This month, the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) carried on the always highly anticipated tradition of the Character Animation Producers’ Show, held as a virtual showcase presented by the REDCAT theater. Each year, faculty of the prestigious program — which has turned out some of the biggest names in feature and television animation — curates a selection of student films to introduce the latest crop of talent to the industry (and beyond)! This year’s celebration of student achievement is especially poignant, as these emerging animators faced the challenges and changes wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As Maija Burnett, Director of CalArts’ Character Animation Program, explained in a recent email interview with Animation Magazine, “The CalArts Animation Showcase is a ‘can’t miss’ for animation fans and the animation industry because of the unique creative outlook and ingenuity CalArts students bring to the process of animation and filmmaking. They represent the next generation’s talent and storytelling. Their artistic sensibilities are honed through constant practice and the love of drawing and storytelling.”
The 2021 Producers’ Show welcomed Guest of Honor Elizabeth Ito, creator of Netflix original series City of Ghosts and an alum of the Character Animation Program. Marvin Bynoe’s Wolf and Cub was selected as the opening film, with awards bestowed on Fáros by Rayna Buxton (Walter and Gracie Lantz Animation Prize; watch here), 3:45 PM by Alisha Liu (Vimeo Award for Outstanding Achievement in Animated Filmmaking; watch here) and JUMBO by Jennifer Nie (Peers’ Pick; watch here).
“The students created truly impactful films during these trying times. The pandemic upended not only everyone’s lives, but also everyone’s creative workflows. Adaptation and flexibility were key,” said Burnett. “Staff, faculty and students had to reinvent every aspect of the way they worked. Staff members worked diligently to assist students’ remote technology and software needs; faculty redesigned their courses and adapted their curriculum and methodology; students rose to the occasion, making their films at home, juggling all of the demands of their college education from afar, keeping in touch with and supporting each other, and forging new bonds and friendships through the online space.”
“Themes of belonging and contemplation were woven throughout this year’s collection of films,” Burnett noted. While all of the curated showcase shorts present the distinct visions and promising craft of animation’s next generation, the program director singled out 2021 Walter and Gracie Lantz Animation Prize winner Fáros by Rayna Buxton as a shining stand-out: “Rayna used Toon Boom Harmony to create a truly beautiful and unique film, about a lighthouse keeper and his cat, Clam. The film is a surreal, cinematic exploration of the themes of isolation and connection, animated in a puppet-style fashion, to great effect.”
An overview of the selected Character Animation Virtual Producers’ Show shorts is available here. Collections of the CalArts Character Animation student films are available on Vimeo and YouTube official channels.
Learn more about the CalArts School of Film/Video’s Character Animation BFA at https://filmvideo.calarts.edu/programs/character-animation.