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A Nanty Gloer in Hollywood;
hometown lad in the big time
 

 

Webmaster's Note: The very second letter the Home Page received after its launch in September, 1997, came from Nanty Glo native Michael Kaschalk, an animation artist with the Disney Studios in Burbank (aka Hollywood), Calif. I thought this potential story of "local boy making good" in "the glamour capital of the world" would appeal to most Home Page readers. So when I had a work contract in Los Angeles in 1999, I called Michael for a get-together and interview. He and his fiancee met me at a restaurant a block from the beach in Santa Monica, where we shared memories of growing up in Blacklick Valley in different generations. This page describes the results of our meeting, as summarized in a followup email from Michael. —Jon Kennedy

Michael Kaschalk

If you are still interested in continuing where we left off, I will include pictures of myself, myself with my fiance Roberta*, and a picture of myself and my still-living grandmother** in front of her house in Nanty Glo [his grandfather died shortly after our meeting]. I'll also refresh your memory on some of the items we discussed over dinner. 

Mike and grandmother, Eleanor.
I have also started a website representing myself at kaschalk.com, on which I have added a link to NantyGlo.com. 

I was born in 1973 in Johnstown, when my mother Eleanor Scariott (formerly Eleanor Kaschalk, daughter of Henry and Eleanor Kaschalk) resided in Nanty Glo. I was given my grandparents' name, Kaschalk, in light of the foreseen separation of my mother and father.

I lived in Nanty Glo most of my childhood and teen years, and graduated from Blacklick Valley High School in 1991. From there, I moved to Pittsburgh to attend two years of art school at the Art Institute [where he met his fiancee, Roberta, a student also at the Institute, from Ohio]. I moved to Los Angeles in 1993 and worked on special effects for several TV shows and movies (X-Files, Picket Fences, Second Civil War, Xena, Lord of Illusions, and more). I have been at Walt Disney Feature Animation since early 1997. I worked as an animator on Tarzan, and Fantasia 2000, and I am currently supervising the 3D effects on Atlantis, which is scheduled for a summer 2001 release. 

I do try and still visit Nanty Glo about twice a year, and it is always refreshing. Nanty Glo has an atmosphere unlike any other placeMichael and fiancee Roberta at premiere party for Fantasia 2000. I have visited in the United States. The preserved small town with its mining roots, green summertime hills, and clear blue skies leaves me wondering about the town's history, and also, what the future will bring. 

For a child who grew up in the post heyday of the town, exploring the old remains of mine entrances and rusted processing equipment along with the eccentric and now-much-cleaned Blacklick Creek provided for a lot of wonder and stimulation of the imagination. I do feel this played a role in my creative abilities which I must use every day at work. 

From a point of doing EFX for films, which often includes creating rain, snow, heat effects, rolling clouds, and other types of weather phenomena, the location of Nanty Glo provided something I had always taken for granted. The sometimes blistering summers with dark, instense lightning storms, fall crisp air with blowing leaves, blooming springtime, and winter blizzards are exhilarating and intense. Many people in other parts of the country cannot relate to such extremes. I found myself in an advantage for creating natural effects twice now, particularly in Fantasia 2000

I am also grateful to Thomas Bugie, computer teacher at BVHS, for his wonderful support. He played an important role in helping me believe in myself and my potential. 

Michael Kaschalk

*Note, 1/12/2002: Michael and Roberta were married in October 2001. Michael's cousin, Sue Kaschalk Hanson reports: "Mike and Roberta were married the end of October in Pittsburgh at the Point with a fireworks display as fantastic as the 4th of July ending the wedding ceremony. They then had an absolutely beautiful reception at the LeMont up on Mt. Washington, overlooking Pittsburgh."

**His grandmother, Eleanor Kaschalk, passed away in July 2001.

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