California State University, Long Beach
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An Animated 24 Hours

Published: October 17, 2016

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PHOTO BY AMIRA PETRUS
Students gather just prior to jumping into the most recent 24 HOURS Animation Contest.

The 24 HOURS Animation Contest for Students 2016 kicked off at 3 p.m. on Oct. 7, when participants were asked to create a 30-second film that included a wall, in one form or another, metaphorical or physical. Students around the world then set out to work in teams of five to create a 30-second animated film from scratch.

In the end, 136 five-person teams from the U.S., Canada, Australia and Mexico competed with a total of 690 students from 29 participating schools. Contest winners were announced via YouTube on Oct. 11.

First place went to a team from University of Southern California for its film titled “Wish Daddy” which garnered 216 points. Second place went to a team from The School of Visual Arts in New York for “We Press S” (205), third place went to Cal State Fullerton for “Art Block” (203), a team from the Kansas City Art Institute took fourth place with “The Dunce Wall” (189) and a team from Seneca College in Canada finished fifth with “Mistaken Break In” (188).

Top finishers for CSULB were five-person teams that produced “6th Sense” which finished seventh with 185 points, “Big Miss Steak” took 11th place (179), “Caffeinated Potatoes” that finished 12th (176) and “xX_DATB0I_Xx” that took 25th place (162).

“It’s such a great experience for the students, which is why I think they keep coming back,” said School of Art professor Aubry Mintz, who has been hosting similar events for 14 years. “They do more during this time than they do all semester, they really do. They’re passionate about it and they’re learning about themselves, what they can do in a limited amount of time, and they’re learning how to work together–and that’s really an important element especially in animation because they’re going to go into the industry and have to work in a team and take direction and compromise–and hopefully they realize that these limitations actually produce a better product and make them better creative artists.”

The contest originally began as an act of desperation by Mintz in an effort to fire up a few students while teaching in Laguna Beach 14 years ago. He felt they weren’t working hard enough at the time so he challenged them, promising not to leave the class until the last student was done, which turned out to be all night.

Mintz, who came to CSULB in 2007, brought the event to campus where it has turned into what can be described as an annual international sensation among animation students.

In that first year, CSULB was the only campus involved in the competition, but it was suggested that Mintz invite other schools to compete and he did. The rest is history.

“I thought it was a great idea so I invited some educator friends,” Mintz said. “Next thing I know, other schools are asking if they could participate and this year we had 136 teams from around the world.” He only expects it to get bigger.

Every school is responsible for its own students and whatever funding is needed, which may include keeping labs open, providing technical support and feeding students. And, although there is no official funding for the event, major studios sponsor grand prizes that are awarded to the top five teams.

“The top team will win $11,600 worth of prizes this year. One of the biggest sponsors is CSULB’s Summer Arts out of the Chancellor’s office,” said Mintz. “They are such a great program and they are giving the top team $1,200 each in scholarship.”

The judging was done off campus by a panel of industry artists including directors, animators and artists from various studios like Blue Sky, DreamWorks, Rough Draft, Shadow Machine, Monolith Productions and Blizzard Entertainment.

As the event was about to begin, the hallways of Fine Arts building 4 were buzzing with anxiety and sheer terror. Veteran 24-hour contest students wandered about to offer moral support.

“The 24-hour contest is a challenge and you learn a lot about what you can and cannot handle,” said Elianne Melendez, an animation major. “It really forces you, within the confinements, to try and make unexpected things to happen.”

Recent graduate Nathan Nakano recalled just how nerve-wracking the experience could be but encouraged students to participate as often and as soon as possible.

“I participated in three years and every year we got a little better and learned a lot,” Nakano said. “Every year I learned something new and was able to bring past experiences to the contest and my final year we took eighth place internationally. We were really proud and being able to bring all of our experiences from the contest shows in the end.”

As the contest hours dwindled down to the last 60 minutes, some students remained in their designated room covered in copious amounts of empty beverage cans and chip bags.

Sarah Massie, an illustration major and first-time participant, was thrilled when the end came for the contest, excited to go home to get some well-deserved sleep.

“In the beginning, we were all having a lot of fun together in the lab brainstorming,” Massie said, “but then things started to get really weird, especially when we were getting tired, we were making jokes and being weird and crazy. That’s just part of the experience.”

Animation major Eunice Baik, a teammate of Massie’s and also a first-time participant, was hesitant and waited until this, her last year, to finally take part in the contest.

“The fact that it was 24 hours always seemed so intimidating but at the last minute I decided I had to do it,” Baik said. “The whole thing was a fun learning experience, dealing with different types of people, working in a teamwork environment–it was my first time working in a group, it was cool and weird at the same time–the biggest challenge was executing the idea.”

The two students agreed that the experience was exhausting but enriching nonetheless.

“Some things you just can’t execute in 24 hours,” Massie said. “It was my first time competing and I didn’t come in with the mentality of winning, just to have fun and for the experience.”

Watch Aubry Mintz make the official announcement of the 24 HOURS Animation Contest for Students 2016 winners on YouTube here.