CalArts Hosts East China Normal University Animators For Stop-Motion Summer Intensive

Students in the animation workshop at CalArts on June 21.

East China Normal University (ECNU), a Shanghai-based institution with a student body of more than 21,000 students, recently established a three-year partnership with CalArts’ School of Film/Video, which provides faculty and programming for ECNU animation students.

The university recently instituted its first stop-motion animation program, sending 18 students and five faculty and staff members to CalArts from June 18-22 to take part in the ECNU Summer Intensive 2012 in Stop-Motion Animation at the Institute.

Led by veteran stop-motion animator and CalArts faculty Stephen Chiodo and animator Danielle Ye, the four-day seminar included stop-motion classes, screenings and tours of well-known animation studios such as Disney Animation, Rhythm & Hues and Chiodo’s own studio Chiodo Bros. in Burbank. The program also included two three-hour classes held in the Bijou Theater on experimental animation and film history taught by School of Film/Video Dean Stephen Anker.

Ye, the CalArts-ECNU Program Director, is on faculty at CalArts as well as ECNU and served as translator for the group. 24700 interviewed her via email about the CalArts-ECNU project. Excerpts follow:

24700: What are the benefits of the partnership between ECNU and CalArts?

Danielle Ye: For me, the unique aspect of CalArts is that we are a multidisciplinary creative arts community, we have students from different cultural backgrounds, and we are also very international. This internationalism provides us a broad perspective of life where knowledge and inspiration from different cultures can become vital nourishment for creative minds.

The partnership with ECNU provided CalArts a physical presence in Shanghai where we can further foster academic relationships with ECNU as well as with other art institutions in China. It is also a platform from which we can promote and develop cultural exchange opportunities for artists from from the US and Asia. Being a cultural hybrid person myself and an alumna, I know very well that between two countries there is still so much to explore, to learn and to share with each other. I am thrilled that CalArts and ECNU are on this journey together.

24700: How do the teaching style and institutions differ in China and the US?

DY: Students in China, in general are more reactive than proactive: meaning that they are used to working under a set system of which rules are established, ideas are formed and answers are given. As students, their job is to listen, to memorize and to follow. At the beginning of the ECNU/CalArts animation program, our initial task was to dismantle this thinking system. “Be suspicious of everything you have learned” was the first topic for my class. The idea was to challenge students to think outside of the box and to be curious and courageous when it comes to exploring and experimenting with creative process. We just finished our first year in China and the students in our program had a tremendous experience. We all feel the work they produced in the end is a good manifestation of what we hoped to achieve.

24700: Were you happy with the results of last week’s stop-motion seminar?

DY: Stephen Chiodo is a passionate teacher and an extremely experienced animator. The workshop he conducted this time was the first stop-mo class for all the ECNU participants. It was an eye-opening experience for them. Students were excited with new possibilities and several of them had expressed strong interests in working with stop-mo after their return to Shanghai.

Our visitors from ECNU had an incredible experience on campus as well as visiting LA. With unflinching and generous support from the Office of International Relations, the School of Film/Video as well as from ECNU, we all achieved what we had hoped for. I believe our relationship with ECNU has been strengthened.

Below is Chiodo Bros’ puppetry and animatronics reel:

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