Animation students from SIT – Business Division of Te Pūkenga, are proving their excellence alongside students from some of the most renowned animation schools in the world, with ten out of eleven selected in the recently released 2023 Toon Boom Educational Showreel.
Toon Boom is 2-D animation software used widely throughout the UK, United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand; in their 2023 Educational Showreel, Toon Boom highlights clips from students attending leading animation schools, all created on Toon Boom Harmony or Storyboard Pro software.
The ten local students at the forefront of their craft who produced an impressive array of work to make the reel are: Melissa Bustamante (The Billabong); Bradley Sims (Baked Beans); Laura Cooke (Solitary Cub); Georgia Boath (Idol); Desiree Head (Mornin'); Max Candy (Mosquitoes); Keaton Hitchcox (The Crimson Slaughter); Natalie Webb (Mariposa); William Andrews (Stick Up!); Courtney Power (Solve-It Squad).
SIT Animation Tutor Ruby Meades put her hand up and volunteered to select and submit the students’ projects to Toon Boom.
“The Educational Showreel is relatively new, there’s only been one before this year. Because SIT is a Centre of Excellence (COE) we are kept in the loop with communications and the company had sent out a request for material to be submitted for the Showreel,” she explained.
“Out of the eleven pieces submitted, we were all pretty excited when ten were accepted.”
Ms Meades said of the students’ success, “It really comes down to their dedication and their hard work. It’s not a small thing, each of those students have different projects going on at the same time; it all has their own unique aesthetic choices and style ... I think the techniques that they use are cutting edge and used to a high standard.”
Everything the student makes should have purpose, with their main goal to have appealing projects for their target audience, Ms Meades added.
Rachel Mann, Screen Arts Programme Manager at SIT School of Screen Arts, noted SIT’s contribution to the showreel was one of the more prevalent schools, and they are alongside some of the world’s best.
“They are some of the top schools in the world: Cal Arts is the top school in the US - their graduates get selected by Pixar; Savannah College of Art and Design is number three in the world; Pratt Institute sits around number 12,” she said.
Although animation is taught elsewhere in Australia and NZ, Ms Mann said this time SIT was the only school represented in Australasia.
“We are a designated Centre of Excellence (COE) for this piece of software, so we have to prove the standard of teaching our students will receive. Our tutors are trained, we are certified as an institute and we deliver a certain quality of service.”
Those standards are reaping rewards, the proof is in the pudding to see so many SIT students selected for the reel, Ms Mann added.
The students’ work comes from right across SIT’s range of animation programmes, with pieces from level three Certificate in Digital Media and Design, the Bachelor of Screen Arts, and the Graduate Diploma in Visual Media included in the showreel.
Ms Mann believes it’s about the calibre of student coming through. “ ... we’re now at a point of getting students who are really passionate, who already know what they want to do. They do the hard mahi, and there’s quality work being produced from level three onwards.”
“The students have worked hard to get this recognition. I want them to feel really proud of what they’ve achieved – they’ve actually achieved something on the world stage. “
Head of Faculty, Hamish Small, acknowledged the outstanding work developed and produced by the students highlighted not only their personal commitment, but also the level of tuition and resources provided by the academic team.
“These factors have been further supported by SIT’s commitment and investment into such a specialist vocation which has huge demand. With our state-of-the-art facilities, it’s allowing our region to become a focal point in animation education within New Zealand,” he said.
Ms Mann added when the students graduate, the world will be their oyster. She is still surprised at where SIT animation graduates can end up. There are myriad opportunities in this rapidly growing sector. The gaming industry ($407 million) combined with the film and television industry ($985 million); these industries added well over a billion dollars to the NZ economy last year.
“There’s corporate, studios such as Wētā, or being self-employed and working out of a garage, producing content from home,” she explained.
“There are so many amazing opportunities in the entertainment industry, I don’t try and predict any more. If someone had told me a few years ago you could have a full-time job creating skins (and it’s a desirable industry job) I wouldn’t have believed it.”
“I don’t think that momentum for change is going to stop. The demand for content and the way it’s consumed and distributed continues to increase.”