AniTalk: Joseph Wallace – Stop Motion Craft at its Finest

I had the pleasure of visiting HSLU last month to do a talk and spend time with students looking at their current puppets and projects.

Having heard great things about the school over the years from various colleagues it was wonderful to step inside the campus and get to meet students who are benefitting from the university’s amazing teaching and facilities. From woodwork to metalwork, to fabrics, ceramics and 3D printers, art schools are a space where ancient processes collide with cutting edge technologies.

Joseph Wallace at work

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about animation and stop motion and how this medium, my preferred métier, sits at a junction between so many art forms. It’s somewhat peripheral and often under-valued, but simultaneously fiercely unique and singular in its capacity for empathetic, poetic storytelling.

In my talk I spoke about my background in theatre, having started in the plastic arts of painting and sculpture, my love of photography, opera, dance, my collections of objects and antiques. Every time I travel  I seek out museums of puppets and curiosities and stalk through antique markets and junk shops and all of these techniques and obsessions feed into my work as a director.

Stop motion is an art form which operates in the real world; what you see in front of the camera is painstakingly built by hand, photographed under real lights, and brought to life by unseen artisans; the puppet animators. It’s a multi-disciplinary process that draws on performance, artistry, technicality, and cinema to create something tactile and tangible which in turn gives the medium a weight and gravitas which perhaps sets it apart from drawn animation or computer animation.

Still-frame from the music video EDITH PIAF (SAID IT BETTER THAN ME) by Sparks

Having recently co-directed a live-action puppet film, I’m struck by the expressive, artistic joys of making with our hands, of mixing media and techniques to tell bold new stories.
In the world around us, we can observe the constant march of technological progress, from devices which control our homes to artificial intelligence creeping into numerous aspects of everyday life, as well as barging its way into the creative sphere, whether we like it or not. But perhaps the question is not ‘Can a computer achieve this faster or better?’ (I would argue ‘no’ when it comes to inimitable stop motion and puppetry in particular) but rather – ‘can a computer have as much fun as I can, making art with my hands?’ Really we need to turn inwards and reflect on why we make work and how the inherent qualities of these practical mediums lend themselves to moving audiences, engaging viewers, and communicating narratives and themes which challenge, provoke, and entertain.
I say, long live the practical, plastic arts, and here’s to many more years of making work with our hands!

Joseph Wallace and puppets from Salvation Has No Name

If you missed the presentation or want to hear Joseph talk more about these themes, you can hear him speaking about the appeal and inner-workings of stop motion animation on the BBC Radio show Screen Shot alongside Guillermo Del Toro here:

Lastly, talking about the making of his short ‘Salvation Has No Name’ and the ups and downs of being an independent director on the ‘Under the Onion Skin’ podcast here:

Text and images provided by Joseph Wallace

Von kurzsichtigen Krabben zu Ballerinen in Rüstung

Auf einer spärlich bewohnten, idyllischen Insel in der Nähe der norwegischen Kleinstadt Bodø befindet sich eine Gruppe seltsamer hölzerner Kabinen, in denen jeweils eine Künstlerin arbeitet. Gegen Ende des Sommers hatte ich das Glück und die Gelegenheit, zusammen mit zwei weiteren Kolleg*innen aus der Animationsbranche für drei Wochen in eine dieser Kabinen einzuziehen, um an meinem persönlichen Filmprojekt zu arbeiten.

Die Menschen, die ich während meiner Zeit im Arctic Hideaway kennengelernt habe, waren genauso inspirierend wie die einzigartige Umgebung. Da war zum Beispiel Trond, ein norwegischer Künstler, der mir viel über die norwegische Kultur und Geschichte erzählt hat, oder Misha, eine rumänische Metallbildhauerin, deren elegante und tiefgründige Werke mich genauso beeindruckt haben wie ihre Persönlichkeit.

In meiner Arbeit suche ich nach dem Absurden und dem Überschreiten von Grenzen. The Arctic Hideaway bot mir einen abgelegenen und inspirierend schönen Arbeitsplatz, der jedoch nicht an Vielfalt und skurrilen Interaktionen und Situationen mangelte. Es treffen sich verschiedenste Personen an einem von der Welt abgeschiedenen Ort, wo sie sich gemeinsam auf ihre Arbeit und das Zusammenleben konzentrieren.

