Animation rewrites the script at Columbus College of Art & Design
Columbus College of Art & Design’s commitment to world-class animation isn’t new. In fact, animation at CCAD has a long history of excellence. Since its founding 30 years ago, the Animation program at Columbus College of Art & Design has grown tremendously — and it’s not showing signs of slowing anytime soon.
By embracing rapidly changing technologies and forging strong connections with industry leaders, CCAD animators are prepared for a robust future.
“Central Ohio has the potential to be a creative hub for animation — and that’s because of CCAD,” says CCAD Provost Dona Lantz. “There’s already an incredible creative economy here, and as we continue to attract filmmakers and animators to central Ohio, I think our Animation program could become one of the top three in the country. We have an opportunity to build something unique here.”
They paved the way: Tamara Lusher Stocker
You may not know Tamara Lusher Stocker (Illustration, 1990) by name, but if you’ve seen Disney classics such as Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, or Hercules, you’ve seen her work
As a child watching Cinderella, Lusher Stocker told her parents she was going to work at Disney. But it was Columbus College of Art & Design and CCAD Professor Emeritus Ron Saks that made that childhood dream come true.
Lusher Stocker’s CCAD story began in the 1980s, as Ron began teaching CCAD’s first animation courses — actually, she was one of his students.
“It was because of him that I understood I could have a career in animation,” she says. "He brought the idea that animation could exist at CCAD in a big way.”
And it was in a big way: If his pioneering use of computer animation technologies wasn’t enough, Saks — along with CCAD’s strong Illustration department — also helped forge a partnership between CCAD and Disney that ultimately got Lusher Stocker and her peers involved in some of the biggest animated films of the 1990s, during the Disney Renaissance.
“It was really fun to work on those films,” she says. “I was in Florida to work on Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King, and then transferred to the Burbank studio to join the story department.” “Working at Disney was wonderful and challenging. Being surrounded by some of the best artists in the world was a constant education, in some ways similar to being at CCAD — that sense of always pushing yourself, always being challenged. CCAD established a very strong worth ethic for me.”
Ferdinand, Blue Sky Studios, 20th Century Fox provided courtesy of Tamara (Illustration, 1990)
The history: It starts with fundamentals
In 1988, when Professor Emeritus Ron Saks offered the first animation course at CCAD, he encouraged students to understand the history and fundamentals of the craft and to combine that knowledge with cutting-edge technologies to produce exceptional work.
As the number of animation class offerings grew, in 1997, animation was bundled with film and video under the Time-Based Media Studies major. Saks and our other faculty continued to embrace the latest technology (such as Toon Boom’s USAnimation and Opus) and forge pioneering partnerships with industry organizations (like Disney) — and interest in animation at CCAD continued to grow.
From the first time he saw Little Mermaid, Pablo Smith (Media Studies, 2005) was smitten. “I couldn't believe it that a movie could tell a story quite like that — and that's what I love about animation, the ability it has to not only entertain, but to allow you to tell any story you want,” he said. “The power of capturing an emotion, an attitude, a personality in a drawing and seeing other people's reactions is magic to me.”
Magic doesn’t just happen, of course. And so Smith pursued an education in animation, choosing CCAD for his studies and relocating with his wife from El Paso, Texas, after taking note of where alumni had landed, places such as Disney, DreamWorks Animation, and Warner Bros.
“Drawing, color, painting, storyboarding — the foundation — I learned all that at CCAD,” he says. “That artistic foundation is important. You learn to understand the craft and the history, and it shows in your work. I’ve developed and grown stronger over the years, but the foundation I’m building on happened at CCAD.”
Smith’s CCAD education has served him well. He currently works as the animation director for Nickelodeon’s Nick Digital studio. His work runs the gamut from 2D animation (for projects such as SpongeBob SquarePants and Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie to 3D animation (including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Wallykazam!) and beyond.
“Because of CCAD, because I know both how to animate traditionally and using a computer, I’ve been able to create this position where I can help out on all of Nickelodeon’s shows and remain valuable to the company,” Smith says.
Samples from Pablo’s comic, Pablo Smith. Self-published on Comixology
Samples from Comic by Pablo Smith
In 2008, Animation officially became a major in its own right. The first class of Animation students graduated in 2010 with 12 members. Today, around four times as many students graduate from the program each year, and nearly one in five CCAD students is an Animation major. Animation is now the second most popular major at CCAD.
“I can’t pinpoint exactly where the idea came from,” he says. “I know some inspiration came from Looney Tunes — there’s one episode where Daffy Duck gets tormented by the animator, who ends up being Bugs Bunny, and I just loved that concept. But I didn’t really expect it to go anywhere.”
It went everywhere. He was 16 at the time.“I was really young, very young to be thrown into that world,” he said. “A lot of companies and websites reached out to me. I almost sold my soul — I almost sold exclusive rights to the animation for, like, $75. I didn’t though, at the last minute.”
And he’s glad he didn’t. The animated stick figure series now has several sequels and spin-offs, each with millions of views. One — Animation vs. Minecraft — has been viewed more than 92 million times. What started as a laugh in high school has become a franchise and a full-time job.
Becker left the series’ trademark stick figures behind while at CCAD, however.
“I left it as a thing of the past,” he says “I wanted to move forward and get into Pixar or DreamWorks, or another major animation studio.”“I applied for some internships … and didn’t get in. One day, my professor, Tom Richner, suggested I take advantage of and build on my Animation vs. Animator fans instead.”
Becker took the advice: He ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for another sequel. It was a hit, and the Animation vs. Animator series became profitable enough for him to work on the series full time.
