<em>Electropolis</em> <em>Electropolis</em>


Electropolis is “the product of roughly 7 months of work from 13 students in the 3rd year of the BAA Animation program at Sheridan College.” It’s interesting to note the rise of student films made in groups at North American animation schools. No doubt the success of group student films from French animation schools like Gobelins and Supinfocom have played a role in encouraging this trend.

  • Rufus

    That was pretty rad. Made me laugh too. Props go to Sheridan College.

  • Cathy

    Schools like group films because it gives them material to advertise their programs with, i.e. exposure. Also impresses the administrators, i.e. secures funding, i.e. is done for political reasons.

    However, I don’t think that “group films” of any great length are good at all. They force students into the corset of a commercial production pipeline before most students have established their own identities & directions as animators. They demand that all involved ascribe to the style and content of the production.

    What happens to individuality?

    And – watch the heierarchy of these type of things – what happens to the young women involved? I’d be willing to bet that they usually end up at the bottom tiers, following the will of whichever “boyz” lead the production.

    I’d like to see real, individual artists coming out of schools – not cogs formed for the production mill.

    Vivre Oskar Fischinger!

  • Siegel

    No offense to Cathy, but as a student in USC’s animation program, one of the main critiques of our major I hear coming from students is a lack of team-work on projects. We’re all told to do all our own work for every single project. If you have any help, it’s that someone did the music or voices or helped you color. The class might critique your work, sure, but learning how a real production operates isn’t in the program short of what a few industry teachers tell us.

    Sure, we want to develop our creative vision. We’re all artists there. But honestly, many of us aren’t interested in being directors or storyboard artists or writers or colorists. Some WANT to be cogs, they want to learn what it’s like to work with other people because they’ll have to later in life anyway.

    This doesn’t mean ditching independent projects. It just means incorporating more group projects in what’s already an extremely director focused program.

    As for the worry about sexism…I think you’re getting ahead of yourself. NONE of the dudes in any year I’ve met, at least in USC’s animation program, think less of us female students. We make up at least half or more of the undergraduate class. Everyone, regardless of race or gender or place of origin (and there’s a lot of variety at USC!) is allowed their opinion in class and helps others find out how to make their film that much better.

    It would be an awesome opportunity to work TOGETHER for once, at least in our 4th year after we’ve spent years getting to know one another, and so get the same picture of what we’ll face later in life that the live-action production program does. It’s not stifling, it’s what we’re in college for.

  • At Sheridan we do a group film in our third year and also an individual film in our 4th year. Which I think is pretty good, but the group films so far don’t usually work out smoothly like in the industry (10-12 students going at it with no director for a final say, so it’s pretty tough). There are only a few groups that really get along (so I’ve witnessed and heard) though I think this was one of those groups that got along swell.
    All in all, group film making in school is a valuable learning experience, even though it was kind of hectic working with people with different opinions, but it was still fun. And it’s exciting to finally be doing my own film, although I would have liked to have made more in my years at Sheridan.

    Electropolis was definitely my favourite group film to come out of my year 8)

  • I have to admit I didn’t like it at all but it made me think of those cool taiwanese traffic lights:


  • For the record, the students at Sheridan make group films in their third year and make individual films in their fourth year.

    When the program was expanded from three to four years several years ago, it was to add courses outside the program in order for the school to be able to grant a Bachelors degree. There also had to be additions to the art side of the program and the one thing that the students didn’t get in the old program was working in a group. As so much of professional animation is created in a group setting, the school felt it was beneficial to the students to experience the give and take of collaboration.

    Within the group, each student must contribute to every step of production, so every student works on story, design, layout, animation, art direction and all the technical aspects of putting the film together. This is done so that when students reach fourth year, they are familiar with the entire process and can then do it by themselves for their individual films.

  • Nic

    As a student in the Sheridan Animation program, I just want to jump in and say something to Cathy as well, and I also just wanted to share a little bit about how the program’s structured.