Das Arctic Hideaway ist eine Residenz, die von der grenzenlosen Leidenschaft der Besitzer und Helfer sowie von uns, den Kunstschaffenden, belebt wird. In Zusammenarbeit mit der HSLU Design und Kunst ermöglichte uns das Arctic Hideaway, unsere Kreativität an diesen Ort zu bringen und in den naturnahen, wilden und dennoch stilvollen und harmonischen Alltag auf der Insel in Fleinvær einzutauchen und uns von ihm inspirieren zu lassen. Jetzt bin ich zurück in der Schweiz und teile meine Eindrücke begeistert mit allen, die zuhören möchten. Ich hoffe, dass ich auch andere ermutigen kann, eine dieser hölzernen Kabinen für eine Weile ihr Zuhause zu nennen.

In Memory of Paul Bush

It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of our beloved and dear colleague, Paul Bush.

For many years, Paul was part of the lecturing team at Animation Lucerne. He had a lasting influence on the project development of the graduation films, and introduced many generations of students to the world of animated film with sensitivity, experience, and empathy. With his humour and peacefulness, he was a great role model for all of us.

Without him, Animation Lucerne would never have been what it is today. He was a formidable artist, filmmaker, animator, and lecturer whose absence will be felt for a long time.

We send our deepest condolences to his family and friends.

The AniGrill and an overview over 3 years of studying Animation

Interviews with Isabel Pahud, Caroline Laville and Isabel Clerici
It’s after a long year of sitting behind desks working on various projects that the whole animation department here at HSLU, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts comes together to eat amazing grilled veggie-burgers, to discuss the recently premiered bachelor movies and most of all, to enjoy each other‘s company before a long awaited summer break.

On Thursday the 29th of June, three classes of students and staff meet on the school’s terrace to have a last meal together before leaving for the summer or definitively for those finishing their studies. It’s a long held tradition from the animation’s department: a true farewell to our third year bachelor’s and a last chance to get together with all their peers after a very exciting but also busy premiere the day before.
It’s under a cloudy sky that it all takes place and even though everyone’s very emotional, we can see the sun shining through the student’s smiles as people laugh together over their shared memories. Watching it all come to surface, I see the perfect opportunity to ask a few of the recent graduates about their time spent here studying animation, who knows when a little secret might be spilled.

Three years have come to an end, this is the last time you’ll be with the whole bachelor together as a student, how do you feel about it?

Isabel Pahud
It kinda sucks because the three years were really nice and although we were covid kids, we still managed to build a nice class atmosphere. Now it’s the reality of having to step foot into the big world out there where nothing is sure and nothing is secure. You’re leaving this comfortable bubble, and also being a student where shit is free, I’m not going to have that adobe pack anymore…


I know! Usually if the studio is good they provide you the licenses but yes, it’s exciting and also very depressing at the same time.

Isabel Pahud, director of this year’s bachelor film Forza, Rea!, started her studies here in September 2020 right before new public health measures were imposed due to Covid-19 cases rising in Switzerland. Having to study from home affected the class dynamics but not necessarily in a bad way, as Caroline Laville explains:

Caroline Laville
The lockdown started again around November so we had three months to get to know the class. Then we all moved to Discord* until the end of our first year. I think it was hard on some people but it worked out for my side of the class really well. We * instant messaging social platform, usually used for video calls and private chats met everyday, we had such a tight bonding experience through staying up until 2 am chatting or playing games together, that formed a really strong bond between us. It‘s in the AniGrill that the third year class gets to say goodbye to this school. It’s a special event that can get quite emotional as it takes place directly after the bachelor film’s premiere, the day before. For Isabel Clerici, the second Isabel from team Forza, Rea!, this year’s grill is different because it’s her last:

You’ve been to quite a few AniGrills, what makes this event special in your

Isabel Clerici
It’s the feeling of everyone being excited because some really cool movies are done! It‘s also the last time you get to see some people and talk to everybody, not just your class. It’s exciting to have everybody together, it’s hard finding time for everyone to hang out. The AniGrill is like: “we the animation students are having a party”, it’s really cool.

We always have a lot of things organized only for animation students, it’s so great.

So exclusive!

Yes definitely!

It’s just really nice because it’s like a send-off. You get to send somebody off and know that next year it’s your turn, you can prepare yourself for that. As a third year, something ends and it’s sad but in a good way. It’s important, if we all just left and there was nothing it would be hard, this helps. So that’s the main purpose of the AniGrill: not just eating for free but also closing an important chapter in the student’s lives. It’s a time of discussion and reflection, where everyone can go over their evolution during their studies.

With your studies finished, what do you take out of the last three years?

