News @ the Beach

Competition in Cal State Long Beach’s 24 Hours Animation Contest Provides Key Learning Experience for Hundreds of Students

About 525 students representing 24 universities from the U.S. and two other countries competed in California State University, Long Beach’s (CSULB) 13th annual 24 Hours Animation Contest for students over the weekend. Altogether, 105 teams participated in the contest, which asks five-person teams to create a 30-second animated film in just 24 hours. The results were announced Tuesday, Oct. 6, with CSULB placing five teams in the top 25 and the overall winner coming from California State University, Fullerton. The theme of this year’s competition was “Imagine if Technology was Introduced at the Dawn of Humankind: What if Adam and Eve Found an Apple Computer Instead of an Apple?”

The video titled “Booty Call” (above) by The Thing Makers was the highest scoring entry among CSULB’s 14 entries.

Judges from DreamWorks, Shadow Machine, Rockstar Games and The Simpsons evaluated films using the following criteria: storytelling (was the story clear, entertaining and related to the topic); art direction/animation (how was the production quality of the film); creativity (how did the team creatively interpret the topic); and completion (was the film complete).

“I am so proud of all of the students who participated in this contest. It takes a lot of planning, determination, artistic problem-solving and the will to stay awake for 24 hours and push through the really tired hours to complete a 30-second animated film. Students working together in teams of five must learn to make compromises and listen to each other – sometimes they get into arguments and sometimes tears are shed, but in the end they have a finished animated film. This would take three to six months in the real world,” said Aubry Mintz, CSULB professor and director of animation and creator of the event. “Most of the teams always walk away with a sense of accomplishment and this is why I think they keep coming back. One particular team I spoke with was coming back to compete for their fifth year in a row. This tells me we have a successful model and I’m really happy to hear that students enjoy it so much.”

The contest has resulted in jobs for its participants and last year one particular student added this competition to her resume. She was interviewed by Dreamworks animation studio, and they were so impressed with the skills she obtained from the contest they told her it was one of the reasons they offered her a position.

“Students that have participated in the past have proven a direct link between the contest leading to their employment. Students mention that employers look for this contest on their resume and see it as an advantage due to the skills they learn like working in groups and making creative decisions under a strict deadline,” said Mintz. “The contest has proven to be a successful model for effective education outside of the classroom in a fun and challenging venue.”

The institutions participating were from two different countries (Australia and Canada) as well as from Ohio, California, Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Florida, Texas and South Dakota. Sponsors donated more than $40,000 in prizes. Seventy-five CSULB students competed.

The genesis of the program was in 2002, when Mintz challenged his senior animation class to animate into the night and promised to stay until the last one remained. Five tired students stayed through the night working hard on their animation assignments and at 6 a.m. they watched the sunrise with Mintz from the classroom window. Mintz was so impressed with the accomplishments that his students were able to achieve in a condensed amount of time that he decided to make this an annual tradition and the contest was born. Since then, participation has more than doubled every year.

Participants plan far ahead each year to create a team of artists to compete in the contest in hopes of placing and winning one of the prize packs provided by industry sponsors.

Mintz said that the contest replicates the intense animation industry studio work environment. As deadlines approach most studios have what’s called “crunch time” where employees are asked to work longer than regular hours. This contest recreates this pressure and deadline structure to prepare the students for their future employment.

“So often educators have a difficult time teaching the soft skills like collaboration, good communication and creative constrains under extreme deadlines in our regular curriculum. I find that some of my students work so hard for this contest that it opens their eyes up to their own potential and injects this work ethic into the rest of their semester, and for some reason they really like it,” said Mintz. “As long as they keep coming for more, I’ll keep running the contest.”