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'Project Oberon' details 3D animation process by visiting alien world

Students in ASU's newly developed animation program offer an educational window into the complex world of computer-generated storytelling

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The entrance of "Project Oberon," an animation exhibit, is pictured on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021 in Tempe at Gallery 100. 

ASU animation students opened an educational exhibit showcasing the design process of 3D animation filmmaking on Monday. The exhibit, titled “Project Oberon,” was conceived and created by undergraduate students in the School of Art, and it's the first project of its kind at ASU.

Five senior animation students contributed their work to the exhibit, which demonstrates various stages of the 3D animation process used in computer-generated film and cartoons. The project revolves around the fictional world of "Oberon," which tells the story of astronauts on a voyage in space who learn of aliens on a distant planet.

Jacqueline Folgar, a senior studying animation, is one of the contributing artists for the exhibit. She said she feels most people know very little about the complex world of 3D animation.

"One of my friends was asking, 'how long does it take? A day?'" Folgar said. “Honestly, this took a very long time. I feel like it's very hard for people to grasp how time-consuming and how much effort and work is actually put into 3D modeling.”

According to Stacy Nuñez, another contributing artist and senior animation major, the five artists spent around three months coordinating, preparing and designing the exhibit.

Nuñez has also encountered uninformed attitudes regarding the field of 3D animation. She said that 3D animation is not just designing characters, but actually a sophisticated and specialized industry with lots of moving parts.

“There's a whole array of jobs for people within the 3D industry,” Nuñez said. “Everything is a specialization and not just one person doing the whole thing.”

The bachelor's of fine arts concentration in animation, which Folgar and Nuñez belong to, is one of ASU’s newest majors. According to them, this is the first time any undergraduate students at ASU have created an exhibit of this kind.

Folgar said this lack of precedent meant making lots of mistakes and last-minute adjustments, especially while juggling other coursework and projects at the same time.

“I just hope that people learn from our mistakes,” Folgar said. “Because we’re the guinea pigs this semester.”

Sujin Kim, an assistant professor who teaches key courses in ASU’s new animation program, said the students leading the exhibition are dedicated and hardworking. She echoed Nuñez and Folgar’s sentiments about the under-appreciated skill required to be a 3D animator.  

“Like all other art forms, creativity is very important, but you also have to be a very good technician,” Kim said. “That’s the part many people don’t know.”

Folgar, Nuñez and the rest of the senior artists behind “Project Oberon” are trailblazers in ASU’s brand new animation program, but they are optimistic about the concentration's increasing popularity. 

According to Nuñez, though ASU's animation concentration was only recently introduced, the major has grown to represent around 200 students within a year. 

In addition to its animation art concentration, ASU also hosts multiple student animation organizations, including Lemon Tree Animation Club and Women in Animation at ASU.

Nuñez said this rapid community growth is part of what inspired “Project Oberon” in the first place.

“We wanted people to see you can be an animation major,” Nuñez said. “We have this community and can reach out to each other and be a big part of the industry, all from ASU. The goal is to make Arizona a hotspot.”

“Project Oberon” runs from Nov. 15-18 at Gallery 100 on the Tempe campus. The exhibit is free of charge, and walk-ins are welcomed.

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