BYU Students Win Two Student Emmys for Animated Movies

Contributed By By Jace Whatcott, Church News staff writer

  • 29 May 2014

Daniel Clark and Richard Williams at the College Television Awards in Los Angeles.  Photo courtesy of BYU.

Article Highlights

  • The BYU Center for Animation has won 15 student Emmys in the last 11 years.
  • “Owned” won the first-place award for Best Animation, and “Chasm” won the first-place award for best use of music.
  • Graduates from BYU’s program have worked on films such as Avatar, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and Frozen.

This past April, students from the BYU Center for Animation brought home two student Emmys to add to their already full trophy case of production awards.

Every year, the Academy of Television Arts and Science Foundation hosts the College Television Awards, an award show that honors the work of college students all across the country in the field of anything television. Some of the categories include Best Animation, Best Newscast, Best Music Composition, and Best Commercial.

The BYU Center for Animation wins awards year after year, having won 15 student Emmys in the last 11 years. This year, Wesley Tippetts and Daniel Clark’s “Owned” won the first-place award for Best Animation.

“Owned” is a five-minute animated film that gives a brief glimpse into the world of Jeff, the world video game champion. Jeff is overly proud of being the world video game champion as evidenced by his tender care for his video game trophy. However, Jeff finally finds his equal when he is randomly matched against Abby, a baby girl.

The inspiration for this film came from Wesley Tippetts’s personal experience. On one occasion, he was in charge of watching some young children while they waited for their piano lesson at his mother’s home.

To change up the regular activities of waiting in the front room of his home, he was challenged by an 8-year-old to a video game, only to be routed by the young gamer. He altered the characters and setting in the actual story and came up with the idea of Jeff and Abby’s online gaming battle.

Concept art for the video game character Caliber in the award-winning animated short “Owned.” Photo by BYU Center for Animation.

Screenshot from the award-winning animated short “Owned.” Photo by BYU Center for Animation.

Screenshot from the award-winning animated short “Chasm.” Photo by BYU Center for Animation.

Screenshot from the award-winning animated short “Owned.” Photo by BYU Center for Animation.

Screenshot from the award-winning animated short “Chasm.” Photo by BYU Center for Animation.

The original story went through three different changes until the team finally settled on the story that was later developed and entered into the competition.

Despite having high levels of stress during production in order to meet their tight deadline, the animation team, comprised of around 30 students, was credited by Wesley with having a great sense of unity and teamwork. “We were very fortunate this year because we got along really well,” he said.

The entire project took just under a year to complete.

Carson Crawford, one of the associate producers of “Owned,” said the team faced some never-before-seen challenges. The team members tried their hand at using motion-capture software—technology that has been used in movies such as Iron Man and Avatar.

“It wasn’t a software that we had ever used before. Our animation team had to do a lot of work in figuring that out and troubleshooting that,” she said. But with all of the effort of figuring out a new technology, the results were Emmy-worthy.

With the success that BYU has had over the course of the past decade, the Center for Animation is getting more exposure on a national level. When asked how winning student Emmys benefits the animation program at BYU as a whole, she said that “it gets [their] film looked at by a lot more people.” This sort of exposure creates an environment where “new donors will be wanting to support new projects in the future.”

Richard Williams, now a two-time award winner, won the first-place award for best use of music in the animated short film “Chasm.”

He also worked on the score for an animated short film called “Mashed,” a film that was honored four years ago with a student Emmy for music composition.

“Chasm” is a sci-fi film about two scientists who are working to find out what lies on the other side of a desert-like chasm full of black smoke.

In a BYU press release, he said that for this particular project he “wanted to create something really epic.”

In addition to the benefits that the Center for Animation receives from winning student Emmys, students are able to use their experience with animation, sound, music, and programming on award-winning films and turn them into opportunities for careers. Some students who have graduated from the program have found jobs with many high-profile companies like GM, Pixar, Blizzard, Sony, and Disney Interactive.

In fact, graduates have worked on films such as Avatar and Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the latter being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Achievement in Visual Effects. Hyrum Osmond, a graduate from BYU, was responsible for the animation of Olaf, the snowman in the highest-grossing animated film of all time, Frozen.

The success that the BYU Center for Animation sees year after year didn’t come overnight. Brent Adams and Kelly Loosli started the program in 2001 and would help the program win their first student Emmy and first student Academy Award in 2003.

Brother Loosli, an assistant professor who was formerly employed by Disney and DreamWorks, brought years of experience to the program. However, the students in the program had something that is very difficult to teach. Both he and Brother Adams attribute the success of the program to work ethic and leadership that were taught in quorum and class presidencies in the Young Men and Young Women programs.

“We didn’t have any disciplinary problems. … A lot of our success is because [the students] were raised in LDS homes. We have just been lucky to be able to harness the raw talent and passion,” he said.

Beginning Monday, June 9, every animated film that has been created at the Center for Animation, one film every week, will be released at