March 1999: Vol. 78, No. 2

Pritchett (AB '90) says her work on "Mulan" got so technical that she's sorry she sold her college calculus text.
Fantasy life

Disney techie helped bring "Mulan" to life by blending computer-generated images with hand-drawn animation

By Jennifer Hanson

After six hours of tweaking the lighting and shadows cast by an angry mob of Huns, Heather Pritchett is in need of a "pick-me-up." She walks across the street to a ramshackle building, hops a freight elevator, and lets out a gut-wrenching scream as the elevator free-falls 13 stories in a matter of seconds.

With an adrenaline jolt like Walt Disney World's "Tower of Terror" a short walk away, who needs caffeine?

For Pritchett (AB '90), a technical director at Disney's feature animation studio in Orlando, free rides are just one of the perks of the job. "I love working on the films," she says. "Getting to create a scene and see it on the big screen is just the greatest thrill."

Her biggest project to date is the animated feature "Mulan," which hit the silver screen late last year and received critical acclaim for its astonishing look. Pritchett's role was blending computer-generated images with hand-drawn animation. "My training is in how the computer creates the image, and what I have to do to make it look real," she says. "I come at it from a math-oriented standpoint, heavy in programming skills."

Pritchett's work is so entrenched in programming and mathematics that further explanation would require a refresher course in college calculus. "I sometimes wish I hadn't sold my calculus book back," she says.

But, at the time Pritchett had no reason to believe she'd ever need it. She came to the University as a drama major, hoping to work with the Alliance Theater in Atlanta, and quickly got put in charge of lighting and design for the University Theater group. "As I got more into it, some of the unfortunate realities of theater began to hit home," says Pritchett. "Like always being on the road, always working weekends and evenings, and, quite frankly, never making that much money."

Unsure of her future in theater, Pritchett began to pursue a back-up career in computer science. She graduated from UGA with a double major in drama and computer science, and eventually found herself at Georgia Tech studying networking.

"When I got to Tech and started taking the classes, I really didn't like it at all," she says. "I kept thinking, 'This is horrible. I'm going back to theater!'"

Fortunately, an elective in computer graphics grabbed Pritchett's attention. "I realized that it was everything I liked about theater—the creativity, the performance aspects of it," she says. "So I thought, 'Heck, I can do this for a living!'"

Four years later, Pritchett is working on upcoming Disney projects like "Fantasia 2000," a collection of short features, and "Kingdom of the Sun," an Incan adventure.

"I really feel that I've achieved a lot of my goals, and it's kind of scary," she says. "I'd like to continue broadening my skills and working on different areas of the film, but basically I'm happy doing what I am right now."

Our man in London

Virtually half of the world's news comes across the desk of ABC's London bureau chief Rex Granum

By Ed Legge

If you watched ABC-TV's coverage of the death of Princess Diana or the Oklahoma City bombing, you saw Rex Granum's work. You never saw his face or heard his voice—and he'll never be recognized on the street like Peter Jennings or Barbara Walters. But the long-time London bureau chief is as vital to the network as his famous colleagues.

Granum (ABJ '72) was President Carter's deputy press secretary before making the leap to network news.
The eye of the storm is home base for Granum (ABJ '72). He was ABC's senior manager in Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf War, and he supervised coverage of the U.S. occupation of Haiti, hurricanes Hugo and Andrew,and the 10th anniversary of America's withdrawal from Vietnam. Granum also served as "podium producer" for the '88 and '92 Democratic and Republican National conventions.

"I missed the fall of the Berlin Wall," he quips when asked what big stories he hasn't been involved in covering in recent years.

Granum got his start in journalism at The Red and Black, where he worked his way up to editor. When the Athens Banner-Herald launched a campus edition, Granum retaliated by transforming the student paper from a twice-weekly tabloid into a four-day-a-week broadsheet. His tactics worked: the Banner-Herald shut down its campus edition soon thereafter.

At 24, Granum was put in charge of political coverage for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Covering the Georgia General Assembly and then-Gov. Jimmy Carter, Granum met Carter aide Jody Powell, who asked Granum to join the Carter presidential campaign in 1976. Granum accompanied Carter all the way to the White House, where he served as deputy press secretary for four years.When Carter was defeated in 1980, Granum leapt to a different medium.

"When you write a piece for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution," he says, "it reaches hundreds of thousands of readers. When you broadcast a story on ABC, you're reaching tens of millions."

In 1995, Granum took over ABC's premier foreign bureau in London, and he now oversees bureaus in Paris, Rome, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Johannesburg, and Moscow—meaning virtually half of the world's news comes through his office.

Granum was one of the first network employees on the scene when a bomb went off at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. He chartered the plane that flew the first ABC crew to Paris to cover the automobile accident that killed Diana, and, in its wake, worked for two days without sleep to supervise a bureau that swelled to 400 employees in the space of a few days.

"It was a most incredible experience that I would not want to replicate soon," he says. "It's easier to stay up all night when you're 20 years old."

Ed Legge (ABJ '83) is an art student who was studying in London when he caught up with Rex Granum. Ed lives in the Minneapolis area and is a former sports editor of The Red and Black.

Not your typical European vacation

An internship at the U.N. is more than a resume-builder. It's a chance to save lives.

By Jena McGregor

Open the mail. Sort the faxes. Check the e-mail and voice mail. It's all part of the daily grind.

But what if every day, the e-mail messages told the story of someone illegally detained on death row in the U.S., the faxes reported victims of horrific torture, and the mail brought execution documents accompanied by graphic autopsy reports? Would you even want to go to work in the morning?

Bonny Ling does, despite the harrowing nature of her recent internship at U.N. headquarters in Geneva. "I didn't want to go home on the weekends," she says. "There's a real sense of obligation, especially if the victims are still alive, and you realize that just one day might make a difference."