    I’m only in my second year right now, but one of the things my classmates and I have started to be excited about is that we’re going to be producing a film next year. It’s something that we can put on a demo reel, something that can help us gain some exposure (through film festivals and the like) and also a great working experience, seeing as we are going to have to all be cogs in the pipeline about a year and a half later. If you can’t work on a team, in my mind, you can’t work as an animator.

    Also, each one of the third years has to do a short (very short) one scene film called an ‘Action Analysis’, so that they can add that to their portfolio, and also so that they have the opportunity to do something in their own style. And this isn’t to mention that the last year in the Sheridan College porgram is a solo fourth year film.

    I just wanted to clear up what else our program does. Personally, I’m pretty satisfied with how it’s laid out. Not to mention I know some of the girls who are very much in control of their group’s production.

  • Peanut

    “What happens to the young women involved?” Well, speaking as a woman who is currently at Sheridan in my 3rd year, in a group of 12 members, 6 “boyz” and 6 girls, the girls are the power players in my film group. I know this to be true in other groups as well.

    Watching Electropolis last year in the screenings was very inspirational and set the bar high. Congrats to the now 4th years who worked on it!

  • Puck

    Two more group films from that year:



  • It’s nice to see this online and getting some views. Such a fun little film!

  • Kate

    Fellow female animation student here, not from Sheridan. I thought that was a great film and I love the idea of an entire year collaborating on one short. The one thing I’m always grousing about is for assignments to better reflect what a real production is like. I’m in school to learn about animation; individuality I can do all by myself.

    Cheers to Sheridan! Looking forward to your next film!

  • I’m in my fourth year of Sheridan and everyone who worked on Electropolis are classmates of mine, Great job you guys!!

    Like Amanda and Mark said, at Sheridan the first short film you make is in your 3rd year with 10 or so other people. Considering most people in the group have had little experience with film making it can be really difficult and frustrating especially because you’ve pretty much got a dozen directors. So for a first film, you guys really pulled it off nicely. Definitely my favourite of the year!

    And to respond to Cathy: At times, yes, it does feel like they’re pushing us to finish and colour our films so that it’s a show piece to promote the school. But at the same time, it was a really great experience to make a film from start to finish to understand all the stages and importance of each one.

    Kate: To clarify, the entire year doesn’t work on the same short. Students in their 3rd year get split up into groups of around 12 and each group makes a film, resulting in around 10 films from the 3rd years.

    Sheridan’s 4 year program is still fairly new and is always changing and improving. Being in my last year now, I REALLY wish we had the chance to make our own films in 1st and 2nd year too, like Calarts. I think it would have prepared us so much better for our 4th year films.
    But anyway, great job on Electropolis everyone! Looking forward to seeing your individual films at the end of the year!

  • Pretty funny concept. Well done you guys.

    Group assignments should ALWAYS be an option at all animation schools. My 3rd year film was NOWHERE close to done. But had i done it with some people, who’s expertise were in different departments, i’d have probably had it done.

    Of course, there’s always those “work-aholics” that CAN get a 3rd film done by themselves. But they’re the exception ;)

    Group projects all the way!!! Besides, that’s how animation is done in the REAL world.

  • Todd

    To Cathy: Apparently, at sheridan, you DO make an individual film in 4th year. So my suggestion to you is, stick around for that! ;)

    And to your comment about schools developing students to join an “animation pipeline”… what did you expect?!!(ha) Join the real world Cathy ;)

    Also, you wanna be an individual film maker? Show us your films and we’ll(*the audience) decide if you’re good enough to make a living at it.

    Just being honest here..

    • Frank

      “Just being honest here…” Let me be Frank. People who give their ‘honest’ opinion can easily be seen as on the rude side of being constructive. Learning how to comment and critique but maintain some civility (with gentle use of punctuation and parentheses) is another skill developed in working in a collborative animation environment.

  • Any chance that anyone would like to talk about the film itself?

