.”

“The [animation seniors are] really kind and I don’t think we could’ve done some of our projects without their help.” animation student Maya Sullivan said. 

So far, he’s been very nice and it seems like he has a fun curriculum planned for us,” said Sullivan. “So I’m looking forward to that in the future.”