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Virtually Sensational: Previewing SCAD AnimationFest 2021

This year’s festival showcases the animation industry’s explosive growth with a program of special screenings and talks with the makers of ‘Star Trek: Prodigy,’ ‘The Harper House,’ and ‘ Star Wars: Visions,’ as well as with industry professionals from Nickelodeon, Fox Animation, Paramount+, Bento Box, and Stoopid Buddy Stoodios; event runs now through September 25.

Animation is not only a type of entertainment, it’s a communications tool. Animation allows us as human beings to transcend language and thereby transcend social norms. When we started SCAD AnimationFest in 2017, we recognized that the technology that accompanies the artistry of animation was on the precipice of a significant explosion. Five years later, SCAD AnimationFest remains in lockstep with emerging trends in animated content.

SCAD AnimationFest 2021 continues our tradition of embracing the whole of animation as a communications tool. As a three-day all-virtual event, the festival showcases how broad the industry has become and how much opportunity there is out there, not only for students but for professionals and aficionados of animation as well. We want to open everyone’s eyes to what's possible, while tickling that funny bone that sparked interested in animation in the first place.

This year’s festival will feature the makers of Star Trek: Prodigy (Paramount+), The Harper House (Paramount+), Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. (Hulu), and the executive producer of Lucasfilm’s new anime anthology series, Star Wars: Visions (Disney+). We’re excited to present exclusive screenings and panels with industry professionals from Pixar, Nickelodeon, Fox Animation, Paramount+, Bento Box, and Stoopid Buddy Stoodios. We’ve programmed a fantastic festival.

In the last year and a half, animation has shown itself to be a thriving and adaptable industry. Distribution models had to change because movie theaters were closed, and television was being consumed differently, but as far as the creation of the work itself, studios were already set up for digital workflow. The fact that SCAD AnimationFest will be virtual this year is an asset. Last year we had attendees from over 25 countries tuning in virtually. That established for us the fact that there is a truly global audience for SCADFILM programming.

SCAD AnimationFest has always addressed and brought attention to under-represented voices, and rightfully so. This year we are continuing that conversation with our Rising Voices in Animation session where we will talk about the importance of amplifying representative voices and bringing awareness to cultures and communities that aren’t always seen on camera, and how to do so without cultural appropriation. It’s one to watch.

Our honoree this year receiving our Excellence in Animation award is Everett Downing, Jr. Everett comes from a deep background as a storyboard artist going all the way back to the VeggieTales franchise. He's the real deal. In 2019, he co-directed the Oscar winner for Best Animated Short, Hair Love, one of the most important short films of the past generation. He followed it up by working with Michelle and Barack Obama on We the People (Netflix), which we’ll be screening during the festival as well.

We are partnering with ASIFA-South this year. They will be hosting Industry Insights, which is a panel we feature every year focused on emerging trends in the industry. Their session, called Animate the Peach State, will focus on animation trends here in Georgia.

Nickelodeon has always been a great friend to the festival. This year they’ll be showing us how they've taken some of their legacy titles from 2D to 3D. That's going to be a really exciting conversation, especially for folks who grew up watching SpongeBob and Rugrats.

We have more SCAD alumni participating in the festival this year than ever. That’s really testament to SCAD’s mission as “The University for Creative Careers.” We’ve made sure that we bring in more recent graduates as well as certain superstars who have already been through the industry system. Our annual Alumni Voices panel is always one of our most popular panels. We’ll also have an alumni panel called Sophisticated Silly with DreamWorks head of FX Jason Mayer (M.F.A., computer art, 2003) and fellow alumni FX artists Jinguang Huang (M.A., visual effects, 2017) and James Koonce (B.F.A., visual effects, 2016) talking about their work on The Boss Baby: Family Business. Talented SCAD alumni are also featured in sessions with Bento Box, ASIFA, Stoopid Buddy Stoodios, Pixar, and our Rising Voices in Animation and Character Design discussions.

On Saturday, the festival wraps with premiere screenings of two student-made animated short films. We’ll screen and hear from the makers of Hex Limit, the second film from SCAD Animation Studios. Our SCAD Student Showcase Spotlight will be on a short called The Ocean Duck, directed by Huda Razzak (M.F.A., animation, 2021). We just learned that The Ocean Duck is an official selection for the upcoming Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, where it will be eligible to qualify for an Academy Award nomination. As SCAD animation chair Chris Gallagher says, “Our students produce extraordinary, professional-caliber work.”

SCAD AnimationFest is your best chance to see the stars of tomorrow’s animation industry today.

SCAD AnimationFest 2021 in on now, running through Saturday, September 25.

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Leigh Seaman's picture

SCADFILM Senior Executive Director Leigh Seaman is a former television showrunner and producer with credited work on network, cable, streaming, and digital platforms.