Features — 24 November 2015 — by J. C. Arzu

BELIZE CITY, Tues. Nov. 17, 2015–Belize’s first private radio station, Radio KREM, is celebrating its 26th anniversary this week.

When movie maker DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc.’s current Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Lincoln Wallen, left Belize in the 70s, United Black Association for Development (UBAD)’s newspaper, the Amandala, was less than ten years old.

Lincoln Wallen’s first cousin, Ashley, the chief engineer at Radio Disney in Los Angeles, California says Wallen spent a year at St John’s College before leaving for England at age 14 to complete his education, where he earned “graduate degrees in math and physics and was a full professor at Oxford for 10 years before he migrated to the US.”

These trail blazing cousins are nephews of Belize City’s Bishop Street massage therapist, the late A.P. Wallen. Wikipedia.org reports that Lincoln Wallen is a computer scientist. Wallen has a PhD in Artificial Intelligence from Edinburgh University in Scotland.

Katie Collins wrote about Wallen’s appearance at Wired 2014 in a story entitled “From villain to hero: the computer’s role in the DreamWorks story.” Collins writes that, “The one thing that every great animated film you’ve ever seen probably has in common, is a spellbinding story; that of a villain. In the middle of the story, Lincoln Wallen tells about the history of his company, DreamWorks, the villain that pops up is none other than the computer.”

When it first arrived in the world of animation, the DreamWorks CTO tells the audience at WIRED2014, the computer was “the tool that takes that artist away from what he does best.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean there hasn’t been a happy ending, however. Ultimately, the DreamWorks story shows that “the villain becomes the saviour for the artist, and gives the artist the ability to create,” but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

A DreamWorks Animation film you may have seen is, How to Train Your Dragon 2. It has 70 sequences and each one of those sequences “has the complexity of a Boeing aircraft.” Directors have an imagination and always want to change things, says Wallen. Imagine someone was always messing around with the aircraft — this is a continuous process — and so you can start to see what a modern digital engineering environment is about, “But in the middle of that is the poor artist.”

Read Collins’ story and watch Wallen’s 14-minutes talk at this web address http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2014-10/16/lincoln-wallen-dreamworks-animation

As Wallen tells it, recorded story telling begins with a pencil. However, collaborative story telling requires cloud computing. Designing and building the computer networks that make up the cloud is a big budget undertaking that has been able to return to story tellers the equivalent of an enhanced pencil. Wallen concludes by saying that “technology can amplify the human spirit.”

Meanwhile, Ashley Wallen’s Radio Disney Office 12 stories above the streets in Burbank, says his Disney Office and his cousin’s DreamWorks Office are seven minutes apart but they only just met this summer. In addition, he says, his cousin is a very soft spoken and humble human being, who thinks and talks of Belize with such love and care.

One thing he thinks, he and his cousin have in common is that they “want to inspire the next generation to not ever give up on themselves, not give up on their dreams and stay in school; that anything is possible if they work hard and be honest.”

Sitting in his office, Ashley says he ”grew up right there in Lake Independence.” And clearly remembers “when Amandala was UBAD.”

He also remembers “the single little one story concrete building that was in the big landfill. I used to hunt carpenter birds and pick from the garbage dump that your building presently sits on. At that time there was the ever-present ‘Poppa Treetop’ on that property. There were just the Duncans, the Aspinalls, Diaz’s, the Gordons, the Puertos, the Figueros and Franz, the  guitar man.”

“I remember when UBAD started to sell cheap bread on a carrier bike to the poor in Lake I. These images have never left my mind.  I looked up to Evan X Hyde back then (and still do) because there was no other hero that looked like me that I was able to identify with. …I was always and will always be proud of being a product of Lake Independence.”

Wallen goes on to say that writing an email to Belize “makes me realize that it matters not where I am, my history will always be what it is, my mind and body are here but my heart is home and the definition of home will never ever change.”

Ashley Wallen visited Radio KREM studios just over a week ago.

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