Oscar-winner Bao is proof of Canadian college animation success

Durham College animation students working on a project. Photo credit: Provided by Durham College photo data base

Oscar-winning film Bao is proof Canadian college animation programs can lead to success.

Sheridan College animation 2011 grad, Domee Shi, won the Oscar for best animated short Sunday for her eight-minute movie called Bao.

It takes long hours to make a short animation movie, says Gary Chapple, program coordinator for Durham College’s animation program.

“It’s the same stuff as a big film,” he says, “you start off with a concept and turn that into a story.”

According to Chapple, before production begins character concepts and storyboards need to be developed.

“After you finish the concept and storyboards you may have to do tests. For example, for something like Tangled you have to figure out how Rapunzel’s hair is going to work. Or whatever other technical issues there are,” Chapple says.

There is also character modelling and rigging, set creation, textures, lighting, sound recording, sound effects, post-production, editing and then everything is put together, he says.

As for the time it takes to put a film together, according to Chapple it can vary. A full Disney feature will take four years from beginning to end. He says Bao took years to develop.

“I don’t know anyone who isn’t spending hours upon hours – you can’t animate that quickly,” he says.

According to Chapple, some popular ideas for animated films are samurais and robots, but the goal of the animation program is to try and get students to stretch their creativity and do things that haven’t been done before.

After graduating from Durham, students have gone to work at places like DHX in Halifax, Electronic Arts in Vancouver and Toronto-based companies such as Ubisoft, Spin, Nelvana and Toonbox, according to Chapple.

There are also students who went to work for Disney, who have their own story to tell. Durham grads and married couple Celeste and Chris Pedersen worked on Disney’s Moana.

Chapple says students tend to stick to Toronto because it’s where their friends and family are.

Animated films can be costly to produce, according to Chapple. For example a Pixar short can cost millions of dollars.

The animation industry involves more than producing short or feature-length films. It also includes video games and visual effects, he says.

“A large chunk of our grads are working in video games and visual effects…Toronto is huge for visual effects,” Chapple says.

According to Chapple, a large chunk of the visual effects in movies are created in Toronto studios.

The animation program is a three-year program and has 45 first-year students, 45 second-year students and 16 in the third year, according to Chapple.

Chapple says the program is all about the students and the faculty are there to help them achieve their dreams. If they have the drive it will only add to their success, he adds.