Carnegie Mellon University
June 15, 2020

Students Animated To Showcase Moving Art

By Heidi Opdyke

Pam Wigley
  • College of Fine Arts
  • 412-268-1047
Andy Ptaschinski

Carnegie Mellon University students are part of two online efforts to show student work in the field of animation.

The International Animated Film Society (ASIFA) through its Hollywood Animation Educators Forum is hosting a Class of 2020 Animation Virtual Showcase that will take place June 15-19. Co-organized by faculty from 30 schools the festival will represent 195 student works. Work by eight students will be showcased on the IAFS website and social media channels.

"There's a pretty great breadth of stylistic material among the students," said Johannes DeYoung, an assistant professor of art. "The form is not just one of entertainment but one of individual and philosophical expression."

Cora Hickoff, who graduated with a bachelor of arts degree and a minor in design for learning, created her final project based on the Tunguska Event in Siberia in 1908 where millions of trees were flattened, likely by a meteor exploding in the atmosphere. In her interpretation, gentle creatures are juxtaposed with scenes of destruction.

"I wanted my animation to be an ode to the event, but I didn't want it to be a historical retelling so I focused on making my animation feel more like a poem. It’s this brief moment in time," Hickoff said.

Hickoff said opportunities like the ASIFA festival have helped provide a platform for graduating seniors during a time when the pandemic has disrupted schedules.

"At least as an art senior, we would have had our final show at the Miller ICA, which would be open to the public and include family and friends," Hickoff said. "But since we missed out on that, there's been a push to online showcases and that’s been really exciting."

Because only graduating seniors' work is included in the ASIFA festival, DeYoung said that he and Mo Mahler, special faculty at CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center (ETC), created The Dopesheet, a hub for CMU computer generated imagery and animation. The site includes work from the School of Art, the IDeATe Network, the Carnegie Mellon Graphics Lab and the ETC. 

"Hopefully this will be an ongoing web platform for us to aggregate news and highlight student work and opportunities in the field," DeYoung said.

Sheenu You, who graduated with bachelor of fine arts and a minor in game design, said that CMU approaches studying animation differently than other schools because of the high emphasis on finding revolutionary ways of telling stories through new technologies.

"Students are encouraged to explore and find their own unique techniques and styles through experimentation, research and inspiration," You said. "Many of the faculty and professors are experienced artists and animators themselves. They offer students, like myself, expert opinions and suggestions to help improve and fine tune my works and art style."

Undergraduate students studying animation have gone on to work in a variety of roles in the industry such as with Pixar or Disney Imagineering or go on to masters programs such as CMU's ETC.

"There isn't one right path to pursuing animation. It's such a versatile art form and there are so many different ways to be involved. A person can still work in animation even if they aren’t the main animator. You can work in sound, music, character rigging, clothing, landscape creation, lighting, set design and writing, too," Hickoff said. "I think the most successful animations are created by people who are well-rounded across many different disciplines."

You agreed and said the more tools and experience prospective students become familiar with the more they will be able to jump right into different opportunities. But, he added, they also should know their own artistic skills.

"The most important thing when it comes to pursuing animation is to keep practicing your skills, keep making art and build a portfolio you will be happy with," You said. "Be an artist, not a cog."

DeYoung said that the students learn how about the convergence of art and technology in the coursework, which can help them navigate a variety of opportunities after graduation.

"That synthesis of art and technology is key," he said.

Drawing on Educational Opportunities

Students can approach animation at CMU in a variety of disciplines. The eight graduating seniors whose work was part of the ASIFA festival demonstrate that through their majors and minors:

Lumi Barron, bachelor of arts in electronic and time based media and sculpture, installation and site-work
Cora Hickoff, bachelor of arts degree and a minor in design for learning

Hannah Kim, bachelor of arts degree and a minor in animation and special effects
Peter Sheehan, bachelor of arts and a minor in game design
Sophia Qin, bachelor's of fine arts and a bachelor's of science in human-computer interaction
Katie Tender, bachelor of arts degree in electronic and time based media
Sophia Videva, bachelor of arts degree in electronic and time based media and a minor in game design
Sheenu You, bachelor’s of fine arts and a minor in game design

— Related Content —