Animators are necessarily resourceful people. Building a film frame by frame requires ingenuity, planning, and the wearing of many, many hats. An animation artist has the mind of a writer, the vision of an editor, the eye of a cinematographer, the innovation of a sculptor, and the pathos of a master storyteller — not to mention the artistry and patience required to create compelling moving-image works.
Animation artists work with almost all creative media available, whether that’s the careful manipulation of a drawn line, digital points of light, or even a rapidly drying bit of bread dough. So when a global pandemic threatened to derail the work of the students on the Royal College of Art’s Master’s in Animation program, they not only persisted — they thrived.
John Summerson, a student representative for the program and a member of the 2020 graduating cohort, recalls the upheavals of the last few months, while his fellow students give their tips for navigating the crisis. Here’s Summerson:
The Royal College of Art’s freshly minted master animators are some of the most resourceful out there. The desks in the animation studios still look as if we were all just working there, even though they’ve been empty for months. Coffee cups sit welded to scripts with a ring of instant Americano. Storyboards and painted color swatches line the shelves like flags at the United Nations of Animation Artists.
Some desks are particularly clean, with only a few sticky notes and a forgotten phone charger remaining where a computer once rested. Plaster, silicone, and aluminum wire decorate the tabletops and occasionally coalesce into a mostly completed puppet, staring out at the empty room with a permanently bemused expression, wondering where everyone has gone.
Leaving our space behind and working in isolation wasn’t easy. Many of us went back to the drawing board, implementing big rewrites to fit our newfound circumstances. Across the globe, we retrofitted our bedrooms into studio spaces, and cobbled together the software and tools we needed to keep building our work — all the while doing our best to comprehend the notion that the air was now poisonous.
Fortunately, we are world builders. As artists adept in experimental, narrative, and documentary storytelling techniques, we were uniquely well equipped to shift our attention from creating imaginative new realities on screen, in the gallery, and in public spaces to rebuilding our own. We persisted, and invented innovative spaces and ways in which we could tell our stories.
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The MA Animation graduation class of 2020 at the RCA @rcaanimation have created various works as unique and versatile as their cohort. Themes vary from politics to culture, personal experiences, family, sexuality and more. Explore their creations on the RCA2020 discovery platform (link in IG bio). Also, read the story on cartoonbrew.com about how the students managed to finish their school year during peak pandemic. #royalcollegeofart #rca #filmmaking #animation #films #art #2danimation #stopmotion #CGI #handdrawn #narrative #experimental #documentary
Still, the hardest part about animating in isolation was not being able to see each other every day. Being in the room with the Royal College of Art MA Animation cohort of 2020 means having instant access to the finest minds in animation — people who will trip over themselves to help each other, offer their insight or a shoulder, share a technique, loan you tools, share software, and buy you a tea.
They’re generous, hilarious, brilliant, world-class storytellers and innovators. And even though we couldn’t be together in person, we did our best to preserve the jewel of studying at the RCA — these new, life-long relationships — as a digital mosaic of smiling faces with the best Zoom backgrounds you’ve ever seen.
We’re looking ahead. The RCA2020 exhibition isn’t about Covid-19. It is a vibrant showcase of ingenuity, persistence, and the triumph of the creative spirit. Nothing can stop creativity — not even a pandemic.
Come join us at RCA2020, take part in an artist panel and ask us questions, and enjoy the work, the people, and our many, many hats.