By Brett Bardsley
Abused pi?atas are joining the ranks with suicidal lemmings, jealous pet shop animals, cavemen and fishing turtles.
These memorable characters have put BYU”s animation program on the map and continually on the top of judges” score sheets.
Animation students were notified their new film “Las Pi?atas” will be awarded a student Emmy in Los Angeles later this month.
The short film unveils the dangerous lives of pi?atas in Mexico. Two pi?atas in particular, a worrisome cowboy and an absent-minded bull, scheme together to escape the onslaught of attacks from relentless children craving candy.
“The film”s appeal is its uniqueness,” said Ben Porter, a senior majoring in animation. “Pi?atas that talk and try to escape – that”s clever.”
But the clever story was not the only aspect of the film that impressed judges. The attention students placed on details and the advanced level of animation caught many judges” eyes.
“It”s the best film we”ve done so far,” said Blake Johnson, a junior and animator of the film. “”Pi?atas” raised the level of BYU animation.”
For the animation program, raising the level is not an easy thing to do.
BYU students started submitting films to the College Television Awards four years ago and have won every year since.
According to Kelly Loosli, assistant professor of Theatre and Media Arts, BYU has won five out of the 12 awards given in the 3-D animation category. Each year, BYU competes with 500 films and 100 schools.
To qualify for these awards, professors and faculty must play a minimal part in the films” creation. Advisers allow the students to be responsible for every facet of the film”s creation.
“I love how we do everything,” Porter said. “We”re taught principles and then forced to learn on our own.”
Animation students meet during the second semester of their junior year to pitch potential film ideas. From the 15 to 20 proposed ideas, the students then vote for their favorite. Once selected, students are assigned specific responsibilities to begin developing the story and characters. Work continues throughout their junior and senior years.
“Really it”s their film,” Loosli said. “We just step back and make sure they are the ones creating it.”
Award judges are not the only ones recognizing the students” work. Large studios like Pixar have been impressed with “Las Pi?atas” and with BYU students” experience.
“Several of us have already had interviews with Pixar,” Porter said. “They”ve seen what we”ve worked on and have been really impressed.”
Loosli has also seen the increase of BYU students joining up with Pixar.
“We”ve become a preferred hiring institution for them,” Loosli said. “It”s really opened up doors for our students.”
Work is already underway for next year”s senior project, titled “Pajama Gladiator,” a film about a boy who tries to convince his mom he was abducted by aliens.
“It”s going to be visually amazing,” Johnson said. “We”re working hard so we can keep winning more Emmys.”