Article By: Piper Hale
Published: Nov 11, 2011
Tyler Kupferer, from Columbus, Indiana, earned an M.F.A. in animation from SCAD Savannah in 2011 and now works at Walt Disney Animation Studios.
Tyler Kupferer traces his interest in filmmaking back to his childhood, when he and his little sister Alysha made movies starring their stuffed animals. By high school, their films had evolved into live action movies under the moniker of their amateur production company, Base 14. When Tyler went on to complete his undergraduate studies in computer graphics, he expanded outside live action filmmaking with experimental animations. It didn't take long before his enthusiasm outstripped his skill set and he decided to pursue a graduate degree in animation
"SCAD naturally was one of my top picks," says Tyler. "One of the things that really appealed to me about SCAD compared to other schools was the emphasis on new technology. They have rooms and rooms of Cintiqs, and that blew me away. The fact that they really supported the technology side of it, even though it was an arts college, was really impressive. I was like, 'I can get the best of both worlds that way!'"
When he arrived at SCAD, Tyler says that the experience was worlds apart from his undergraduate studies in a liberal arts setting. "I feel like I always should have been at art school," says Tyler. "When I got here, for the first time ever I felt like I belonged somewhere and I was where I needed to be. Coming to art school undoubtedly was a good decision for me, and SCAD is the best type of art school I could have come to."
While at SCAD, Tyler has worked on numerous films, including his first solo animation, "Duck Heart Teslacoil," a short comedic animation about a fire-breathing monster and a duck, an unlikely pair who overcome their differences to become friends. The film was screened in the Savannah Film Festival
, where Tyler was able to get a taste of life as a professional filmmaker. "The experience was priceless, because I got to view the festival from the point of view of a director," says Tyler. "I had the all-access path, and I got to see the screenings and do the Q-and-A. I got to go to the receptions and meet other professional animators that were there with their films. It was a really rewarding experience."
His most recent film, "The Girl and the Fox," tells the story of a young girl who befriends her animal adversary. For this project, Tyler expanded out of solo filmmaking by assembling a team of animators, filmmakers and other SCAD students to help him bring his vision to fruition; the project consumed almost all of Tyler's final year of graduate school. "I did the math and if I were to make that film independently and hire all these people, make a studio, set up all these computers and set up a server and paid them a normal animator wage, it would have cost 125 thousand dollars to make a six-minute film," says Tyler. "So it was a major project for me."
Tyler has received plenty of recognition for his solo animation projects in the past, but the level of quality his full team brought to the "Girl and the Fox" is evidenced by the numerous awards the film received. Among many other accolades, the short reached semi-finalist status in the student Oscars, one of the most prestigious award categories for student films, and is also currently a nominee for an Annie Award, the most sought-after award in the animation industry, under the Best Animated Short category. "The Girl and the Fox" is competing against eight other nominees, including films from animation powerhouses like Pixar, Warner Brothers and Disney.
The film has also won second place for the Animation category in the student Emmys. The student Emmy award ceremony was a whirlwind experience for Tyler. "There were a lot of celebrities there, like Elijah Wood and the people from 'Glee,'" says Tyler. "And that was fun, but when I actually got to meet someone at the top of my industry, like the president of Sony Animation and a production partner from Walt Disney Animation Studios, that was serious. That's more than fun. That's business."
At the same ceremony, the Geena Davis Foundation for Gender Equality gave "The Girl and the Fox" an award for its portrayal of a strong female character. Tyler says strong and capable girls often appear in his stories because of his sister Alysha, whom he cites as his biggest artistic influence and favorite collaborative partner.
Tyler plans to continue his collaborations with Alysha under their childhood Base 14 label. They hope that eventually Base 14 can serve as an umbrella company for both an independent animation studio and a line of merchandise based on the films. Alysha has already designed and created tie-in merchandise like plush toys and jewelry based on "The Girl and the Fox."
After his graduation, Tyler accepted a position as a previs artist at Persistence of Vision in Los Angeles, and now works as a layout trainee at Walt Disney Animation Studios through its Talent Development Program.
View Tyler's animation portfolio.