Dani Bowman has a message of hope for young people who, like her, have been diagnosed with autism.
“Everything is possible. If I can do it, so can you.”
An artist whose talents were recognized by family members when she was five, Bowman has worked hard to overcome a variety of learning and communication challenges and make a name for herself as an illustrator and book publisher, award-winning animated filmmaker, public speaker, autism advocate and CEO and founder of DaniMation Entertainment.
What the Class of 2018 Animation graduate has done is nothing short of extraordinary.
“It’s such a wonderful story about how talent powers through all the obstacles that can get in our way,” said Dori Littell-Herrick, former chair of the Animation program at Woodbury and a mentor of Bowman’s since she was in high school. “Dani is a role model for students with autism, but she is also a role model for all students here at Woodbury and everywhere.”
Bowman’s accomplishments cover half a dozen typed pages – single-spaced. She has illustrated and published five children’s books and earned a slot as a regular at San Diego Comic-Con– a multi-genre entertainment and comic convention where she has premiered at least one of her award-winning short animated films in each of the last four years. Beginning when she was 14, Bowman has travelled around the country teaching animation to young people, first as part of Joey Travolta’s Inclusion Films Programs, and more recently at her own camps. In between, she has delivered her message of hope and inspiration to thousands of people at dozens of venues around the country.
In between, Bowman has become a familiar face at animation award ceremonies. Her animated short films, most of which have won multiple awards, include Eeya’s Story (produced by Joey Travolta, about an autistic boy who saves his people from the Wee-Woos), Mr. Raindrop (about a tiny water drop that wants to become a raindrop), The Namazu (starring the voice of Tom Kenny and Stella Ritter, the story of a catfish that lives under Japan and causes earthquakes when children are bullied), Hanna Lost Her Smile (again starring the voice of Ritter, about a girl who discovers she has lost her smile), Airburst: The Soda of Doom (starring the voice of Joe Mantegna, based on the video game franchise AirBurst, produced by Strange Flavour ltd. in the UK), The Adventures of Pelican Pete: A Bird is Born (screenplay by Keaton Bicknell, a fellow autism advocate, based on the book series by Francis and Hugh Keiser), and Somebody NEEDS You, starring the voice of June Foray (Rocky from The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show).
“It’s true that most of what I have learned about animation I have learned through experience,” said Bowman, who transferred to Woodbury from Glendale Community College. “It’s not just animation — it’s also about the leadership side. It’s good to be able to wear a lot of hats, but you also need to know how to be the leader and learn how to delegate to others.”
She chose Woodbury because it offers one of the best programs in both Animation and Business, and its smaller class sizes make it easier for students to customize their program to meet their learning needs. For example, Bowman learned how to organize and prioritize – a critical skill for someone who has this many irons in the fire and who would just as soon spend her day sitting and drawing, instead of studying.
“Sometimes it is really hard for me to explain things — my brain just works a lot faster than my mouth, just to let you know,” she said with a laugh.