Caroline Laville
I started studying here not knowing if I wanted to do 2d or 3d and now at the end, I know very specifically what I will focus on. It formed me by giving me directions. The studies here also gave me realistic expectations for what happens after school. But most of all, we have a community now with this class where we’re proud of each other, everyone is very skilled. I know that a lot of us are gonna be in the industry and it will be amazing seeing people that I studied with work on really cool projects.
Maybe in the future we get to work together again, it would be a dream.
Caroline Laville worked on her personal portfolio during her last year instead of teaming up to make a movie. However, that did not stop her from stepping into many different projects in different roles like for Summer Rain as Compositor and Oh No as Producer. Connections are one of the most crucial possessions that students take from their bachelor in Lucerne. All the time spent together creating strong bonds contributes to better teamwork and an overall greater time working as a group.

What are the best memories you keep?

Isabel Clerici
AH you’re making me choose! I don’t know, maybe lunches in the atelier, just eating together, having a laugh, watching movies in the Rex* or hanging on the terrace, it’s the small things. Obviously seeing my name in a big cinema made me cry, it’s a pretty big moment. Aside from that, I’d say the third year because it’s such a collective work. I don’t think it was a specific moment, it was getting to work on a project and seeing everybody work on their project, updating and helping each other. I don’t think I’ll ever have something like that again. It was pretty incredible.

Such emotional answers! Okay so-

Also pancake day was fun.

Pancake day! Was that a new thing this year?

That was because Bee (Isabel Pahud) is British and it’s a British holiday!

That’s so funny, I saw it on your schedule!

Yes, so carry it forth next year, do pancake day.

Sure, great memories are formed during the studies. And even though the students wouldn’t change a thing about those, there are still specific moments where they feel like they could have done things otherwise, especially with the knowledge they have now.

What would you have done differently?

Isabel Pahud
Now with a whole year behind me of being director, I know what I can do differently in that role. I have a clear idea of what is expected of me and what I should bring to the table. When I pitched my story, I didn’t realize exactly how much I should have done beforehand, style-wise and story-wise. It’s good to have a clear idea of what you want instead of just a concept. Concepts are great but if you don’t flesh them out, you won’t find anything tangible. Also, If you have a concept, make sure that you have people that are very eager to bring ideas to the table! Around the tables outside, between the alumni, staff and current students, a few new faces can be seen. The next first years have already been accepted, some are here tonight. There’s no better time to drop a piece of advice, I’m sure they’d be as eager to hear it as me. * Hslu’s own movie theater just next to the cafeteria

What piece of advice would you give to the newcomers?

Caroline Laville
I remember my first kükenfest* I was sweating because my new classmates were so much better than me. I got in from the waitlist so I wasn’t sure I deserved my place here. I talked with a third year back then at the grill, their piece of advice stuck with me: even though you compare yourself in the first year, as soon as you start working in a team, you stop the comparisons because everybody is equal. The better your teammate is, the better it is for you!

Isabel Pahud
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Take these three years as practice, don’t expect to have portfolio worthy work walking out of it. Always move on to the next project instead of sticking to one trying to make it better. Sometimes starting from scratch or doing something different is way more helpful to advance in your skill. Also, make good friendships and have a good time, don’t take the teachers too seriously! Grades don’t matter, you just need to pass. It’s all about your skill, not grades.

Isabel Clerici
Follow your gut and do what you like. If doing what you like means not doing an all-nighter but instead hanging out with your friends, then do that. It’s probably the only time in your life where you’re gonna get to do that. If it means that you really want to finish this specific thing then do it! As long as you follow your gut, you’re going in the right direction.

Thank you Isabel 1, Isabel 2 and Caroline, we’ll be sure to put all of that into action.

So there it is folks: as the night ends, the beloved third years pass not only the salad, but also the torch to the next batch of students. And as we all eat and drink together, this evening serves less as a goodbye but more as a welcoming party to all the amazing projects to come by our new graduates.

photos by Jessica Meier

*grill organized in the first week of school to introduce the new animation students to the Bachelor

The Animation Premiere

graduates 2023
All photos by Copyright: HSLU/Priska Ketterer

Meeting the students behind the stories
Interviews with team Crevette, team Summer Rain, Kirill Gromadko and Justine Klaiber

I’m sitting among hundreds of people, the room is overflowing with excitement. Today is the HSLU’s Animation premiere, where films made by the students both in Bachelor and Master Animation during this last year will be screened.

It’s all taking place in the Blue Cinema here in Emmenbrücke. As I walk in, maybe fifteen minutes early, I can already see multiple small clumps of people talking. There’s the graduates’ families and friends, alumni, students, school’s staff and many Swiss professionals. I now understand why it couldn’t take place in our own cinema room in school, the Rex. I mingle a bit before going to the ticket stand where I receive a bracelet for my reservation and I walk into the screening room.

