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We checked in with Animation College in Auckland, New Zealand, courtesy of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce. The Animation College was a finalist in 2016's Westpac Business Awards' Central Region.
Animation College began as part of Freelance Animators Ltd, founded in 1989 by American, John Ewing – a former Disney animator, and design studio owner, Barry Pearce.
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In the ‘80s, Freelance Animators were the first dedicated New Zealand animation studio to carry out contract work for Disney and Warner Bros, including the animated series Tiny Toons for none other than Steven Spielberg. The next step for John and Barry was to begin teaching others as there was no formal animation training in New Zealand at this time.
In the decade that followed, John trained dozens of animators, many of whom went on to work at Weta in NZ, Blue Sky Studios in New York, Passion Pictures in London and ILM in San Francisco. Ultimately, the training scheme grew into Freelance Animation School and branched out into modern animation techniques such as 3D animation. In 2012, the school was renamed Animation College.
The reason for our visit was to find out what motivates people to become animators and tell stories with cartoons. We wanted to know why students were at the College, and what they hoped to learn from attending a traditional learning institution to be educated in the not so traditional art of digital storytelling.
We discovered that it is a great deal more complicated than we ever imagined. This isn't just about drawing funny characters for children's entertainment. We found a group of talented young people at the forefront of technology, yet still rooted in the classic art of philosophy. They are people pooling their collective talents to create amazing things, tell fascinating stories and most importantly, architect futuristic interactive digital experiences.
At the College, they use words such as "Value Creation", "Wisdom", "Collective Experiences" and "Interactivity" as standard terms to define their pursuits. These are big words for young people that are naturally attracted to the shine of the latest and greatest gadgets. It demonstrates that a significant amount of thought goes into the work they do with what may appear to the outsider as a simple digital playground of sorts. However, it is this easy access to technology, software, gadgets, mobile media, virtual reality and interactive gaming platforms that allow them to push the boundaries of content creation.
An enormous amount of thought and creativity goes into telling stories through non-traditional mediums. No matter what medium is used, we discovered that ultimately it is still about the stories. We cannot get away from the fact that human life is narratively rooted. It is one of the ways we make sense of our world. It is how we bridge reality with perception to form understanding. In every culture, stories are a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation and ultimately the for the instilling of moral virtue.
At Animation College, they focus on these age-old principles, coupled with amazing technology and buckets full of creativity to equip tomorrow's geniuses with the means to evolve the experience of the human condition.
You will have to work hard to keep up if you are over 35.
Hendrik van Wyk
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