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Animation Class is Future-Focused

Animation Class is Future-Focused

After launching last semester, the new Oaks Christian School animation class is taking off, providing a creative head start and future-focused opportunity for students who are interested in this fast-growing industry.

According to the United State Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of special effects artists and animators is projected to grow 8% now through 2032, faster than the average for most occupations. 

The emergence of technologies like 3D animation, augmented reality, virtual reality and artificial intelligence are fueling a demand for skilled animators and storytellers. Audiences are also expecting and enjoying animated movies with a high degree of realism (“Encanto” “Loving Vincent,” and “The Adventures of TinTin," to name a few). 

As part of the Institute of Arts and Innovation, the class focuses on animation theory and application, using industry standard platforms such as Adobe and other digital formats.

Already a performance artist who acts, sings, and plays in a band, OCS junior Josiah Herren loves the visual animation medium. Prior to enrolling, he was self-taught so when the new class was offered, he “100% had to take it.” 

Having dabbled a little in animation, his eyes were opened when he began formal instruction, comprehending industry-standard fundamentals. 

“What I thought I was learning was not actually how you do it. This has been a great, beneficial experience to learn the basics and workflow. And especially other styles of animation that I had not considered before such as claymation,” he shared.  

Herren is looking at art colleges like Belmont in Nashville and the Otis Institute of Art and Design in nearby Pasadena, and considering what art specialty he may pursue. He feels the animation class has provided an opportunity for him to coalesce many of his interests. 

“There is an underrated part of animation that people overlook. It isn’t just drawing. It’s storytelling, directing and acting (you are making your characters act). It sets you up for every facet you want to go into. That’s why I love animation. It’s a true art form,” he said. 

Although not looking to major in art, sophomore Rayah Rodriguez has benefitted from the new class, taking her artistic expression to a new level. 

“When the class was first announced it sounded really cool. I had taken drawing and painting before, but I had never done animation. It’s definitely different! Animation has unique elements: it doesn’t have to be perfect all at once, but when you put it together it’s amazing,” she enthused. “My favorite thing is using the online platforms. They are kind of tricky, but as you get used to them they are really fun!”  

The demand for upcoming animators also creates a need for experienced teachers and professionals to pass on their skills. Enter Joan Ko, new to Oaks Christian this year, who is teaching the inaugural class. 

A graduate of California Institute of the Arts, Ko is a working animator with former clients like Mattel, and projects such an American Girl mini-series, television commercials, and stop motion for Jurassic Park. She was also the lead animator for a non-profit program sponsored by Sony Studios. 

In high school she knew she wanted to be an artist, but hadn’t settled on a specialty. While preparing her portfolio, her art teacher suggested she look at other options besides drawing, opening up a world she had never considered: animation. She knew it was her path. A teacher herself now, she hopes to also inspire and mentor.  

“It is very satisfying when students are able to achieve what they visualize in their head onto the screen and see it work. It makes me feel good they understand,” she said. 

But Ko also feels animation facilitates students learning life skills even if they don’t choose an art career like she did.

“My hope is not that they just learn technical skills.The process of creating animation requires so much patience, time and effort. I want them to understand that to create requires patience, to slow down and observe the real world,” she said. “Animation is frame by frame: you need 12 individual drawings to create one second of animation. You have to study and dissect real life footage to understand movement. Whether or not they become animators, I hope they learn from this class to appreciate things in life and slow down, especially in the fast-paced world we live in.” 

Photos: Top: Joan Ko with student. Side: Christopher Laranang in class.