The room is enormous but I still struggle to find a sitting place in the middle, who even wantsto sit on the sides? The space gets filled pretty quickly. In the crowd, the people graduating this year stand out: dresses to suits, professionalism seems to be the theme, bulls-eye, every single one of them looks amazing! After all the greetings, they also take place and when every single person is finally sat, the atmosphere changes. Jürgen Haas, Hslu’s Bachelor animation’s director, walks on stage accompanied by Tina Ohnmacht, Master animation’s coordinator. A not so little speech is made, which I unfortunately can’t forward to you as it was held in german, but I assume it’s about the year of work behind and the pride felt for the students. That’s what I would have written. Then, it’s the students turn to speak, Sven Bachmann from team Crevette talks for the whole bachelor: he thanks every person involved in the films and gives away bags prepared for the school’s staff. Pretty similar words are said by Pedro Nel Cabrera Vanegas, on behalf of the master students. When all the important thanks are finally in the air, the lights dim and the true event starts.

Movies for all tastes are shown. DIfferent techniques, from stop-motion to hand-drawn animation to 3D are used and various stories, from the fear of pregnancy to a lemon thief, are told. People laugh during the funny moments and are quiet during the sad ones. What I’m sure of is that no one slept.

Soon enough, it all comes to an end. Jürgen Haas speaks a few more words about the amazing movies just presented: Henry’s hand, Oh no!, Forza, Rea!, Summer Rain, Crevette, Fork, Kill Your Darlings, NonSense, Searching for the Fifth Direction, Sonnenhuegel, Tapir Memories and Catch The Mouse!. And finally, the students graduating are welcomed on the stage for a strongly deserved round of applause.

The official screening is over and everyone starts getting ready for an apéro before calling it a night. However, all I can think about is finding a few of the graduates to ask them somquestions. The teams behind Crevette and Summer Rain, Kirill Gromadko from Catch the Mouse! and Justine Klaiber from the master’s, all agree to take a little interview.

What does it feel like finally seeing on the big screen the movie you’ve been working on for the last year?

Elina Huber
We’ve seen it before in the Rex but the animation moves differently in this even bigger screen. It doesn’t look worse, I just notice other details. It’s really cool because it gives me a fresh perspective on the film.

Sven Bachmann
It was interesting to hear and feel the audience. Before, we had only shown it to people who already knew the film and the story. I liked seeing the reactions of the ones that had never seen it before.

Elina and Sven worked on Crevette with Jill Vágner and Noémi Knobil. Even if seeing their project in a movie theater was a big step from working on small screens or watching it projected on school grounds, what mostly stuck with them was finally seeing the audience react genuinely. Which also seemed to be the case for the Summer Rain crew:

Marlene Low
It’s crazy to be in such a huge cinema but also, I’ve seen the movie so many times that I’m a bit numb to it. However, at such a big event like the premiere, you can hear so many new reactions which is really nice.

Johanna Kern
Or not hear reactions, a lot of people were very quiet.

Marlene Low
But that’s also a reaction!
Summer Rain, telling a story about grief through a child‘s point of view, was met with a strong silence when the credits rolled. The film, created by Marlene Low, Johanna Kern and Julia Krummenacher, touched the audience so profoundly that everyone hesitated to applaud. Fortunately, after one first clap the whole room joined as the team surely deserved.

Tell us a bit more about your teamwork, what would you have done differently?

We had a super dynamic team, we all worked on everything. We had a very democratic way of deciding what we wanted to continue with. It had its benefits and its downsides, it takes a lot longer to work that way. Noémi and Elina started with the story but we could all bring our things into it. We had to have a lot of discussions and meetings, it took way more time. It’s not very industry standard.

I’m not sure what I would change, I have more things that I definitely will keep on doing: like setting clear deadlines. Certain development stuff you can continue forever and keep finding more details, it’s dangerous. While for some, teamwork relied a lot on trust and friendships, for others this wasn’t the case.

Kirill Gromadko worked alone on Catch The Mouse! so he had to approach his project differently:

Working alone allowed me to go at my own pace, I put more hours on it then I would’ve if I were in a team. It’s a movie that I’ve been wanting to do for four years so I was also kinda addicted. If I were to do it again, I would’ve had less characters. Right now, the movie has five and they’re all four-legged creatures, which I had never animated before. Working alone has its own perks such as independence and complete choice. But in a group setting, a story can change drastically, especially when you constantly get input from your teammates.

