Animation students bring monsters to life for 4- and 5-year-olds
May 29, 2014
University of Wisconsin-Stout is known for involving
its students in real-world projects and hands-on activities, even if the
"hands" are very small.
Dave Beck, School of Art and Design, took his students
out of the classroom and into the small but quite real world of early childhood
education at the campus Child and Family Study Center to complete a course
In his intermediate 3D animation class, Beck assigned
15 students majoring in entertainment design-animation or game design-art to
meet one-on-one with a client to create an animated character, in this case to
bring a vision of a monster to life.
Much to the students' surprise, the clients were 4- and
5-year-olds in the 4K class at the center.
"Working with UW-Stout's Child and Family Study Center
just made complete sense to me, as many of my students will be creating content
for a younger audience after graduation, and this is the perfect way for them
to get a glimpse into how imaginative the young mind can be when given the
opportunity to express itself through art and creativity," Beck said.
Monsters come to life
The students, with input from the child clients, infused
each monster with a personality and a history. Where does it live and come
from? What does it like to eat? Is it noisy or quiet? What color is it? How
many legs and arms does it have? Can it talk?
In a month's time, the monsters were finished and ready
to be unveiled. The children and some parents saw for the first time the
completed animated creature in its monstrous glory. It was a festive event with
juice boxes and fruit snacks for all. Each child also received a poster of his
or her monster.
Together, the child client and his or her college
student presented to the class the original drawing and its transformation to a
moving and talking creature.
For example, the group was introduced to Sam, a monster
with 12 eyes, two bodies and five legs. Sam was created by Christian, whose
mother, Megan Loga, came to watch. She said Christian named his monster Sam
because it was the only word he could read and spell. It's his favorite word.
Sam's animator was Jake Mairet, of Madison.
Lolly, created by Sophie and animated by Kalan Tix, of
Osseo, Minn., is a girl and a good monster, Sophie said. Some monsters were
male, some female and at least one was both. Lolly is part centipede and part
cat. She has purple hair, likes to eat macaroni and ride her bike. Lolly purrs
and can only say one word: Mommy.
Other monsters included Sigaly, who shoots lizards out
of his arms; Hooky, whose face is mostly lips; Crabby, who is green and, well,
crabby; Saka, who in her black dress is scary; Spotty Monster, who lives in a
cave and has cavities in his two mouths; Funny Pet, who is a combination of
horse and deer with a large heart attached to the side of his body; Goopy, who
is both male and female with five eyes and no arms or legs; and Sally, who is a
boy and likes French fries.
To see the animated monsters and original drawings refer here. To watch a video interview of Beck
and student, Eric Seidl, go here.
Making of a monster
The monster-making process started like any creative
project might, with a brainstorming session between child client and college
student about the monster's appearance and habits.
"There were no rules or expectations for the drawings,"
Beck said, whose daughter Eleanor is one of the children.
Unlike the fictional Dr. Frankenstein, who created his
monster in a ghoulish lab filled with frothing test tubes, the children were
left to draw their monsters the old-fashioned way with paper and colored markers.
The drawings were collected, and the art students picked one image to work with
in the animation lab.
Maggie Keenan, a UW-Stout alumna with a bachelor's in
early childhood education and a master's in education, is the instructional
specialist in the 4K class. From her observations and daily interaction with
the youngsters, she dubbed the project a success.
"The children thoroughly enjoyed creating their monster
and were excited to see their completed monsters move and make noises," she
"They didn't have any limitations, so it was a very
open-ended art project for them in which they could each express their
creativity," she said.
Each Tuesday, they asked if their "college friend" was
coming that day to work on their monster with them, Keenan said.
Ian Pommer, a game design and development major from
Stillwater, Minn., was excited about the project. "I was interested to try my
own hand at recreating a child's drawing," he said.
The experience was not without challenges though.
"Being so young, my client, as well as my classmates' clients, did not have as
concrete of a design in mind that would be ideal from the concept stage and
into production," he said.
The college students used some of the techniques and
software in an animator's toolbox, such as character design, modeling and texturing
with a digital sculpting program called Pixologic ZBrush, rigging, animation,
lighting and rendering in a program called Autodesk Maya.
"This was the first time we've done this project, and
I'm happy to see that it was a complete success, for both our little clients
and my animation students, Beck said.
"Just as in the entertainment industry, a designer will
have a client who has a specific vision for their idea, and it is up to the
designer to help the client reach that goal, regardless of the obstacles
to them (or how young they are!) ," he added.
The Child and Family Study Center serves as a
laboratory school and observation site for early childhood education and
related majors at UW-Stout. This semester 78 children are enrolled; 20 percent
are children of international students, faculty or staff. The ethnicities
represented include Saudi Arabian, Indian, Chinese, Korean, Bangladeshi,
Ethiopian, Nepali and Hispanic.
For more information about the university's art and design programs, refer to
School of Art and Design.
A poster shows the original monster drawings by the 4- and 5-year-olds and the
final renditions by UW-Stout students.
Dave Beck, instructor in School of Art and Design, addresses his students and
young clients at the unveiling of monsters.
Hooky the monster was created by Marya and animated by UW-Stout student Kayla
UW-Stout student Megan Richardson works with Eleanor during the brainstorming
UW-Stout student Eric Seidl shows Aiden how to use a tablet software device to
make adjustments to Aiden's monster, Goopy.