Animal Logic is the iconic animation and visual effects studio behind such films as The LEGO® Movie The Great Gatsby, Happy Feet and The Matrix. A unique collaboration between the university and the award-winning studio sees the first-ever cohort completing the year-long course at the UTS Animal Logic Academy. Creative Lead Chris Ebeling and Master of Animation and Visualisation student Jessica D’Ali share what it’s like to be part of the inaugural crew in this industry-led postgraduate program.
I love movies, especially stylised 3D animations. I'm one of those film fanatics who wanted to work at Disney. Toy Story 2 is the best film ever!
I first heard of the UTS Animal Logic Academy last year. I'd just finished my Bachelor of Information Technology at UTS and it was the perfect time to give animation a go. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do.
We do three studios in the year. The studio we’re completing now is really a virtual reality immersive experience. I can’t say much about it – we follow industry practice and treat our work as commercial-in-confidence – but what I can say is that it's a lot of ‘when I do this, what happens?’ My job is to write the coding for all of those triggers behind the animation scenes, the glue that brings all of the artists' work together.
I've always worked with technical people, so it's fun to see Chris’s creative side. He's less of 'I wrote this really effective piece of code' and more 'The butterfly isn't flying as smoothly as I would like it to'. It's really changing my thought processes. He's a very funny guy and he really sets the culture and the mood for the studio.
Chris’s main role is to be that creative lead, because we could argue about how things should look all day. He has the final say, but he's also so much more than that. He’s a real mentor. If I ask, ‘How do I approach this task?’ he'll say, ‘Okay, let's look at this professionally, this is how you should approach it.’
There are 19 of us and we all have a different role in the team, and we’re all putting a bit of ourselves into the project. One thing I've been told is that it’s very much like a real start-up studio; we're all learning and growing together, which I find really special.
At the end of the year when we can see where we started and where we’ve finished it's going to be really powerful, and we couldn't have done that without the mentors and industry support we've had.
It's a dream come true to be working with Animal Logic; they're like royalty. The films they've worked on, their talents, have really impacted me. To think that they're passing on their knowledge so that I may hopefully pass on this knowledge to someone else is really nice to be a part of.
We throw our artists in the deep end, but we promise we're not going to let them drown.
From the beginning it's not about your ATAR score or your certificates. It's about your portfolio first, about the artwork and what you can bring with your skills as a creative. If you have a portfolio that opens our eyes, then we’ll invite you to an interview.
Here, you work at production speed and to production standards. Our crew really get tested and there's a lot of ‘fail often and fail fast,’ just like in the real world.
What makes it so special, and the reason why I jumped on-board, was that it's industry-led, so it's responding to industry needs. It's not old-school academia; there are no lectures with me standing up the front and there's no homework. It's learning by doing; that's the essential difference. You can only have so much theory.
We started off by saying we wanted to simulate the production experience, but really, we became production. The stress is there. The crew stay late to finish tasks or to hit milestones, and it's just real.
We have 19 artists this year. Fine arts students and coders who've done software development, but not for film. Seeing them grow over the first three months was amazing.
We've got three simple rules we follow: you turn up on time, you deliver your work and you play nice. It’s about attitude and, of course, we want to see promise.
Jess is just awesome and has an excellent attitude. She does stuff that I don't know how to do because she's a software developer. But we still meet in the middle. She can fix things in five minutes that I thought was going to take a day. She's going places.
The animation community is actually very small. Having home-grown talent and actually growing that is, in the long run, a great business move.
With Animal Logic being our big brothers and sisters in this journey, we have big shoes to fill. And so far they're very happy. The proof will be when our artists go out there and work in other studios. When those studios see their work ethic and how ready they are, that's when we're going to see that this model of learning works.