For Glendale resident Douglas Rogers, life took an animated turn in 1998 when he was hired as art director for "Shrek."
"I had come to Los Angeles to do 'Othello' at the Shakespeare Festival. Jeffrey Katzenburg (producer of 'Shrek' and DreamWorks chief executive) was looking for someone who thought outside the box because at that time only 'Toy Story' had been made. I went over to DreamWorks and they showed me this 22-second test," Rogers said.
"I realized what they were showing me was a new medium. I thought to myself, 'When am I going to be at the edge of a new medium?' It was like someone had shown me color, or they had shown me sound. They wanted some help developing castles. Where else are you going to get to do a castle?"
Rogers, who has a bachelor of fine arts degree from Baylor University and a master of fine arts from Yale University's School of Drama, says it was fate that brought him to California where he ended up working on "Shrek."
"I was supposed to go back to New York to do an opera," Rogers said. "I just said, 'No, I'm not going to do that. I'm going to do this because I think this is going to be really wonderful.' And then I met Jeffrey. He was a high-energy guy. I thought, wow, if Jeffrey Katzenburg and Steven Spielberg and David Geffen think this is a good thing, then I want to be involved with this."
As art director, Rogers traveled the world for artistic inspiration for the locations in "Shrek." His travels took him to England's Warwick Castle, Stratford Upon Avon, Canterbury and a town called Rye, as well as Hearst Castle and Solvang.
"I can tell you that the town of Duloc is based on Solvang," Rogers said.
However, his work as a designer has been diverse, encompassing several mediums, including designing the location for Disney's "Tangled," which opens in 3-D on Nov. 24, and art director for Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing," opening Dec. 1 at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City.
Rogers is now a concept designer for Disney Imagineering in Burbank. In 2009 his work as visual development set designer can be seen in Disney's "The Princess and the Frog." In 2007, he worked on "Bee Movie," his sixth film for DreamWorks, for which he did development and identity design.
"I also did the historical research for the architecture and also for costuming," he said. "I work with the character designers. Although I didn't design the characters, I have a heavy input on what perhaps they're wearing."
Rogers, who was born in Germany (his dad was in the military) and grew up in Paris, Tennessee, is married to Susan Slagle Rogers, a producer for DreamWorks. They have a 9-year-old son, Jackson.
Having designed at regional theaters around the United States, Rogers' work has been seen on Broadway — most recently as associate designer in the Tony Award-winning revival of "Into the Woods."
For HBO, he was production designer for "Deadwood," the first major network show for the Internet, which introduced the concept of the half-hour webisode.
Rogers also designed the late Luciano Pavarotti's world tour and consulted on several live concert productions.
Rogers has had a long relationship with the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles, including the upcoming "Much Ado About Nothing."
"Over the years, I've done probably six or seven shows for them," Rogers said. "I really like working with Ben Donenberg, who's the Shakespeare Center's artistic director."
For "Much Ado About Nothing", the play's location has been updated to a California vineyard, Donenberg said, and Rogers has brought a sense of a fairy tale fantasy world to the stage that is grounded in California history.
"He did a lot of research on vineyards and has been able to find iconic images and incorporate them into the scenic element, so we feel we are surrounded by wine and grapes as a lifestyle," Donenberg said. "He's really made that vision come true. He's been so steeped in creating fairy tales through his animation work; he was so perfect to bring this onto the stage."
What: Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" presented by the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles
When: Dec. 1 to 19
Where: Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City
Tickets: $35 to $70
Contact: (213) 628-2772 or visit http://www.CenterTheatreGroup.org/MuchAdo