A Look Inside: Animation and Motion Media Program

by Eliza Florendo / Beacon Staff • January 19, 2012

Bilalifinal web
Kalilou-Mack works on his Computer Animation 2 project on the Maya animation program.
Kalilou-Mack works on his Computer Animation 2 project on the Maya animation program.

Bilali Kalilou-Mack has grown accustomed to melding the real and the imaginary. The junior visual and media arts major spends hours sculpting virtual realities on his computer, and is one of 38 students with a concentration in animation and motion media according to Colleen Kelly, the coordinator for the department. 

Originally from Accra, Ghana, Kalilou-Mack spent his high school years drawing and playing basketball. Although he also had an interest in film, Kalilou-Mack said he wanted to incorporate his hours of drawing into his major, which led him to animation. 

“It’s a frame by frame drawing, and it turns into a movie,” he said. “I wanted to be more creative in filmmaking.”

Kalilou-Mack is currently working on his Bachelor of Fine Arts capstone project, in which he plans on using his background in motion graphics rather than solely using animation. The BFA program encourages students to contribute to the genre in their project. Kalilou-Mack’s contribution to animation consists of combining the use of both 2D and 3D to create a unique aesthetic, which he said is like a mix between the animation in Fairly Oddparents and in Shrek

Although the major only consists of a small number of students at Emerson, an animation club, Sweet Tooth Animation, was officially recognized by the SGA last fall semester, according to junior Dylan Winter who is the current president of the club. Winter said the goal of Sweet Tooth Animations is to produce one film each year, which is worked on by the 10 members. Awareness is spread via word of mouth, and the organization consists of non-animation majors as well, he said.

“If you want to join in and do something, we’ll find something for you to do,” said Winter. 

According to Winter, animation students can also find projects through the Emerson Channel and Emerson Independent Video, which both use motion graphics in their introduction segments. 

A typical assignment for Kalilou-Mack and other animation majors is to render an object in action — which is easier said than done, according to Kalilou-Mack. A film background is key, he said. 

“You have to understand everything in film and everything that has to do with drawing and art,” said Kalilou-Mack. 

This knowledge helps animators understand the different angles of an animation, as well as sound design, lighting, and directing.

Kathryn Ramey, associate professor and director of the BFA program, said she doesn’t stick to one method of teaching when it comes to animation. 

“Classes are part lecture, part screening, part hands-on instruction, and part studio work,” said Ramey in an email. 

Ramey said she starts by teaching basic motion and perspective assignments, like how to animate a ball bouncing. From there, she moves onto more complex assignments, such as working in 3D.

Kalilou-Mack, a member of the men’s basketball team, said he gains inspiration for his animations from his own personal life. Several times, he’s created an animation about basketball, one of his passions. 

“I like to draw from who I am as a person: my stories,” he said. “I feel like the most touching story is the one I’m invested in.”

Kalilou-Mack said he hopes to graduate from Emerson with an internship for a production company such as Dreamworks or Pixar, though he also entertains the idea of creating an animation company with several of his peers from his classes. 

“I could leave and get a small group of people that I can trust that will work with me and start a company up and do what we love,” he said.