Students arrive for animated Woodstock

Some of them have spent days driving their Volkswagen vans across the country from points as far away as New York, Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana. Others qualified for special discounts from United Airlines and were able to fly to Los Angeles from foreign locales such as Vancouver and London. Still others are being bused in from San Francisco and all across Southern California. The reason for this sudden migration of high school and college students from around the world to L.A. this week is not some new rock ‘n’ roll festival, although at times it will resemble exactly that. They are coming for the World Animation Celebration and are part of a calculated plan by WAC organizers to “attract the next generation of animators to our industry, to show them the opportunities that exist for them in animation,” according to festival founder and honorary chairman Terry Thoren.

Although the event could hardly be called the next Woodstock, Thoren and his team are hoping it will change the lives of at least a few students in attendance, the way Woodstock did so many years ago. These young people however, won’t be listening to tunes, they’ll be watching toons. And instead of trying to “find themselves,” many of them will be trying to find jobs, or at least explore career opportunities in one of the fastest growing industries in the nation — animation production. But like their Woodstock Generation predecessors, these students are more than a little giddy about their week away from home. “The best part about preparing for this event has definitely been working with the students,” says festival marketing director Frankie Kowalski. “When they call in with questions, you can just hear the excitement in their voices.”

With the chance to get up-close-and-personal with animation stars and industry executives from across the globe, these students have lots to be excited about. Not only are they getting discount passes to virtually all the events at WAC — screenings, workshops, trade shows and seminars, among other things — they’ll also have a chance to rub elbows with their animation heroes and meet studio recruiters. Perhaps best of all, WAC organizers have gone out of their way to make sure potential animators of the future can attend the event at reasonable cost.

“The hosting city of Pasadena has really gotten behind this event,” festival coordinator Caryl Bloch says. “Because of that, we were able to offer students some fantastic package deals. For instance, Pasadena’s William Carey Intl. University, a private local college, is providing housing and three square meals a day for just $12 a night for students.” In addition, when students are done watching hours of cartoons or attending motivational seminars, they will have their own, safe place to hang out — a special center that as been set up at the local Masonic Temple, located near the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, where most of the festival events will take place.

For students however, the week won’t be just about watching, it’s also about doing. A large group of them will get hands-on animation experience, and possibly also make it into the Guinness Book of World Records, by teaming together to create, from scratch, an actual animated feature film in one day. They’ll do it as part of “Animation 2000,” an event presented by Santa Monica’s Bridges Institute of Visual Arts. For nine straight hours on Tuesday, participants in the Animation 2000 will marathon to create a film under the supervision of professional animators. Event organizers say officials from Guinness are planning to create a new category and include their effort in an upcoming edition if they succeed as planned. With supervision and guidance from pros, participants will break down into smaller groups to storyboard, animate and color individual scenes. Then, on Friday, they will gather for a special screening to see the work premiered at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. Some $5,000 in prizes will be awarded for outstanding accomplishments during the marathon.

“There’s nothing more electrifying than seeing your art move for the first time,” says Bridges co-founder Linda R. Crain of the Animation 2000 experience. “We’re hoping these students not only catch the bug for animation while they’re here, but learn that a life in the arts is really a possibility now.”

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