    Not that I’m upset that Cathy’s comment has completely railroaded any relevant discussion about the film. Unless Cathy is an alias for either Bill Plympton or Don Herztfeldt, then why would anyone be against students learning to work as a team in spite of an individual style?

    Because I can guarantee that working in that group helped me and everyone else grow more as people and as artists than if we had attempted at creating our own mini films. Individual style is not what animation is about, unless you’re leading (director, creator, designer), because a character can’t act 13 different ways and still be understood as part of a bigger story.

    The other part that I take much greater offence to is the insinuation that there was any sort of prejudice in our, or any of the groups that made films last year. Everyone took leads at different times, and others followed them if they knew that they were the best one to lead in that area or at that time. I don’t know what bizarre experiences you’ve had working in groups before, but everyone was extremely professional and a hell of a lot of fun to work with. We were a group of artists and storytellers, not a group of ‘boyz’ and ‘girlz.’

    And now that we’ve established the way the Sheridan program works ad nauseam, would it be possible to just discuss the film? We made it for people to enjoy, so please do.

  • I’ve always seen this film as a comment on the way our jobs restrict our creativity and that our lives would be richer if we gave ourselves permission to do things differently.

    I think the content of this film is very sophisticated for a student work.

  • That’s a charming film with many nice touches. That could have been a festival hit back when there were festivals.

    The simplicity of the first character we see made me think “typical student film short cut” but then we see the people on the street and I think “ah, there’s more to this than I thought!”. I like that my expectations were misdirected and played with.

    I also enjoyed “The Auction” and “Hogwild” linked to above. “The Auction” was paced a bit slow like there was a minimum length they had to achieve, but I liked the twist at the end. I liked the artwork in “Hogwild” the best of the three.

    Based on all of those I’m guessing “tell the story visually” was a major pillar of the assignment. These films aren’t about lipsynch or mouthshapes.

    These examples suggest the concern trolls shouldn’t be worried about Sheridan’s curriculum. Maybe the credits as written in the films didn’t represent how evenly divided the tasks were.

    As far as girls getting pushed aside by boys my memories of group projects in High school and College are of scratching and clawing to get them to be involved. They were always too willing to wait for the boy to offer a solution or point the way to the next step or just plain do it for them. If boys are still taking over projects I think maybe some of it is out of exasperation; the headstrong, assertive, adventuresome girls they grew up seeing in Disney films are rather scarce creatures.

    But if any of the group projects are genuinely failing I’d say that might be an indicator the faculty adviser wasn’t doing his/her job to monitor the situation and defuse problems before they became disasters.

    Sink-or-swim is something you can do at home for free. For $30,000 annual tuition you should be getting expert faculty input at every stage.

  • Cathy

    My, my. Quite a few comments re my own. Well, at least someone is listening (sort of!).

    It’s too bad that so many students seem intent on bowing to the “pipeline”, envisioning no other future for their talent:

    “also a great working experience, seeing as we are going to have to all be cogs in the pipeline about a year and a half later.”

    “Join the real world Cathy ;)”

    In the “real world” there are all kinds of outlets for your own individual expression. Of course in order to find them you may need to think creatively. You may have to be resourceful. You may have to invest some energy.

    “If you can’t work on a team, in my mind, you can’t work as an animator.”

    Ah, the wisdom of babes! And the “12 Principles of Animation” are the Bible. I know, I know. I’ve seen what students get drilled into them.
    Btw, I said nothing against working in groups per se. I’m opposed to large group pipeline projects focused on one story & style.

    Formula, pipeline, adherence to an inane lack of any real innovation or aesthetics. blagh!

    As for content: Young people should have quite a lot to say. They should have passion. I’ve seen great meaningful student work arise from independent projects that were well guided.

    The world is in turmoil. Students should consider lifting their voices above the crowd, rather than moving with it.

    As for equality: Great, that some places actually practice it. Hopefully THAT is a trend!