How did the movie evolve from your original view?

When I pitched the story I had a few images in my head. Looking back, if it were a solo project, it would’ve turned out so different. It doesn’t mean it would’ve been better. I had a few visuals that I think would’ve been heavier story-wise and mood-wise, being in a team really helped me find that bittersweetness that we were going for. I wouldn’t change anything about the story that we have now, it’s perfect in my eyes.

Every graduate is very proud of their movie and they’ll carry on that feeling towards the new projects they’ll contribute to. While some are continuing their studies here at Hslu or elsewhere, others are stepping directly into the industry either through an internship or a full-time job. Justine Klaiber, master graduate, will be looking for funding for her story, as she entered her master degree in the concept track and spent her studies preparing the pre-production for a short-film.

What is the movie about?

It’s the story of Amelia who is stranded in space on a space-ship. She’s completely alone and struggling with the isolation and grief of losing a colleague partner. It’s about human and physical connection, being able to touch and feel another person. We as humans need that physical connection with people that are important to us, even if it’s not a love-relationship or a sexual-relationship. That’s why I tried to keep it ambiguous.

If everything goes according to plan, we should expect Lost Touch to premiere in festivals towards the end of 2024.

Another year goes by and we can once more be satisfied and fulfilled with the amazing work done by the animation students here in HSLU – Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts. The premiere is a success, it’s fair to expect more reservations for the next one, especially if they keep up the apéro treatment. It’s great seeing so many animation-passionate people connecting and having fun in the same place.

Looking at all the filmmakers being created here in Lucerne, we can’t help but to look forward to the numerous original stories to come from the Swiss Animation industry.

Blogpost by Daniel Neto Dias
photos: HSLU Premiere Animationsfilme Emmenbrücke, den 28.06.2023
Copyright: HSLU/Priska Ketterer

My Hidden Dinosaur 2023 – Potsdam Animation Workshop

At the start of February 2023, four 2nd year students from the HSLU Animation department (Alice, Dario, the other Dario and me, Sven) were invited to join the “My Hidden Dinosaur” workshop at the Film University Babelsberg in Potsdam.

The goal of the workshop was to create a short film in the span of five days. “My Hidden Dinosaur” is the successor of “Animation Unplugged” which was led by Gil Alkabetz, who sadly passed away in 2022.
Shortly after arriving at the Film University, we were greeted by Anna Sumo who now leads the workshop. In the morning of the first day, we talked and wrote about our deepest fears – what an ice breaker! In the afternoon we spent an hour animating blindfolded to get the creative juices flowing.
Not only the drawing itself, but already the organization of the workspace turned out to be quite the challenge. Alice worked with wax crayons and developed a way of trying to feel the textures where she had drawn as a way to orient herself. Anna challenged us to implement at least one frame of the resulting animations into our final products.

After this exercise we started gathering ideas for the films we were going to create in the four days left. Later, the students from Potsdam showed us around their massive campus.
The majority of the second day was spent gathering and workshopping ideas around thefears we wrote down on the first morning. I was quite surprised about the fact that most people wanted to work on their own, as we are used to working in teams. In the end, the Darios and I turned out to be the only people who made a film as a group. However, we did discuss each other’s ideas a lot and gave each other inputs throughout the week.

Apart from these feedback sessions everyone spent their time until Friday afternoon fiddling on their films. Normally, the musicians would compose the music to our films on Friday after we are done animating. This year however the schedules of the music department didn’t fit ours, so they provided us pre-composed music on Wednesday evening, which we then had to put into our already half done films.
We spent the evenings going out for drinks, visiting Berlin and enjoying an improvised, but also very cozy short film screening in the stop-motion cellar (sorry for the bad focus of the picture, but look how charming!). On Friday we had our final screening and celebrated the results as well as the time we shared.

Making a film in one week stood in stark contrast to the idents we had been working on until the week before the workshop. It was exciting to see what could be done in a week after we had all worked on 20-30 second projects for half a year.
Unfortunately, ours is the only film currently available online. You can watch it here:

20 Years of Animation the Party

It was a Friday, the 11th of November, that students, teachers, alumni and guests got together to celebrate the 20 years of the animation department in our school, the HSLU. A night of conversation, food, drinks, music and dance, one to remember for another 7300.

The program: performance, dinner, concert, DJs and dance party, didn’t give any of the participants a chance to get bored.

Arianna de Angelis Effrem, alumna from 2021, truly touched the spectators’ hearts with her performance La Risata Cangiante, an animated light and shadow show that mixed projections and dancing.

