DU Alumni

Art major finds career building puppets for Cirque du Soleil and others

Art didn’t bring Todd Griffith (BFA studio art ’01) to the University of Denver. He was drawn by the close proximity of the mountains, the easy access to some of the best skiing in the country and DU’s four-year degree in engineering. But while studying engineering, Griffith realized he was more interested in the cosmetic design of a structure and how individuals responded to that design than the structural mechanics of engineering. It was this interest that drew him to the School of Art and Art History and eventually to his career at Michael Curry Designs, an internationally known puppetry and theatrical design firm in Portland, Ore.

Curry Designs specializes in human animated figures and productions. Griffith’s job is to paint puppets that are first designed by art directors. He has designed props and puppets for many popular shows, including Cirque du Soleil’s “Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL,” Disney’s “Ice Age on Ice,” the stage production of “Finding Nemo,” Madonna’s 2012 Super Bowl halftime show and opening ceremonies for the Salt Lake City and Vancouver Olympic Games.

“I get to work on the most fun creations that anyone could ever dream of,” says Griffith, a Portland native who received an MFA in painting from the University of Oregon after graduating from DU. “I am very pleased and blessed that I get to create every day as my job. While the job entails many long hours, it is always rewarding. It is really a dream sometimes.”

Currently, Griffith is painting walk-around Transformers costumes for Universal Studios, including characters Optimus Prime, Bumble Bee and Megatron. The costumes he creates are 10 feet tall, made from carbon fiber and include stilts inside the costume for the performers to use while walking. These costumes are used at Universal Theme Parks in Hollywood, Orlando, Fla., and Singapore. Griffith credits his DU education with starting him on the art path.

“I had always been artsy and art-driven throughout my life, so the transition to the art world at the DU School of Art and Art History felt natural,” Griffith says. “It was a perfect fit for me to discover ways to express myself fully.”

Griffith remembers Professors Maynard Tischler, Bethany Kriegsman and Lawrence Argent having an impact on his career.

“Maynard just had this way of connecting with people and finding the best in them,” Griffith says. “Bethany always took her time to listen — very hip and cool. And Lawrence Argent was such a class act. His classes were always so informative and my skill set tripled in all fields of art after every sculpture class I took with him.”

Check out Griffith’s work at michaelcurrydesigns.com.


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