AAU Fall Animation Festival

Academy of Art University's Fall Animation Festival to celebrate the achievements of the students began with four awesome workshops during the afternoon before going into the evening's event of the screenings. Getting to see some awesome work was amazing and it was only heightened by my being one of the door prize raffle winners and receiving a pencil set and a bluray copy of Paranorman! The main two workshops that I were interested in were "Drawing on Digital Tablets Salon" and "Toon Boom Harmony". I ended up going to the Toon Boom one due to being interested in the creation of 2D animation digitally and I have been considering using it to make my animatic for my thesis project. The last time I used Toon Boom was way back in middle school while I was in Taiwan, so it would be a pretty old version. I do remember some of the features that Toon Boom had that was really interesting so I was excited to see what the new version has to offer. Harmony looks like an awesome program and a step up from Animate Pro but unfortunately the license distribution is private and the program costs around $2000. Apparently the school will have it installed on all the computers in the labs next semester so I am looking forward to that!

The evening festival began with "It Came From Bertino's Basement", which showed some "interesting" shorts in Tom Bertino's, graduate animation director, collection. We had Ub Iwerk's Balloon Land, a commercial for Shell Oil featuring, a Dr. Seuss commercial for Ford, a Japanese animation of a black cat dancing, an episode from Popeye "Never Kick a Woman", Dr. Tran Roybertito's, and an experimental animation of a singing and dancing monkey.

Next we have a performance from the Ukeladies with Tom. I wasn't sure what they were going to do but I immediately loved them as I heard the first few notes strummed and began singing along with Jungle Story's "I Want To Be Like You", which was only made better when Tom started on the kazoo. Then was Hallelujah from Shrek and this time Tom brought out a bow and a saw which made a beautiful accompaniment. Ending the performance is Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" which was performed along with an amazing hula-hoop dancer.

Before the festival screening was a panel with guests from studios to discuss "Life in an Independent Studio". It was a great panel, especially as it opened people to additionally possibilities of what to do after school since not everyone is able to immediately come out and get into a major studio. The differences of small companies compared to large companies is that it allows people to step in and take on different roles, being more diverse, and trying new things out. Small companies allow access and opportunity for growth and developing one's own style. The most important qualities for starting out and it was agreed upon that they want to see hard work, enthusiasm, passion, energy, being humble, and a willingness to learn. Be eager and helpful, take initiative and leadership, and you may find yourself stepping into a different area and being a lead to really allow you to hone your skills. For building a portfolio, it was suggested to get practical experience, volunteer and get involved, take advantage of opportunities, try new things, don't burn bridges, always be learning, and while learning all the different skills and techniques don't just be using them but take them and make it into your own style.

The festival screening made many amazing shorts. Instead of the what was shown in past festivals that were filled with more demonstration of skill and expertise, the shorts that were shown at this festival were of a more finished quality and were more on the line of shorts with a small story. While they were all great, it was no surprise when Super Fuzz, by David Towles-Moore stood out and far above all the rest and won the Audience Choice Award by a landslide. The short consisted of a ninja and a crazy ninja bear fighting over a carton of milk. The animation was amazing and extremely fluid with beautiful motion blur. There was no corny and cliched slow motion shots so the short was realistic as it could be of the two characters fighting that really drew in the audience. The only slight issue that I have with it is that no real textures and lights were used. What was done was a similar style to The Saga of Biorn. That is everything is a surface shader and then a occlusion pass was composited on top. This is fine, looks good, and great for animators as they don't care about anything other than the motion but in reality it is a huge cheat. Unless the look was specifically asked for, the style is something that we texture and lighters do to do nearly no work but still make the animators happy to have a finished looking piece. It takes next to no time to throw on a bunch of surface shaders and the renders will spit out lightning fast.

Additionally screened for us was Nicolas Villarreal's animated film Pasteurized. The beautiful 2D animated short follows the encounter between an alien cow and a cat that got launched into space. Beautiful, amazing, great story, and solid characters; the 27 months of work that went into making the film was well spent. I am taking the character design class with Professor Villarreal next semester and I am looking forward to it!