People talked and laughed around a bowl of curry as they reminisced about the past and imagined the future while getting ready for all the music.

Drinks were also offered and some didn’t take the advantage for granted.

Cosmic Space Girl warmed the crowd with their rock and punk as much as they did the room with their bare torsos.

From hip-hop to techno to R’n’B, our amazing DJs Spin Alonga, AKUAKU and the Midnight 8 Bit Special Guest didn’t let us rest. There was enough diversity to fit every animator’s taste.

Around midnight, the DJ was stopped and the people formed a circle, clearing the dance floor. The dance battle was ready to start, the theme: the 12 rules of animation. Time to see who actually pays attention in class. The jury, consisting of teachers and extras chosen on site, took their place while our Alumna Jane Mumford explained the rules. One minute to impress the judges, only one person per group goes on.

It’s tough but it’s a hard industry. No more time was lost and the dancing started.

New students fought old ones, guests fought teachers, sweat glowed under the lights and everyone moved like leaves on a windy autumn afternoon.

Four Isabels battled each other for the honor to bear the name of everyone’s favourite yellow dog.

Different names were shouted, different dancing styles were practiced and different chairs were used.

Soon enough the numbers started to decrease and it was already time for the semi-finals.

One Isabel was confident after winning against her evil twins but something stronger was waiting to make its appearance. Not hiding behind a bush or a wall but in the crowd.

The last Isabel standing, looking around confused, waiting for her mysterious opponent didn’t know the competition’s level was about to rise. The room went silent for a few seconds before jumping into screams –

JURGEN HAAS has entered the fight!!!

Isabel, shocked by this revelation, did not give up on the fight and after giving it all, beat Jürgen thanks to her 30 years younger knees.

2nd and 3rd year fought for the final prize. Their performances were so great that the jury ended up unable to choose a winner. That’s when solidarity took over and both finalists decided to share the mountain and win together, because what’s more important than teamwork in animation?

After the amazing battle, the dancing didn’t stop, as those who didn’t get a chance to participate before were now on the dance floor while the tired ones drank and ate some more before heading home.

It’s safe to say that this party was a success but I’m not sure the next one in 20 years will also be one, because if the animation quarters keep growing in power as we’ve been, someone might need to call the cops to stop the noise.

Out of Home Animation 2022

9 days at 1800 metres above sea level at the Fromatt hut looked after by Daniela and Carina is the highlight of the year – for some of their studies! The group is unique, the view is wide, the projects open. 9 days without no goes encourage to write poetry…

Zwischen den Steinen jault’s und lacht’s.
Murmeliloch und Tannenzapf!
Na was war denn das?
Ohoo, das Ooha!

… make us forget time…

The Out of Home Animation workshop was an unbelievably wonderful experience and surpassed my expectations of what 10 days in the mountains could be like (and my expectations were high!).

… and enable synaesthetic experiences.

Blue came from the south, yellow from the north and red from the east. They met in the green of west. Up the hill, under the trees and they sang together, days and nights. They melted together into one color and became one. Then the one became eternal light.

We go into raptures!

The view was also quite ok 😉

Kükenfest 2022

Tuesday evening, September the 20th. We had the pleasure of welcoming the new animation students at the Kükenfest this year. After watching “Despicable Me” as a yearly first years ritual, the ‘little’ chicks entered the ‘clarifier’, where the other students awaited their arrival.

The godparents, who we call Göttis and Gottis, were drawn there, and the excited chicks were allowed to receive their Ani T-shirt with this year’s graduate film «But what does it mean?» by Julie Ecoffey!

Once the chicks got acquainted with their godparent, the Apéro-club had prepared a series of small games for us.

One task required five teams to create a coat of arms that reflected the group’s strengths, which was followed by a quiz that tested our understanding of the wide world of animation.

Because two teams performed equally well, the winning team was determined by a trick question:

How many names can Jürgen guess from a list of ten photos of 2.BA students? (If you’d like to guess for yourself, write the answer in the comment.)

The answer is: one last name. At this point, Jürgen should not be blamed because with 30 new BA students each year alone, it is relatively difficult to keep track of them all…

After the loosening up game, Jean and Jochen were waiting for us behind the grill, preparing tasty patties and grill-cheese and some salads and snacks which were brought by the students.

With a full stomach, beer and good music, we finished the evening with getting to know each other more than before and are looking forward to expand the Animation fam!

Many thanks to the Apéro-Verein for the organization and the realization of the event!