  • Cathy

    “The usual motion picture which is shown to the masses everywhere in countless motion picture theaters all over the world is photographed realism — photographed surface realism-in-motion… There is nothing of an absolute artistic creative sense in it. It copies only nature with realistic conceptions, destroying the deep and absolute creative force with substitutes and surface realisms. Even the animated film today is on a very low artistic level. It is a mass product of factory proportions, and this, of course, cuts down the creative purity of the work of art. No sensible creative artist could create a sensible work of art if a staff of co-workers of all kinds each has his or her say in the final creation — producer, story director, story writer, music director, conductor, composer, sound men, gag men, effect men, layout men, background directors, animators, inbetweeners, inkers, cameramen, technicians, publicity directors, managers, box office managers, and many others. They change the ideas, kill the ideas before they are born, prevent ideas from being born, and substitute for the absolute creative motives only cheap ideas to fit the lowest common denominator.

    The creative artist of the highest level always works at his best alone, moving far ahead of his time. And this shall be our basic tenet: that the Creative Spirit shall be unobstructed by realities or anything else that spoils this absolute pure creation.”

    – Oskar Fischinger, True Creation, 1949

  • Nic

    I can also see that you were listening (sort of). Each one of our comments that you quoted also said that Sheridan has a fourth year, in which people make their own film. After a year of filmmaking experience with classmates, making it easier to patch a film together, you get to travel off on your own. That way, we do get a chance for individual expression, individual story reel components, and individual recognition for a job well done.

  • Hey Cathy, what do you think of the film?

  • Great point Nic(*on the 4th year individual film project) Seems like Cathy wasn’t “reading”.

    And to Kevin, this article “was” actually about group projects in animation schools. Not about critiquing this film.

    But if you want a personal critique, from someone in the industry myself, it’s really nicely done. The street people’s designs were interesting and the whole concept is really strong.

    Also, I think it’s great that you got to work in a group project(*i sure didn’t when I was at Sheridan) It builds knowledge of other departments and teaches you to work as a “team”.

    Which, apparentely, doesn’t really concern Cathy much, cause she likes to do things all by herself ;)

  • I’m not knocking Cathy BTW.

    I too LOVE working on my own personal projects, but for THIS topic: “schools team projects”, I’ll side on the 3rd year team project and 4th year individual project.

  • Amanda S

    I am also from the Electropolis film and would love to hear what Cathy thought of the film.

    I don’t really care to reply to the rest of your opinions. But this one amused me.

    And I quote: “The world is in turmoil. Students should consider lifting their voices above the crowd, rather than moving with it.”

    Did you even watch Electropolis? That’s exactly what the film is about.

  • Cathy

    to Ariel & Nick:

    “Great point Nic(*on the 4th year individual film project) Seems like Cathy wasn’t “reading”

    a) Ariel, of course that’s insulting and yes, you knocked me with that comment.

    b) to both: I think artists/animators need much longer to “mature” than 4 years of higher ed. If you’ve begun animating as a freshman you’re still at a beginner’s level at Jr or Sr. level. However, you should be, by that time, able to communicate your thoughts/message in animation – at least to some extent.

    I know students think that they’re “all grow’d up” by Sr. year, but imho animators need far longer.

    Keep in mind if you enter the industry right out of higher ed you’ve got 40+ years to be a cog. Your years of a student should be spent exploring, experimenting, honing your skills and expressing YOURSELF.

    This is just my opinion, so no need to insult.

    to Amanda who wrote “That’s exactly what the film is about.”:

    Um, yes and no. The superficial content addresses individuality. This is what Fischinger (see quote above) means with “photographed surface realism-in-motion”. I digress on this part of the subject for now… (no time…)

    Production: Great sound, really enjoyed that.

    Nice, varied character designs of ppl waiting for light (altho all seem to be employees? no teens, no other “types”?).

    Walks slipping in first walking shot.

    Good boarding, xcept for:

    Story: I didn’t understand how the ppl knew where to find the discarded light. I went back in the film to see if anyone was at least watching the truck take it away (which would imply they at least knew the direction it was headed), but no such shot. No one chasing the truck – another way to surmise they knew where it was going. The cut to ppl in the junkyard (?) seemed abrupt, but I understand production time constraints.

