In the old, cramped lecture hall on the third floor of the Fine Arts building at Cal State Long Beach, students gathered to witness the launch of the annual 24-hour animation contest.
On the afternoon of Oct. 7, computer animation professor Aubry Mintz announced this year’s theme of the animation contest, where teams consisting of five students get 24 hours to create a 30-second animated film. What once started as a challenge for his students has grown to become an international contest with 29 schools participating this year.
Teams all around the world participate from their own school, and at 3 p.m, 690 students from schools in the U.S., Canada, Australia and Russia were waiting for Mintz to announce the theme live on Youtube.
Right before it was uttered in the lecture hall of the Fine Arts building, the students gathered started drumming on the desks. Loud echos filled the air, with teams showing spirit similar to a locker room warm-up before a hockey game, and then Mitz made his announcement.
“There are four kinds of people in the world: those who build walls, those who protect walls, those who breach walls and those who know how to tear down walls,” Mintz said. “Much of life is discovering who you are. When you find out, you also realize that there are places you can no longer go, things you can no longer do, words you can no longer say. Walls can be both metaphorical and physical. Create a 30-second film that includes a wall in one form or another.”
When Mintz was teaching animation at Laguna College of Art and Design 14 years ago, he was disappointed with his students who he felt did not apply themselves enough. He therefore decided to arrange a challenge where they would work on an animation film overnight in order to “make them suffer for 24 hours.”
“It was a challenge for them to see how long they could stay and how hard they could work all night,” Mintz said. “We all stayed overnight, watching the sun rise in the morning, and they worked harder than I have seen any other students work. I realized that there was something special about this format, because they liked the challenge and kind of bonded to create a club.”
Every year since then, Mintz arranged it as a local challenge, which he brought to CSULB, where he started to teach in 2007. In 2008 he opened it up for other schools, and it has quadrupled in size since then
Today, many sponsors including Blue Sky Studios, DreamWorks Animation Television, Nickelodeon and LucasFilm Animation take part in the contest to provide professional input through the judging process, as well as donating prizes to the top five winners. For this year’s contest, there were six judges, consisting of professionals from sponsoring studios and animation alumni who are judging on the four different criteria: storytelling, art direction and animation, creativity and interpretation of the theme as well as the level of completion.
According to Mintz, the process of creating a 30-second animation film is a project that studios in the industry usually spend four to five months working on, with a crew of five to 10 people and a budget estimated at around $100,000. Going through the same process within only 24 hours, therefore, tends to get hectic.
“Things will get weird!” said animation major Elianne Melendez, who helped arrange this year’s competition. “People will get loopy after not sleeping for a long time. They are so focused on productivity that they tend to get really weird.”
In August, a partnership was created between the Animation Department and the Long Beach Innovation Team that works for the City of Long Beach. Their main objective is to create economic development in the city by connecting innovators together with entrepreneurs.
Mayor Robert Garcia, who happens to be one of Mintz’ neighbors, advised him to reach out to the team. Even though the partnership is relatively new, Mintz is excited to work together with the team and hopes that it will help spreading the word of the contest to get more schools involved.
“I think the competition is an effective innovative model,” Mintz said. “I think that any innovation that will lead to outside-the-box thinking will lead to economic development. Because if I can convey this to my students, then who knows what they could be creating in the future?”
On Oct. 11 the winners of the competition were announced. The top team announced for first place was “Wish Daddy” from the University of Southern California, who was granted a $1,200 scholarship for each member from the CSU Summer Arts. They were also given five one-year licenses for Harmony Pro and Storyboard Pro donated by Toon Boom, five “Ideas for the animated short: 2nd edition” by Focal Press, five three-day press passes for the Cartoon Network Expo, five $500 gift cards by Flicknick and five digital subscriptions for Animation Magazine given by Laika.