“It’s interesting: I was doing these stick-figure animations before college, and I’m doing them after college as well, but, without CCAD, I don’t think I would be doing them now,” Becker said.
"In the middle, CCAD taught me a lot about things like timing, staging — things I didn’t know when I made the original Animator vs. Animation video. You can see the effects of my education on my newer animations. A lot of things from CCAD stuck with me without me realizing it until years later.”
Still shot of work by Alan Becker
Still shot of work by Alan Becker
Still shot of work by Alan Becker
Animation students today pursue 2D, 3D, and experimental animation, and our commitment to using the best technology and working with industry leaders is as strong as it was 30 years ago. The state of animation at CCAD has changed a lot over the years, but what has not — and will not — change is our dedication to preparing the animation industry’s future leaders to change the world.
Columbus College of Art & Design’s Animation major is getting a new home: the Cloyd Family Animation Center. Situated in the heart of CCAD’s downtown Columbus campus, the new center will be an animator’s dream come true.
The state-of-the-art facility will equip CCAD students with industry-standard creative tools when it opens in fall 2018. Students will have access to everything from digital and virtual reality drawing labs to advanced color correction tools to dedicated stop-motion lab space.
“With the growth Animation has seen at CCAD, we’re all over the campus,” says CCAD Animation Department Chair Charlotte Belland. “The students don’t really have a recognizable hub, a space where they can say, ‘This is the Animation department.’ But the center will give us dedicated spaces, dedicated classrooms. Students will have a space to do their work.”
“From the stations crammed into the nooks and crannies of campus we have now, we’ll expand to dedicated drawing arenas that go all the way from analog to virtual reality,” Belland says. “We’ll have a digital lab and a visual effects and 3D animation lab. It’s going to be a game changer for the students.”
That’s a big deal for the college overall.
“I’m really delighted we are establishing ways to engage with cutting-edge emerging technologies in the new Animation center,” says CCAD Provost Dona Lantz. “I think the new center is going to push us forward quite a bit in our commitment to incorporate new technologies into our classrooms.”
Belland agrees. “We need to have a pioneering spirit. Our entire program has been informed by industry partnerships, and our future curriculum will incorporate VR, artificial intelligence, and whatever else students need to know to be prepared for whatever the industry is doing.”
One of CCAD’s leading film and animation industry partners, the Ohio Film Group, is taking an active role in helping prepare students for work after graduation. Once complete, the Cloyd Family Animation Center will abut Ohio Film Group’s offices — meaning aspiring animators will have a literal window into the offices of a working production office.
The proximity will also facilitate internship and job opportunities for students to put classroom learning to work alongside professional animators and filmmakers. CCAD Board Member Gil Cloyd, the center’s namesake and a co-founder of Ohio Film Group, is excited to work with CCAD students.
“I’m extraordinarily impressed with CCAD’s Animation program,” Cloyd says. “The program is outstanding, with tremendous faculty, but, as it’s expanding, it has suffered from lack of a single space to serve as a home for the program.”
“So the center and our partnership will provide something very few animation programs have,” Cloyd said. “It’s going to be outstanding. They’ll be able to expand the program and produce really high-quality talent and word.”
“It’s literally a direct connection to industry,” Belland says. “There will be an active conduit. A student can go from class, walk down the corridor, and go right into their internship. And Ohio Film Group staff who have an interest in teaching can go from their office, walk down the corridor, and be there in the classroom with students. That back and forth is as valuable as you can get.”
“With really talented faculty and industry partnerships like the one with Ohio Film Group, we have a very concentrated base of knowledge and expertise,” Lantz says. “We’re creating a really intense, immersive environment for animation in Columbus.”
Learn more about the Cloyd Family Animation Center at ccad.edu/animationcenter.
Give now to support Animation at CCAD at ccad.edu/giveanimationahome.
“We’re built on a tradition of informed industry experience, we recruit the best and the brightest, and we will continue to make great animated content. From virtual reality to analog drawing, we’re going to be the leaders in these fields and make the future leaders of these fields.” — Charlotte Belland
My senior thesis. Over the course of two semesters you have to make an entire film from scratch, and I made The Finvestigations of Sharklock Foams. My project won the President’s Award, and it was featured at Chroma and the Columbus International Film & Animation Festival. I’m kind of known as Sharklock now.
My main goal right now is to be a story artist for feature animation. Ultimately, I’d like to work my way up to being director of my own movie. My heart lies in film.
You have to make connections with people. You can’t see your classmates as just competition. You have to see them as future coworkers and friends. And your instructors are incredible assets as well. You’re going to remember the talented people you were surrounded with.
I’ve learned a lot about 3D Animation at CCAD. And I’d say my biggest success came freshmen year, in my 3D Animation Fundamentals class, when I made my first 3D animated film. The short I completed — it’s super short, like 10 seconds — I’m super proud of.
It is an underwater scene with a submarine. My submarine looked like a bird. I never want to model a submarine again, but it was fun at the time.
It was also motivating to learn that I have a knack for the career I want to pursue — and that's what I think makes it my biggest success so far at CCAD
I’m a sophomore, and I think I want to focus on modeling for films, like the big Disney-Pixar dream. I want to end up in California, working in film studios.
To take care of yourself each day, always do your best, and accept that your best will differ each day! Also, to be passionate and hardworking, and to genuinely connect with people. It’s so inspiring to be surrounded by ambitious and talented people. You get to say, “I went to school with this cool person who’s probably going to be famous one day."
Samples of Mariana's work
Sub (3D model of sub)
Capture of 3D Environment
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