Animation, Gaming and the Future of Art and Design at Otis College

Has anyone ever tried to challenge your dream with critiques like: What do you do with an art degree? Or playing video games is not a job! Or drawing cartoons is just a kid’s hobby, isn’t it? Well, the Otis College of Art & Design has some answers for you – and maybe for you. In January 2022, Provost Jiseon Lee Isbara announced that after 25 years, their digital media program is moving with the times and introducing separate, newly created bachelor’s degrees in game and entertainment design and animation. In August, they announced the new heads of departments—industry veterans Joffery Black and Ron Bernard, respectively.

While the school remains steadfast in its commitment to core programs in art and design, including such indelibly analogue, physical arts as ceramics, Charles Hirschhorn, President of Otis College, makes clear that they are equally committed to the digital realms. In a particularly interesting example of how vast and interconnected this aggregation of new media fields is becoming, Otis has partnered with Activision, the game design company behind the call of Duty, Tony Hawkand skylanders, for a project in which the fashion design and digital media courses were also involved. Get inspired by three call of Duty games — Cold War, Modern Warfareand Infinite Warfare — Fashion design students developed a digital fashion collection and related visual environments for a high fashion digital runway collection.

“It’s not just about digital media, video game design, or animation — it’s also about digital fashion, environmental, product, and toy design,” says Hirschhorn, aware that Otis’ mission is to empower its students in practical ways To prepare for career-focused jobs in the creative economy must, by definition, include the metaverse—while also recognizing the fact that gaming is a multibillion-dollar global industry, and that animation at this point is well beyond not just children’s entertainment, but the entertainment sector himself out.

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“Animation is a field that is constantly evolving with new techniques and software, so our program must prepare students to be innovative, flexible and adaptable as the tides change,” says Animation Chair Ron Bernard. “I’d love to explore some of the newer, paradigm-shifting areas of virtual production, social media, and augmented reality,” he says, touting careers in character and technical animation, motion capture, visual effects, games, and advertising — in fields from entertainment to education, medicine, military and social media.

Ron Bernard, Chair of Animation at Otis College of Art and Design

Ron Bernard, Chair of Animation at Otis College of Art and Design

“I’ve always been in love with animation,” says Bernard LA weekly. “I have very fond memories of spending my childhood watching all the behind-the-scenes and making-of films of early Disney animation, Fleischer Studios, Will Vinton’s Claymation and many more. I remember seeing movies like 1945 weigh anchor and 1988s Who tricked Roger Rabbit? and to be excited about the integration of live action and animation.” Bernard later studied traditional 2D animation with longtime Disney animator Larry Lauria, who encouraged him to further explore VFX. “It suited me naturally,” recalls Bernard, “as I have a background in computer programming, physics and engineering. The mix of animation and science became an exciting subject for me as I have dedicated my career to animation, VFX and motion graphics.”

Bernard came full circle when he was able to work closely with Phil Nibbelink, who was lead animator at the Who tricked Roger Rabbit?, at his animation studio in Beijing. “Life has an interesting boomerang way,” says Bernard. “I just hope to spark an interest in students as to how Phil’s work has inspired me.”

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Joffery Black, Chair of Game and Entertainment Design, comes from a long stint at Heavy Iron Studios, working on games based on SpongeBob SquarePants and The Incredibles. Black previously helped set up and direct the animation and VFX programs at the Los Angeles Film School. His experience as a modeler, texture artist, lighter and illustrator in games, features and animation, as well as in AR and VR. All of this gives him a unique perspective on the question, “What do you do with an art degree?” Conversation. “The obvious careers are game studio jobs,” says Black, “but it doesn’t stop there.”

Joffery Black, Chair of the Game Design Program at Otis College of Art and Design

Joffery Black, Chair of the Game Design Program at Otis College of Art and Design

Black tells the LA weekly as it emerged at a time when games were getting better visually with the PlayStation 2 console and superhero movies were finally having the most realistic effects of the time, such as B. 2002 Spiderman starring Tobey Maguire. SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for bikini bottoms was the very first game he created. “The impression I had after this experience,” says Black, “is just getting better and better and I can’t wait to be a part of it!” After 20 years it still feels as exciting and fresh as when I started!”

Black also agrees with Bernard and Hirschhorn that the capabilities in these new majors are absolutely expanding into multiple sectors of the industry. “The new BFA in Game Design program gives students the opportunity to learn practices and techniques that have become part of the games industry,” says Black. “The plus side of these skills is that they translate into careers for the next frontier of real-time development jobs, such as other hybrid experiences and interfaces.

Darel Carey mural at Otis College

“It’s exciting to know that Otis, a historic institution in art and design, has embraced a vision of game and entertainment design,” says Black LA weekly. “The upcoming program will usher in an exciting education that is currently taking place not only in the industry but specifically in the industry here in Los Angeles. With games, virtual production, VR/AR [virtual reality/augmented reality]XR [extended reality]and continued emerging technology that will see tremendous growth over the next few years, I am really excited to see Otis as part of the education and foundation for our students!”

Student mural on Otis College campus

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