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North Adams native Alison Cellana, holding the Emmy, was part of the ESPN team that produced the award-winning 'Toy Story Funday Football.' It was presented at the 45th annual Sports Emmy Awards on May 21.
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ESPN took home eight Sports Emmys in total.

North Adams Native Wins Sports Emmy for 'Toy Story' Production

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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Allison Cellana, a Drury High graduate, says the Emmy was heavier than she expected. Cellana is an animator at ESPN. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass.— North Adams native Alison Cellana was part of an ESPN team that produced "Toy Story Funday Football," a production that clinched three Emmys at the 2024 Sports Emmys Awards. 
 
"Honestly, it was a bit of a dream come true for me," Cellana said about the award ceremony that took place on May 21. "I've always sort of wanted to walk the red carpet and go to a big event like this. So finding out that my team was nominated for some awards was awesome."
 
Cellana, a 2014 graduate of Drury High School, is an animator at ESPN where she works on various shows such as "SportsCenter," "Daily Wager" and NFL Live.
 
She was part of a team of 150 or so who created "Toy Story Funday Football" that streamed on ESPN-plus and Disney-plus. The production was recognized with three awards: 
  1. Outstanding Studio or Production Design/Art Direction,  
  2. The George Wensel Technical Achievement Award 
  3. Outstanding Graphic Design – Event/Show 
Cellana was called up for the Outstanding Graphic Design award.
 
She explained that the production was essentially a live broadcast of a football game between Jacksonville and Atlanta played out live through Toy Story-themed animations.
 
"It was live one for one. So you could either go on ESPN and watch the live game with the humans or you could go on Disney-plus and watch these little animated characters doing the exact same thing," she said.
 
She said the ESPN team worked alongside Epic Games and Pixar for a few months to develop the one-of-a-kind project that utilized cutting-edge technology. She said they started working on "Toy Story Funday Football" in July 2023 and the game aired in October.
 
Specifically, Cellana said she was charged with creating posed action shots of the player characters using 3D models of the characters. She said these shots would be used in roll-in animations.
 
"I created action shots for our visual development team to use in any of their graphics. If they wanted to talk about a player, they'd throw up an animation that would have a picture of the character," she said. "So I created what we call roll-in animations.
 
"If you ever watch a football game, they pan to the audience a lot. In our game, we don't have an audience. So, instead of panning to the audience, we would play these animations of say, Woody and Jessie dancing. I created the little insert animations to play in between plays." 
 
Cellana said she also helped with other elements of the production, small things that those outside of the industry may not even notice.
 
She said some of her work wasn't used — but this is just the nature of the business.
 
"If there was an injury on the field, we needed an animation to pop up … so we created these as well," she said. "Thankfully we didn't need them because no one was hurt, but we have to account for everything and for any possible thing that could happen. Sometimes they get there, sometimes they don't."
 
Cellana said these are usual animation tasks she does on the day-to-day, the biggest difference is that she was working with Toy Story characters. 
 
During the process, she felt that the team was working on something special that had the potential to bring home some silverware. 
 
"I had no doubt in my mind that this would have to be nominated because this is the first sort of use of this technology in anything," she said. "So it's innovative, and I assume that people could see how special this was going to be and honor that with some sort of award."
 
Cellana said she was always passionate about art, noting that this passion was stoked by the various art teachers in the North Adams school system.
 
"I took a lot of art classes, any chance I had," she said. "And some of my art teachers were very helpful and encouraging with anything art-related. But I've always loved art anyway, so I was going to do it. And they were there to help me along."
 
Cellana's journey into animation was not always a straight shot.
 
"I always wanted to be involved with art, so I was a graphic design major in college. Then about halfway through college pretty much decided I want to focus on animation, which wasn't really a thing at the college that I went to," she said. "So I was more like a self-taught animator."
 
Cellana started working at ESPN in 2020 as a graphic designer and show designer and two years ago made her way into animation. Now she can add award-winning animator to that list. 
 
She said there was a slight gap between expectation and reality award night, noting that the Sports Emmys was more of a business event for members of the industry instead of the sprawling spectacle that is the television Emmys.
 
"I think in my head I wanted it to be more like what you see on TV but it was more like a business event that happened to also be an award show," she said. "So it was a bit more casual and laid back. But we still had a host that told jokes so they tried to make it like the Emmys."
 
Still, when Cellana was called to the stage with her group she was staring at more than 1,500 people.
 
"Walking up I was nervous about standing up there. It wasn't a huge room, but there were still a lot of people," she said. "I feel like I might have blacked out a little bit on stage."
 
She was thankful she was not needed to make a speech and was happy to just hold the quite heavy award and smile.
 
"It is actually very heavy, 10 lbs or so. So when you are handed it, you're not quite expecting that.  I was standing on stage thinking, I hope I don't drop this in front of all these people," she laughed.
 
Cellana never anticipated winning an Emmy and thought those acknowledgments were only given to movie stars. But experience has shown her that so much more goes into even the simplest production unbeknownst to the viewer. 
 
As she continues to grow into the industry she is thankful for the recognition.
 
"I think part of me always thought to get an Emmy you had to be an actor or a director or something and that just wasn't me," she said. "So I guess I never even considered that there was a possibility to win these awards for behind-the-scenes work," she said. "It is what I prefer doing anyways, so this was nothing I ever could have imagined."

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Blue Sox Hold Off SteepleCats in Ninth

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- The North Adams SteepleCats scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth, but the Valley Blue Sox held on for a 7-5 win at Joe Wolfe Field in New England Collegiate Baseball League action on Friday.
 
Andrew Estrella went 2-for-5 with a home run and a double in an 11-hit attack for the visitors.
 
Darin Kuskie struck out four and allowed one run in five innings of work to earn the win on the mound.
 
For the SteepleCats, Monument Mountain graduate Jayder Raifstanger and Mount Greylock grad Derek Paris each doubled and drove in a run.
 
Taconic alum Sam Sherman went 2-for-3 and scored a pair of runs for North Adams.
 
And Pittsfield High grad Cam Sime was one of five pitchers for the SteepleCats.
 
North Adams (5-7) Sunday goes to Holyoke to play the Blue Sox.
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