History of Animation: Special Interest Elective

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During the spring semester, students had the opportunity to learn about the origins, process and legacy of animated film in a history of animation class. The class, taught by Chris Blair, professor of communication arts, traced animation from its beginning in the late 1800s to the early 2000s.

Gabe Hilliard, junior public relations major, said he knew he wanted to take the class from the moment he saw the poster.

“It’s kind of a weird class to take,” Gabe said. “It’s not really part of my major, but it looked so interesting and like a lot of fun.”

The class included lectures and readings, but the students also watched animated films and documentaries in class. Gabe said he grew up watching cartoons and little else, and he never grew out of them. He said he had seen most of the movies watched in class, but he was more impressed with them after learning about the roles of individual animators.

“I didn’t ever think about just how much they were the key,” Gabe said. “It relies solely on them to draw the animations. I had no idea Ub Iwerks, Chuck Jones and guys like that existed, aside from Disney, but I had seen their work.”

As part of the class, students were required to make their own short animations using traditional methods. Gabe said while working on the project he realized it is important to have an idea of the final product. He said this is something he can apply to his work in public relations.

“Even though an individual piece might not seem important, it will mess up the big picture if it isn’t done well,” he said.

Anna-Alicia Sails, a senior broadcast journalism major, said she has also liked animation since she was a child, but she knew very little about it and had not seen most of the films shown in the class. She said the process of animation was very interesting to her.

“I loved learning about the equipment and how it started with the cameras, vitascope, multi-plane cameras and all that went into it,” Anna-Alicia said. “Knowing a little more about that I think will help me in broadcasting where I’m around cameras every day.”

She said she was also fascinated by the early life of Walt Disney, and she wanted to learn even more about him after taking the class.

“At first he wasn’t very successful, but he ended up being so influential,” she said. “Just seeing his hardship and how he worked so hard, he is the epitome of never giving up.”

The history of animation class is open to all students and will be part of the new film studies major beginning this fall.

Story by Nathan Handley, photos by Kristi Woody

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