In many respects, junior Dani Bowman is like any other student from La Canada High School. She works diligently in her classes, spends time with friends, and draws in her spare time. But two dominant things separate her from the majority: a professional animation career and autism, a condition that 1 of every 88 Americans faces. The number of autism cases is increasing in the United States, and despite this reality, most understand little about it. It can be alienating to its sufferers, who often feel separated from society.
“Many autistic people feel bad that normal people leave them alone, and this makes them feel lonely,” stated Bowman. “It’s not our fault.”
But despite the personal and social difficulties that those with autism often face, Bowman has experienced success not only as an animator, but also as an advocate and activist for the autistic community.
At the age of 11, Bowman started her own animation studio, Powerlight Studios, where she voice acted, wrote and animated her cartoon series. Her art style is influenced by Japanese anime, video game characters, and books like the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey. She first released an animated series called “Gemstar and Friends,” which was inspired by the television show “Sonic Says”. She has created nine original series, including “The Adventures of Captain Yuron,” “Fleen the Alien” and “Hydro the Mako”. Since its humble beginnings, Bowman’s company continues to grow; she has hired three autistic employees as part of an effort to give jobs to other autistic people.
Currently Bowman has shifted her efforts to more professional projects. At age 14, she began her professional career with her music video for “The Cave,” a song by the band Arrest My Sister, whose lead member is autistic. She has also created short films as well as an animated vegan cooking show available on iTunes. Bowman has also illustrated two published books, “Danny and Goliath” and “Richie and Goliath,” that promote anti-bullying.
Bowman also spends part of her time as an animation instructor for the autistic community. She works closely with Joey Travolta and his company, Inclusion Films, which instructs practical and employable skills to autistic individuals. In the summer of 2011, Bowman taught animation in Inclusion Films’ summer camp program for autistic children, visiting three locations across the country and educating 150 kids. This fall, Bowman is continuing her work with her summer camp students by mentoring several of them to develop their own film projects.
Through her body of work, Bowman has advocated autistic awareness and anti-bullying, a concern Bowman states as being “a big problem for the autistic community”.
“I want people to bring peace to autistics,” Bowman commented.
And her efforts for peace were recognized on April 20, when Bowman received the Golden Goody, the highest honor of the Goody Awards, an awards organization that recognizes social activism. Bowman is also working with the Goody Awards on an iPad sweepstakes for autistic children.
Besides the Golden Goody, Bowman has also received honors for her art. She won the Naturally Autistic Awards, and has placed second in the 2011-2012 Parent-Teacher-Student Association reflections contest in the Film and Animation category.
Bowman continues to promote positive awareness about autism and demonstrate the abilities autistic individuals have. She strives to become the Temple Grandin (a renowned autistic animal behavior science professor and autism advocate) of her generation, a life goal that pushes her to engage in society.
“Autism does not halt me from expanding my universe,” Bowman stated. “Because I’m autistic, I have been surrounded by static, which makes it hard to make friends and be social, but I work hard to find the way out of the ominous jungle to find the sunlight. Who am I? I’m the visual thinker Dani Bowman, the diva of my imaginary world…that I want to share with you.”