Animation draws big summer crowds

Tags: Academic

“Transformers: Age of Extinction” is the highest grossing film of the summer. So far. “Guardians of the Galaxy” is quickly catching up, and may overtake Transformers’s $243 million domestic haul. The defining characteristics of both films are the blend of live action with entirely animated characters and the many people it takes to make that happen.

Barbara McCullough, chair of visual effects, and Matthew Maloney, associate chair of animation, shared what they believe makes movies like these so successful. The answer, unsurprisingly, is storytelling. Today's technology allows for intimate, detailed worlds previously relegated to the imagination. As McCullough puts it, artists "make the unreal real, suspend disbelief and engage audiences in a visually exciting way."

Visually creating these worlds requires the combined skills of hundreds of animators and visual effects artists at studios spread around the globe. Some 16 alumni worked on the various teams that brought “Guardians of the Galaxy” to life.

It's easy to imagine big-budget films as a difficult task, especially working with so many people. Not so for our students says McCullough.

“They learn modeling, lighting, texturing, shading, creation of atmospheric effects, compositing, programming for 3-D tool creation," she said, "and frequently work in collaboration with their peers while selecting a specific area of specialization.”

Artists working on these large projects need to know all the steps in the pipeline to create complex scenes and, just as important, what the scene must accomplish.

“We train storytellers,” said Maloney. “When animation is at its best, it is supporting storytelling.”


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