And with the best wishes for the coming academic years to our new chicks, we are ready to take off!

Throwback LuMAA 2022

After two entire years in which LuMAA couldn’t take place, it’s finally back!

From the 18th of July until the 26th of August students from HSLU and its partner schools participated in the 6-week CGI animation course. During the whole LuMAA they were accompanied by industry professionals coming from all over the world. Every week focused on different subjects: From walk cycles in the first week to creature animation and finally full body shots in the last week.

Let me tell you in detail what happened during those 6 weeks of animation! Fun, chocolate filled bellies and a lot of computer frustrations.

Week 1 – Walk cycles with Nicole Ridgwell

The first day of LuMAA was quite eventful. The school was still on semester break and none of the students have ever participated in a LuMAA before. After gathering all of the students and making sure Nicole found the room, the LuMAA could officially begin. 

Nicole Ridgwell, an animator from Pixar, started the first of 6 introduction rounds and with her happy demeanor she raised the spirits of the students. With an almost 50/50 split between Swiss students from all 3 years from HSLU and students from abroad, we were a wild bunch, ready to animate. 

The goal for the end of the week: finishing a walk cycle!

But first we had to get to know Maya better. Most of us haven’t animated in Maya in a long time so the first day was dedicated towards setting up a nice workspace and creating custom hotkeys. By the end of the day our brains were fried. Literally! The room was almost 30 degrees warm, as Switzerland was experiencing a heatwave. And our room, with 20 computers and 16 students, did not have any air conditioning. 

For the following days, Nicole made sure to take us outside of the school to go to the Nordpol, a small riverside beach. She made us draw from life, to learn specifically from real humans and to observe how they move and walk. The cool river water was much appreciated. The next few days were spent shooting references, learning more about drawing and animating the walk cycle. The students also slowly got to know each other. 

One of the LuMAA Students would play soundtracks from animated movies and Nicole sang with him. Later, the other students would guess the songs that the student played on the piano and it turned into a game that would continue on the evenings of the following weeks. 

Before we knew it, Friday had arrived. We held a “daily” where we reviewed all of our finished animations in the Cinema Rex of the school. To celebrate the end of week one the LuMAA class together with Nicole visited the Inseli in Lucerne. We enjoyed live music and some beers and talked about animation, Nicole’s career, Pixar and Swiss potato chips flavors. 

Week 2 – Lip Sync with Allison Rutland

For week 2 Allison Rutland was teaching us about lip sync and dialogue shots. She also comes from Pixar and told us about the movies she worked on such as Inside Out and Coco. Her inputs were valuable and helped a lot while animating the shots. Every day in the morning she took her time to teach us about a different aspect of the lip sync. We learned about how many frames it takes to blink or in what way eyes move, and more. 

We got a library of dialogue shots that we could choose from, or we searched our own online. We reviewed our shots every other day and got encouraged by Alisson to give feedback to other classmate’s animations.  

This week another tradition started. On Tuesday we watched the animated Netflix movie Sea Beast with the whole class and Allison on the Rex Cinema. It sparked a great debate afterwards as well as regular movie night in the following weeks.

We also learned a lot about the rigs that were provided to us and how to make a 3D character look lively.

At the end of the week we had one last daily in the Cinema Rex in which we reviewed our lip syncs. And before we knew it, the week was already over and the students were looking forward to their next subject!

Week 3 – Creature Walk with Michael Aerni

Starting with the third week, we entered the creature animation section of LuMAA. Michael Aerni, a Swiss animator coming from Weta Digital, taught us the first part of the two weeks of creature animation. 

We started by analyzing a walk cycle of a lion and then continued with looking at references of quadrupeds. He showed us a new way of animating: animating in layers. Compared to the blocking workflow we used in the first weeks, this workflow was quite different. It turned out to be extremely helpful when it came to creature animation: We would section off the body and start with animating the cog of the animal. Only then would we go on and animate the legs, making sure we go axis by axis, rotation by rotation. By the end every part of the body was animated.

At lunch and after class Michael told us a lot about the industry. Having worked at Weta for 13 years already he had a lot of insights into the VFX company from New Zealand. We had a lot of discussions about the studio, how the contracts work and how the work culture at Weta is. He patiently answered all our questions. Halfway through the week we started a new shot, one where we could decide for ourselves what we wanted to animate. Michael taught us about how important reference is for creature animation, so everybody made sure to find a video and a rig of the animal they wanted to animate. By the end of the week the shots of the different students progressed at different speeds, but we would work on them further the week after. 