    Walk signal guy’s design looks based on either Timing for Animation or Tony White’s Survival book (no time to look this up). The little soft stomach, foot shape etc are replicas. I would have preferred a more original design, which could have been achieved by making it closer to the one the ppl actually see.

    Nice idea to have the lil’ light guy be actually alive, fulfilling his responsibility.

    Technically well done.

    Ok, that was a superficial run-through of my initial reactions to the production itself.

    good luck to all in your animating futures!!

    Hope none of you ever work on projects you don’t believe in!

  • Well there is the fact that it is a dump truck, but I guess that wasn’t enough of a hint that it was being taken to a dump.

    I’m just curious as to how you define superficial. Just because we caricature real world elements I don’t believe it means that there was no stage of creating. Sure it could have been a race of creatures with 11 legs and long slender bodies who walk on their hands through the sands of a blue desert, but what’s the point? There is also the message, which I believe you referred to as superficial. The superficial story is that a traffic signs dances and inspires others to dance. The subtextual message is about being constrained by daily life and being unable to express yourself.

    I understand that you’re a Fischinger fan, and some of his films are fun to watch, but realistically there is no story and very little entertainment value in it. Similar to work from Norman McLaren, you’d be hard pressed to find a general audience who is going to find any deeper meaning than just “hey that was pretty.” As fellow artists we respect it, but I don’t feel that it reaches much further than that.

    I would much prefer seeing an abstract film by an artist who FIRST worked his/her way through mastering the principles. I think for many who take the approach, it’s not always a case that they don’t want to work on something traditional, it’s that they can’t. Perhaps you can’t see the human touch and creativity in a Disney characters performance, but I see it all the time and find it more inspirational as an artist than a stop motion painting.

    And just one last technical thing to clear up, I would say that 95% of the sheridan animation students have done at least one or two years in different art programs, whether it be illustration, a broader general art program (like OCAD or sheridan’s Art Fundamentals), in addition to their years in high school where everyone was highly encouraged to go as wacky and abstract as they pleased. I don’t believe that anyone from our program believes that they are entering the industry at the top, rather that there are years of working their way up in front of them.

  • Ariel

    Cathy: “Hope none of you ever work on projects you don’t believe in!”

    Looks like we’ve got a disgruntled animator on our thread here!(haha) What else is new?!

    Cathy, if you don’t like projects you work in, leave ’em!! Or better yet, make up your own and your talent should see you thru(*No?)

    Also, learning the “principles” of animation can “certainly” be taught in 4 yrs. After that, you can experiment and “hone your skills” aaaallll you want.

    What’s our beef with schools anyway?? If you wanted a particular type of school, wouldn’t you have gotten loans and gone to CalArts or Gobelins or something?

    Here’s a great video for gobelins i just found. The man has many good points.


    That’s it for me. Sorry if i’ve insulted you Cathy. I just don’t see merit to all this negativity, is all. But thats just my opinion. I’m out!

  • Cathy

    Should you return, Ariel:

    “Also, learning the “principles” of animation can “certainly” be taught in 4 yrs.”

    Yes, because that is a skill and nothing more. Just a skill. A skill does not make you a good animator. Being able to think critically will help.

    “…to all this negativity,”

    Critical thinking and criticism is not “negativity”. Without it you are doomed.

  • translation?

    critical thinking = abstract enough just so that there is no universal message and the artist is completely off the hook for getting an idea across

    doomed = employable

  • Great comments! I just stumbled across Electropolis last night, and I’ve watched it through maybe 5 or 6 times. I think it’s incredible! and speaks volumes about our world, human struggles, government, art, and difficulties within the human soul. I wrote some reactions after watching it on my blog here if you’re curious. “Electropolis: Let our Soul Lead the Dance!” http://larkinflight.com/?p=844