EXCLUSIVE: Oscar-nominated animation house Laika is donating the funds to build a stop-motion animation studio at Bowie State University, marking the first such undertaking at a Historically Black College and University. The partnership is designed to boost the university’s animation curriculum and provide a direct pathway into the industry.
Laika, which has seen all five of its feature films — Kubo and the Two Strings, Boxtrolls, ParaNorman, Coraline and most recently Missing Link — nominated for Oscars, began the initiative with the Maryland university by teaming on an internship program for BSU students. The relationship grew into the longer-term investment, with Laika now funding upgrades Bowie State’s greenscreen studio.
“Laika is thrilled to be partnering with as prestigious an institution as Bowie State University,” said Laika’s head of production Arianne Sutner, producer of Missing Link, Kubo and ParaNorman. “At its heart, Laika is a community of artists, craftspeople and scientists committed to expanding the technological capabilities of our animation medium in order to tell everyone’s stories with boldness, compassion and excellence. Helping BSU students to express their experience, their artistry and their potential through the stop motion art form speaks to our creative and corporate mandate. We’re so excited to explore their talents and to provide mentorship and tools that will enlarge the scope of their filmmaking vision.”
Bowie State’s Animation & Motion Graphics concentration is part of its visual communication and digital media arts bachelor’s degree program. One of the university’s fastest-growing majors, it will now get a major boost from Laika, which won a Sci-Tech Oscar in 2016 for innovations in 3D printing in facial animation.
“This is a great opportunity for students to learn valuable skills that will carry them into the professional world of animation,” said Tewodross Melchishua Williams, chair of the BSU Department of Fine & Performing Arts. “There are a lot of storytelling and narrative elements that have yet to be brought to life via stop-motion animation, especially in the arena of children’s programming. We are looking at this partnership to be an internship and career pipeline that can help diversify the animation industry, which has been a traditionally underrepresented sector when it comes to the voices of people of color, women, LGBTQ and other communities.”
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