Michael also introduced our class to the job of previs animator, something that intrigued a few of our students as a potential career path. Friday was used to get to know Michel even further and asking a lot of questions about New Zealand as country to live and work in.

Week 4 – Creature animation with Lukas Niklaus

After a weekend of watching movies at school and playing Gartic Phone we met again on Monday together with Lukas Niklaus. He is also a Swiss animator working abroad. He formerly worked at Weta and is therefore teaching us the second half of the creature animation block. 

Just recently he formed his own studio also in New Zealand, Floating Rock, for which he gave us some insights on. With him we either continued working on the shot we began in week 3 or started a new shot. Lukas started making us have daily dailies. Every morning at 9 we looked at our shots together on SyncSketch and he encouraged the whole class to give feedback on each other’s shots. Additionally, Lukas took his time to visit each student at their workspace to look over their shoulder for a short while, giving feedback and encouragement where he could. After lunch he would talk about his experiences and his work at Weta and his new studio. 

During the creature animation weeks some of our students went on holiday and therefore didn’t participate. One student specifically joined for these two weeks, but we were still only 12 Students. Two of our classmates also caught Covid and sadly couldn’t participate but luckily no one else got infected.

Next to daily feedback, Lukas talked a lot about his own work and shared a lot of other animators works and websites. Week four ended with all of our animations on the big cinema screen and exhausted but proud students looking at them.

Week 5 – Full body acting shot with Stephanie Parker

We welcomed Stephanie Parker to Switzerland on week 5. She’s the co-founder of Floating Rock together with Lukas and she taught us about full body acting shots. As she has been part of TV animation (Monster High, which brought back childhood memories for most of the students) and Sony animation (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), she taught us a lot about different work environments and how work speeds differ from studio to studio. She told us to plan the shot for this week (and the next if we decided to continue with it) and think of a pantomime or lip sync we wanted to do. 

So most of Monday was used to find reference or an audio file and analyzing it. On Monday evening, we met up in the cinema and watched the movie Pinocchio: A True Story. This movie is a reimagination of the Pinocchio story made by a Russian animation studio with very poor English voice acting and low budget animation. The movie was very amusing and a great way to spend an evening with the right people!

We also showed Steph the Japanese food truck that came to the school grounds every Thursday.

We would look at our shots progression day by day and get feedback. We also got inputs by Steph on how to correctly take reference, animation layers and more. She took her time to listen to our feedback and adjusted her inputs accordingly to tell us about aspects of animation we haven’t heard of yet. 

Week 6 – Full body acting shot with Sean Sexton 

Before we knew it, week 6 had come around. On the first day we got visited by both Simon Otto and Sean Sexton. We got a big introduction from them and having both of these talents with so much experience and knowledge in the room was almost overwhelming! 

Sean took over the rest of the week of teaching us. While a lot of the students decided to finish their shot from week 5, a few started a new one. Sean held inputs every morning and afternoon with very concise and structured presentations about various topics: Facial animation, spacing, timing, physics, acting and much more. His inputs were highly valued, and he told us a lot about his work at DreamWorks as an animation supervisor and lead. 

His feedback was extremely valuable, and he taught us about different workflows on how to approach an animation shot.

Friday was not only the last day of week 6 but also the last day of LuMAA in general. Getting one last input on animation reels and the interview process by the person who actually hires animators at DreamWorks was awesome! 

After that we received our official LuMAA certificates. In the evening we organized a big pizza party and cooked 16(!) Pizzas in the Ani Kitchen of our school. Additionally, we played Animation Jeopardy together with Sean.

The farewell to Sean and the students from abroad was heartbreaking. Promises to meet up at animation festivals and to keep in touch were made, Linked In Profiles were exchanged and the final goodbyes were said.

So, this was LuMAA!

How-To Annecy Festival

Hello everyone. My name is Léa Deregnaucourt, I was on exchange the summer semester of 2022 and this year it was my first time at the Annecy festival. With the Corona virus, I had never been there before. It was really cool! It’s warm, there’s the lake, the city is full of people who have the same passion, you meet a lot of people and you see a lot of movies before they are released in theaters! I quickly got used to the atmosphere of the festival and its particularities. It’s normal, I speak French! Towards the end of the festival, I met another person from the school and as we talked, I realized that she didn’t understand some of the details of the festival. I tried to explain it to her and I thought she must not be the only one who didn’t understand. So here is my little survival guide for the Annecy festival ! This may sound a bit confusing or even weird. But I found everyone very respectful of the films and these little details add even more charm and friendliness to the festival. Have fun and participate!