The group is the largest collection of student-artists among a graduating class who have expressed interest in pursuing the art form
Creative credits in animated television and feature films one day may bear the names of a handful of talented and creative Washington Township High School seniors who hope to pursue the art form in college and to ultimately make a career of storytelling through motion.
The group is the largest such collection of student-artists among a graduating class who have expressed a serious interest in pursuing the art form after spending several years in WTHS animation teacher Kirsten Smith’s class and the school’s animation program. The program was introduced into the art curriculum in the early 1990s by district visual and performing arts supervisor Bob Frampton, who recognized the growing popularity and career potential of animation.
“Township’s program in animation is really good,” said Hailey Hoose, who admits to a deep-seeded passion for the genre and will pursue it at the next level at the highly regarded Savannah College of Art and Design. “Mrs. Smith teaches us all of the basics in the first year, and then in the second year, we go on to learn about multi-plane cameras, lip synching and the important stuff you need to know for animation.”
“There’s a lot of great art programs at WTHS — drawing, painting, ceramics, even video game design,” Philadelphia’s University of the Arts-bound Corrine DiStefano said. “When I enrolled in animation, I discovered that I have a real passion for storytelling through film. It’s really great to have the software and hardware in this school so we can work on projects. It’s a lot of help to have other animators who can critique my work and help me. Animation is an important thing to learn as an artist. You are drawing from a lot of different angles, and you are understanding the movement of them, which helps make your two-dimensional art a little more gestural, a little more alive. It brings your art to life.”
The animation curriculum also exposes students to the genres within the genre. They get first-hand looks at various techniques — 2D, 3D, stop motion, Claymation and rotoscope — that have been used in cartoons, television programming and blockbuster films through industry giants like Disney and Pixar. They create a lot of their work in a program called Toonboom Harmony.
“It’s such a good program, and Mrs. Smith is such a great teacher,” said Annais Delgado-Sanchez, who will be studying at Philadelphia’s Moore College of Art and Design in the fall. “The program teaches you about history and technique and is a great introduction.”
“Mrs. Smith is such a great person, and her class is so much fun,” said Kristen Hamberg, who hopes to transfer to a four-year college to study animation following a stint at Camden County College. “I am so glad that I can tell my story through moveable art and that, hopefully, one day I will be able to tell great stories that touch people’s hearts.”
The students feel fortunate to have the chance to take animation and related courses to hone their skills. One such related course is Lauren Jackson’s digital illustration where many of the future animators benefit from working in a digital environmental on Photoshop and Illustrator to further strengthen their illustrations, story mapping, story boarding and, ultimately, storytelling.
“I consider myself an artist and a storyteller,” Joe Cella said. “Enrolling in digital illustration further widens my abilities. Learning to convert practical drawings into digital drawings is another step forward in creating more stuff.”
“You have to learn the rules before you can break them,” DiStefano said. “You have to learn proportion before you can make your character disproportionate. You have to learn the rules so you can subvert your character into your own art style, your own creation.”
The students’ marks on the industry will likely be as varied as their individual talents and interests since some like to sketch people, some animals, some sci-fi, some non-human, magical beings. Some lean toward the absurd. Some want to express realism in a fictional way.
“I found the class that I was good at,” said Daninne Sargent, who never even enrolled in an art course until she arrived at the high school. “I have two babies in my house, so there are a lot of cartoons playing on television. After seeing those and taking this class, now I know what I would really like to do.”
No matter the individual expression, all seven students are grateful to have found the same, exciting path.
“WTHS has given me a really great opportunity,” said Marissa Dailey, a huge fan of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” “Animation showed me that I can do something to inspire others.”
“It has been wonderful working with these students,” Smith said. “They are all so talented, and their drawing styles are really diverse. I always enjoy seeing the results of each project they’re assigned. They are all very astute in critiquing each other’s work and giving constructive feedback to help improve their work. These students are all so passionate about the art of animation, and are eager to share and discuss animated films and genres. They are such a great group of really interesting people. I have so enjoyed having them as students and am very excited for them as they journey into the next phase of their animation education and creation.”