Worthington News

Two cartoonists from Class of '78 are named distinguished alumni

Chances are, teachers at Worthington High School in the late 1970s didn't really think they had a budding cartoonist in their classrooms. A funny guy or two, maybe.

And probably none of them dreamed that two members of the class of 1978 would climb to the very top of the cartooning world.

But that is exactly what happened.

And on Tuesday at convocation, those two funny guys returned to be honored as 2008 distinguished alumni of the Worthington schools.

As Jeff Smith and Jim Kammerud addressed the teachers in the audience, they joked about flunking art in high school and seemed at ease returning to the class clown role for a few moments.

But they also thanked the teachers, both those present on Tuesday and those who Smith described as "go-to" teachers in the 1970s.

He mentioned Niki Gnezda, Bronwynn Hopton and Dave Riegel, who taught art at the high school.

"He gave me the best advice I ever got," Smith said. "He said 'don't get a job at Disney, you won't last a day with your attitude.'"

Smith and Kammerud have lasted, doing what they love and what they shared for several years after they co-founded Character Builders animation studio in Columbus in 1986. The studio was in downtown Worthington for many years.

Smith has since become well-known for his self-published comic book series Bone. It is a comic fantasy that has been translated into 23 languages and has sold more than three million copies.

He has won many awards for his comics, including Eisner awards, which are the comic world's equivalent to the Oscar.

Seventy-five pieces of his artwork were recently exhibited at the Wexner Center for the Arts.

His newest work is the Shazami series for DC Comics. He is also working on a new comic called Rasl.

Warner Brothers recently purchased the film rights to Bone.

Smith, whose parents still live in Worthington, resides in Columbus.

Kammerud lives in Worthington, but commutes to Los Angeles. He stayed here so his children could attend Worthington schools, he said.

He is a director, writer, producer and animator.

Back in the late 1980s, he worked as an animator and storyboard artist for Bebe's Kids and for Space Jam.

In the late 1990s, he began working for Disney and directed and designed the new characters in The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea.

He co-wrote and directed 101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure and was co-writer and co-producer of Tarzan II.

Recently he directed The Fox and the Hound 2.

He won a DVD Exclusive Award for best director of a DVD premier movie for 101 Dalmatians, and was nominated for best screenplay as well.

He was also nominated for an Annie Award for outstanding writing in an animated feature production for the same film.