Animation program recognized

By Contributing Writer

by Tyler Eagle, Contributing Writer

Columbia’s animation program has alumni who have gone on to work for Nickelodeon and Warner Bros. Now the program has received recognition and added a

new degree.

The program was recently ranked 18th on the Animation Career Review’s list of the top 20 animation schools in the Midwest. The title follows the first time the Film & Video Department has offered an animation concentration.

“I’m very proud,” said Ron Fleischer, an associate professor in the Film & Video Department. “It’s fantastic to be selected, especially in the field of media.”

Brad Prescott, founder and president of Animation Career Review, said he wanted to make the list so students interested in animation can compare programs across the Midwest. He put Columbia on the list because of the college’s reputation.

“The site is geared toward creating a resource for aspiring animators,” he said.

According to Prescott, the list is focused on Midwest schools because students in the region stay close to home when they go to college. He said he considered a multitude of factors, such as tuition, reputation, selectivity and the number of out-of-state students.

The animation program in the Film & Video Department is composed of two concentrations: traditional animation and computer animation.

According to Fleischer, the animation program, which has been around for almost a decade, is the first to create a BFA degree for the Film & Video Department, though students can still work toward a BA degree. He said it took three years to build the BFA program and an additional two years before it received committee approval.

The major difference between the BA and the BFA is that the BA requires only 120 credit hours with 42 in the animation concentration, while the BFA requires 128 credit hours with 84 in the animation concentration, he said.

“[Animation is] all about visual storytelling [and] the story,” he said. “We teach filmmaking. Our animators are filmmakers first.”

John Roback, a 2004 alumnus of the program, said he appreciates what the program taught him.

“When I started in the industry, [Animation Production Studio] was the one class I looked back on, and it kept me grounded,” Roback said. “Anybody who wants to get into animation, that’s the class for them.”

Roback is not the only graduate with fond memories of the program. David Blumenthal, a 2001 graduate who works in network broadcasting and motion graphics, said the film “Toy Story” inspired him to go into animation, and Columbia helped him achieve that goal.

“Columbia taught me important developmental creative skills,” he said. “It wasn’t just about learning, but also how to learn.”

The techniques learned at Columbia were also important to Jennifer Nelson, an alumna who works as a production coordinator at Nickelodeon Animation Studios. She is currently working on “Kung Fu Panda,” a spin-off of the movie.

Nelson stressed that it is important for animation students to be willing to promote themselves.

“You definitely have to put yourself out there,” Nelson said. “You have to put yourself where the jobs are.”

Rachael Russakoff, an alumna of the animation program, , said the program at Columbia strengthened her work ethic and taught her networking skills. Above all, she said the teachers are what sets the program apart from other schools.

“The teachers [are] what made it so amazing,” she said. “They would go above and beyond if you asked.”