Animators discuss creative projects

Animator Erin Cosgrove’s 65-minute film “What Manner of Person Art Thou?” is the result of four years of independent work. (credit: Courtesy of erincosgrove.com) Animator Erin Cosgrove’s 65-minute film “What Manner of Person Art Thou?” is the result of four years of independent work. (credit: Courtesy of erincosgrove.com)

Animators Erin Cosgrove, Tom Sito, and Chris Sullivan shared their wisdom in a discussion panel held in Giant Eagle Auditorium last Monday. The animators drew an audience of students from Carnegie Mellon and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, along with other members of the Pittsburgh community. The panel, second in a two-part animation symposium that took place last weekend, was part of the Carnegie Mellon Media Initiative.Established by College of Fine Arts professor Jim Duesing and English professor Kathy Newman, the Media Initiative encourages the use of new and social media.

The three featured animators come from a variety of backgrounds, and approach animation with different techniques. Cosgrove, a contemporary independent artist, uses digital and hand-drawn 2–D animation to illustrate her written work and artistic concepts. Sullivan, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon and a current faculty member at the Art Institute of Chicago, also uses animation to realize his artistic concepts through stop-motion and traditional drawings. Sito has a background in commercial animation and has worked on digital and traditional animated productions.

The animators each shared their individual animation processes. Cosgrove and Sullivan work independently, giving them the control they need to portray their artistic concepts in a way true to their initial visualizations. Cosgrove’s 65-minute animation “What Manner of Person Art Thou?” emphasizes the damaging sides of religion and is the result of four years of independent work.

Sullivan has also committed himself to enduring personal work. “Consuming Spirits,” his newest animation, was shown at the symposium on Sunday and was the culmination of nearly 15 years of work. For the project, Sullivan worked with a small team of animators, combining multiple animation techniques — including traditional hand-drawn animation, stop-motion figurine, and puppet animation — to create the film.

“You have to figure out how to keep yourself mentally, creatively alive through the process,” Sullivan said, explaining his extensive work. “You get into an idea where you know what the ingredients are, and then you can visually play with it. You keep the idea alive through evaluation.” Sullivan’s “Consuming Spirits” is set to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival at the end of April.

Sito’s work tends to be more on the commercial end of animation, but he still understands the effort needed to maintain focus throughout the lengthy process of animating. The artist has worked on animated films such as Disney’s classic The Little Mermaid to Osmosis Jones, which Sito co-directed. “I’ve worked with anywhere from five to 500 people,” Sito said. “A lot of it’s about collaboration.”

Chris O’Neill and Erik Bang, seniors majoring in media arts and animation at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, related to Sito’s words on collaboration. “You don’t want to let other people down — don’t want to disappoint,” O’Neill said, reflecting on teamwork as an essential motivating force in his own work.

Sito knows how important a film can be when a team works together. Snow White is his classic inspiration for animated films. “It still feels fresh,” he said. After all, he continued, “How often do you go out of your way to see a 1937 movie?”