Students from Brigham Young University's award-winning animation department have finished their new computer-animated short film "PetShop." Plans are underway to submit the film to animation festivals around the world, and some students involved in its creation have already received jobs as a result of their work.
Another group of BYU animation students received critical acclaim last year for their film, "Lemmings," including a "student Emmy" and a bronze medal in the student Academy Award competition. Additionally, portions of "Lemmings" were screened at last year's Cannes Film Festival and the film was invited to 22 festivals worldwide.
The caliber of BYU's animation students has placed BYU on the favored hiring lists of major motion picture studios like DreamWorks, said R. Brent Adams, associate professor in the school of technology.
"We've been really successful in finding that niche the studios like," Adams said. "We have the right kind of students, and we work on these group animation projects so they can use both the artistic and technical sides of their brains."
In the film, a not-so-loveable chinchilla desperate to leave a pet shop does his best to win the attention of his potential owner, Billy, who seems more interested in a lizard in a neighboring cage. The project took more than a year to complete and involved the collaboration of 18 BYU seniors and other students. Synthesis, BYU's premiere jazz ensemble, performed the music for the film, along with performers from University Singers, the school's top audition choir.
Using textures and lighting schemes to emulate the characteristics of a 3-D hand-painted illustration, the creators of "PetShop" gave the film a distinct look.
Former BYU animation student Trent Halvorsen directed "PetShop," and attributed the film's quality to its hardworking student team and hands-off advisers.
"As a student, it was fantastic for me to direct 'PetShop' and to do something I could not do anywhere else," said Halvorsen, who currently works for Avalanche Software, a video game development company in Salt Lake City. "In BYU's animation program, you really learn and figure things out for yourself. That's important in this industry. There's nobody here to hold your hand and show you how things work. BYU teaches students to be independent and to learn how to learn so they can succeed in the real world."
Even though "PetShop" has quite an example to follow in "Lemmings," Adams said he thinks the future looks bright.
"Most people that see 'PetShop' think it will play better than 'Lemmings,'" Adams said. "I know the students spent a lot more time in the look of the animation. The textures are better, the lighting is better -- there's just a ton more things going on."
Graduates from BYU's four-year-old animation program have gone on to work for the digital special effects units of Hollywood blockbusters such as the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, the second generation of "Star Wars" films and "Pirates of the Caribbean."
Ultimately, the success of projects like "PetShop" and "Lemmings" is determined by student dedication, Adams said.
"To have a student project that's four minutes long with this kind of quality is really a tribute to the students' ability to roll up their sleeves and accomplish something that's difficult to do," Adams said. "It's a tribute to the animation students and to the great students we get at BYU."
For more information and additional artwork associated with "PetShop," go to www.et.byu.edu/groups/petshop/
Writer: Lexi Allen