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Art Institute Students Make Toon on MS

After two years in production and more than 40,000 drawings later, The Art Institute of Pittsburgh has completed a 12-minute animation, titled TIMMY'S JOURNEY TO UNDERSTAND MS, for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Allegheny District Chapter. The children's short was developed and animated by a group of Media Arts & Animation students to help kids across the U.S. whose parents have MS better understand the disease.

Under the professional direction of The Art Institute of Pittsburgh's Media Arts & Animation faculty member Michael Schwab, students spent six months creating characters and developing storyboards as an academic project. To begin, the students conducted a careful analysis of the script, written by Janet O'Brien, programs director of the Allegheny District Chapter. For the past 18 months, students have devoted their spare time to the completion of the project.

"MS can be very frustrating, scary and confusing to a child," said O'Brien. "We want to explain how MS affects the nervous system through a character like Kip S'mylin so that they are comforted with two important concepts: that they did not do something to cause the disease and that the disease can not change the love between parent and child. I know we couldn't do something like this without The Art Institute. What's amazing is how they have combined their animation talent with a passion for knowledge and accuracy -- I never expected them to analyze MS so thoroughly. They wanted to be sure they were painting the right picture, literally."

David Lander, best known for his portrayal of "Squiggy" in the 1970s hit television show LAVERNE & SHIRLEY, donated his time by creating the soundtrack. Lander plays "Kip S'mylin" the superhero in a little boy's adventure to learn about his father's MS. In 1999, Lander publicly announced that he had been hiding his life with MS for 15 years.

Michael Schwab is a professional animator and was appointed to faculty at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh in 1996. His company, Kensington Falls Animation, has produced award-winning animation for clients such as The Pittsburgh Pirates, The Pittsburgh Penguins and many others. Schwab specializes in 2D cel animation and has had his work included in the Sundance Film Festival.

The film will premiere at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, 420 Blvd. of the Allies on May 6, 2004. A gallery reception begins at 5:30 pm with the premiere following at 6:00 pm.

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Rick DeMott
Animation World Network
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