A visit to UGA by Morris Abram (AB '38) and his wife, Bruna, led to United Nations internships for (pictured clockwise) Bonny Ling, Vijaya Palaniswamy, Zach Hornsby, and Robyn Painter.
Ling (AB '98, BS '98), Zach Hornsby (AB '98), Robyn Painter (AB '99) and Vijaya Palaniswamy (AB '99, BS '99) were unpaid interns working in one of the world's most expensive cities. But their experience in the U.N.'s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was worth it because they got to work on judicial violations, disappearances, torture, and executions.

Their positions at OHCHR were largely due to Morris Abram (AB '38), chairman of U.N. Watch, and his wife, Bruna Molina-Abram, who suggested U.N. internships for UGA students. The Abrams were on campus last spring for a Foundation Fellows luncheon and spoke to an upper-level political science class taught by Gary Bertsch, director of UGA's Center for International Trade and Security. Bertsch and the Foundation Fellows program chose these students and sent their resumes to Bruna, who works in the OHCHR.

Once in Geneva, Bruna took the interns under her wing. They even ate lasagna at the Abrams' home. "The amount of history that he has participated in, let alone seen, is nothing short of amazing," Palaniswamy says of Abram, who was a UGA Rhodes Scholar and a former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.

The interns' primary responsibility was to respond to cases referred by individuals or human rights organizations such as Amnesty International. After checking that the reports were complete and from credible sources, they wrote and sent letters to the country's government. Sometimes the country would request more information. More often they did nothing.

Hornsby remembers a communication he wrote to an African government concerning the killing of a man by a police officer. His letter helped indict the officer. But Hornsby also recalls a death penalty case where the United States denied a Canadian citizen legal assistance from his consulate, a right protected under international law. Despite several appeals sent to the U.S., the man's conviction was upheld. He was executed shortly thereafter.

"At that point, you really see the institutional limitations that have been placed on the U.N., and it can be very frustrating," says Hornsby, whose sojourn in Geneva was his first trip to Europe. "During the four months I was there, I received a very small number of government replies, but I transmitted probably 300 individual allegations."

Ling also realized the OHCHR's limitations when she was asked to speak to an elderly Russian woman waiting on the front steps of the U.N. Because the woman was seeking economic relief, and had suffered no direct human rights violations, Ling couldn't help her. "Can you imagine that?" says Ling. "All I could give her were pamphlets on human rights in Russian."

Painter and Hornsby both went to London for an Amnesty International conference with Asma Jahangir, the U.N.'s expert on executions, where they participated in roundtable discussions alongside human rights experts.

"I was just a peon. I'd never done this before," says Painter. "But Asma would say 'Robyn, you're young and you have new ideas. What do you think?' She always made an effort to include me."

This spring, Palaniswamy is back at the United Nations for a few months before he begins Harvard Law School in the fall, and Painter is off to Madagascar with the Peace Corps. Hornsby is waiting for news of law school admission, and Ling waits for an answer on another human rights position in Bosnia. Undoubtedly, their experiences will continue to both haunt and inspire them.

"The pictures you get . . . the people seem to be begging you to do something," says Ling. "I call those begging eyes—you take them home with you."

Hynes (AB '87) braved the elements to gain a place among 35 U.S. women who have swum the English Channel.
Channel crossing

Stuck in 60-degree seas for 12 hours, Hynes conquers "Mt. Everest of swimming"

By Jena McGregor

Hitler couldn't do it. Neither could the Spanish Armada. But for Kathleen Hynes, crossing the English Channel was all in a day's swim.

Hynes (AB '87) approached the beach at Dover at 2 a.m. last August. When she dove into the sub-60 degree water an hour later, her body was coated with a layer of vaseline to help stave off the cold that threatens any Channel swimmer's attempt at making history. Twelve hours and 23.69 miles later, Hynes emerged on the shores of France, exhausted, chilled to the bone, and thrilled with her accomplishment.

"English Channel swimming is the Mount Everest of the marathon swimming world," says Hynes, one of only 35 U.S. women to successfully cross the Channel. "There are a lot of odds against you."

Those odds include hypothermia, fatigue, boredom, rough seas, strong currents, the loneliness of night swimming, and boat traffic—which explains why fewer than half of last year's attempts to swim the Channel were successful."I thought I'd be okay once the sun came out," says Hynes. "But when it was still overcast, I started to think, 'This is really boring! How am I going to do this?' "

Hynes was spurred on by her trainer, who fed her a liquid food supplement that's the equivalent of eating four baked potatoes—and by her father, who gave her a stern lecture from the escort boat when her confidence was at its lowest ebb and she was considering giving up.

The Channel Swimming Association maintains strict guidelines to ensure that all the crossings are as challenging as the first, by Matthew Webb in 1875. An escort boat is standard, and swimmers are allowed to accept food. But they can't touch the boat, wear wet suits, or leave the water at any point during the crossing.

Hynes had been a member of high school swim teams, but swimming was mostly a hobby until she moved to New York after graduation. To train for open water swimming, the textile research and development manager for Express swam over 20 miles a week—including three-hour stints before work. She acclimated herself to cold waters by swimming in Boston Harbor, Chesapeake Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean. After she completed the Manhattan Island Swim, a 28.5-mile trek through the murky Hudson, East, and Harlem rivers, she decided it was time to tackle the English Channel.

Now that she's crossed it, Hynes says there's little chance she'll try it again. "I have friends who say I could put it on my tombstone," she says. "If you have a hobby that you love to do, it's like the icing on the cake. If you were a painter and one of your paintings ended up in an important gallery, you would be delighted. That's what the Channel is to me."

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