September 25, 2016

Students ‘toon’ in to Kinematifest

Staff and students gathered at Webster University April 15-16 to celebrate the ninth consecutive year of Kinematifest, where participants appreciate art and animation, as well as meet people working in the industry.

Event Organizer and Adjunct Professor Brian Spath said he enjoyed seeing the work students created. Spath said the event was set up by students during a 16-week course.

“In the class, students were assigned different roles. We worked out who does what and who’s going to be present,” Spath said.

The event is normally organized by Program Facilitator for Animation Chris Sagovac, but he was unable to teach the preparation course this year due to being on sabbatical.

“[Kinematifest] was created at a time when there weren’t options to connect with community animators,” Sagovac said. “In years since, it has grown.”

This year’s space-themed Kinematifest featured presentations by professionals in the animation industry and a showcase of student art and animation.

Matt Rathiel, studio director of the game company Graphite Labs, gave a speech about his experiences in the gaming industry.

During his presentation, Rathiel described how he grew up loving video games and art, as well as his first experience working in the gaming industry during what he called the golden age of tycoon games, when he helped produce Night-Club Tycoon.

Rathiel then moved into recent projects, producing apps for Hasbro and creating My Little Pony and Dora the Explorer games for other companies, all leading to his current career for Graphite Labs where he is working on a game called Hive Jump.

After Rathiel’s presentation, Animation Historian and Enthusiast Jerry Beck gave a keynote speech about his experiences inside and outside of the animation industry.

In the presentation, Beck talked about how he had loved cartoons and animation as a child and wanted to be an animator himself. After attending one of the very few schools that offered animation courses, he found that he wasn’t quite prepared to work as an animator.

However, this did not stop Beck from pursuing a career that revolved around animation.

“To me, the animation is an alternate universe—it’s a different way of looking at the world, a way of commentary, humor, and entertainment,” Beck said. “With animation, you can see things and show things in a different light.”

Beck spends most of his time researching animation and sharing his findings with the world. He has published over 15 books about animation, contributes to websites such as Animation Scoop and Cartoon Research and has had a hand in the creation of a number of animated films.

Beck also expressed his excitement about the growing popularity of the animated medium.

“I want to see animation accepted as another kind of film–and we’re getting there,” Beck said. “There’s still a dividing line between live action and animation, but hopefully more great filmmakers, artists and writers will start moving toward that type of entertainment.”

Following his keynote speech, he gave another presentation about the history of Looney Tunes and left the crowd to watch some of the most iconic episodes of the series.

The event closed with a showcase of recent student animation projects, with submissions sent by animators all over the world. One of these was “I, the animal,” a project sent by Michalina Musialik from a Polish film school.

The animation, inspired by William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, described the tale of a boy who murders a disabled person because he thinks they are not fit to live. The animation ends with a cut to his future, where it is discovered that his only daughter is disabled, which causes him grief.

Next year will be Kinematifest 10, but neither Sagovac nor Spath know how they will celebrate its first decade.

“I haven’t thought about it yet, but we’ve got a long list of animators we want to come in,” said Sagovac.

Regardless of the future, Sagovac said he is just glad he and his students have a festival to begin with.

“Having an annual event is cool, and I couldn’t be happier that this is a continuing event,” Sagovac said.

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