Animation Club Spotlight

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By Sebastian Moronta Blanco, Staff Writer

UMass Dartmouth student Meaghan O’Neill wants to make sure anyone and everyone with an interest in animation gets the opportunity to express it, and share it with others.

Before O’Neill stepped in, the only club on campus focused on animation was the long-abandoned Digital Media Club, which was for design and media majors to practice creating digital media with club members.

When she went to SAIL to start a club for animation, she found out it would be easier to revive the Digital Media Club. After a year, she, her faculty advisor Michael Swartz, and the rest of the club’s leadership felt that the club should be open to all majors.

This would give current and potential club members the opportunity to learn about and appreciate animation without excluding those who aren’t studying it.

“It was more [of a] niche” Animation Club secretary Katie Harris, a senior Illustration major, describes, as it was more geared towards design majors.

Thus, the Digital Media Club was renamed, and restructured to accommodate the leadership’s vision for the group.

The Animation Club has transformed from just a place for design majors into a home for those with an appreciation for animation. “We appreciate animation, we do animation, we watch animation” said Social Media chairman Shannon O’Brien, a senior Illustration major, speaking on the revamped organization.

The club is now a hybrid learning and watching environment, organizing movie nights to watch animated films and shorts, and holding workshops for those who’d like to improve their work.

It requires no prior experience or animating skills, and focuses on nurturing interest in all forms of the craft.

Club member Matt Najarian, a senior Graphic Design and Digital Media double major added: “It’s an outlet for people to explore their love for animation.”

The club has held several movie nights and showings thus far and has bigger things to come. Just a few weeks ago the club hosted a “Throwback Night” where members watched and reminisced on their favorite cartoons from their childhoods, screening episodes and clips of Danny Phantom, Rocket Power, Recess, Hey Arnold, and The Wild Thornberrys.

The club also sponsored a movie screening of the 2014 Oscar-nominated Song of the Sea, and later in the year they’ll be sponsoring a field trip to see Disney’s newest animated film Moana, starring Auli’i Cravalho and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

The workshops look to give members the opportunity to learn and practice animation with specific focuses.

Some of the upcoming workshops include character design, storyboarding, 3D modeling and animating, stop motion demos and even flip book animation.

These workshops are accessible to both design and non-design majors. Club President O’Neill wanted to make it clear that “we don’t want to isolate anyone, [and] we explain everything.”

Past that, the group organizes special feature nights where they examine an animator or work in detail, and that comes in the form of studying an animator’s work or attending presentations.

Recently, the club attended a presentation in the library Grand Reading Room by Oscar-nominated animator Bill Plympton.

Another club meeting focused on the work of long-time Disney animator Glen Keane, who has worked on movies like Tarzan and Pocahontas.

In late November, the group will be cooperating with the Graphic Design club to sponsor a trip to New York City to explore the city and its many art museums.

The trip is for animation and graphic design club members and is largely full, but the group hopes to sponsor similar trips in the future.

Last year, several club members gathered to produce an animated short, each member submitting ten seconds of original content strung together with music, showcasing each artist’s talents and styles.

The short was screened at a Senior event, and UMass Dartmouth Vice Chancellor of Marketing, Renee Buisson, has expressed interest in using the club’s short to promote the school and its design programs.

The group is led by five officers. The aforementioned president O’Neill, secretary Harris and social chairman O’Brien are joined by vice president Liam Kirwan and Treasurer Vanessa Mack.

Each officer has had a passion for animation since a young age, citing old favorites like Danny Phantom, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Yellow Submarine.

Most of all, they look to bring their club to as many people as possible who feel the same way.

“I want to stress that it’s open to everyone” O’Neill added, “It’s like a no pressure thing.”

The group meets on Thursday’s at 6:30 in CVPA room 156 and can be found on Facebook and Twitter @umassdanimation. For more information on the club or upcoming events, contact President O’Neill.

Photo Courtesy: Animation Club


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