Launching BFA concentration in animation, Rowan hosts international Society for Animation Studies conference

Launching BFA concentration in animation, Rowan hosts international Society for Animation Studies conference

Legends of animation: from left, Lisa Crafts, Willie Moore, Howard Beckerman, Candy Kugel, George Griffin, Yvette Kaplan, J.J. Sedelmaier; on screen: Dean Lennert, Tom Sito, John Canemaker.

With the intensity of Wile E. Coyote scouting the Roadrunner, animators from around the world focused squarely on Rowan University for four days in June.

Meeting in the U.S. for the first time in years, members of the international Society for Animation Studies (SAS) held their annual conference on the Glassboro campus June 12-16 with a program celebrating the wide and ever-expanding field of animation, including an all-new option for Rowan students – a Bachelor of Fine Arts Concentration in Animation.

Veteran animator Robby Gilbert, an assistant professor of animation in the Ric Edelman College of Communication & Creative Arts who was instrumental in bringing the conference to campus, is writing a book on the history of animation and helped develop the new BFA concentration in the Department of Art.

“Animation is a huge industry, and a model for interdisciplinary study,” Gilbert said.

Originating in film and TV, modern animation complements and drives a wide range of fields including gaming, virtual and augmented reality, engineering, forensic science, even medicine, Gilbert said.

“Part of my mission is telling why animation is so important culturally,” he said. “Bringing SAS to Rowan was a huge deal.”

Gilbert said the conference drew about 150 professional animators including such industry luminaries as Yvette Kaplan, a director of the animated adult series Beavis and Butt-Head; Candy Kugel, who created the iconic moon landing flag graphic for MTV; and George Griffin, a leader of independent animation.

Many other well-known animators attended virtually, including Academy Award-winner John Canemaker; Tom Sito, whose work includes Beauty and the Beast and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?; and J.J. Sedelmaier, a prominent animator, illustrator, designer, author, director and producer.

Gilbert said New Jersey, which many consider the birthplace of animation and film, was an ideal location to host the SAS and that holding its conference on campus is sure to raise Rowan’s profile in the industry.

“We had animators and scholars from around the world on campus,” he said. “They flew in from India, Australia, Japan, South America and from around the U.S. The name Rowan was spread around the world in animation circles. And, on the first day, I was able to announce that we got our Animation Concentration in the BFA in Studio Art approved.”

Gilbert said work now begins on developing a full animation major.

Meanwhile, he said, a state-of-the-art, multi-disciplinary animation lab is being built in 105 Westby Hall to support the new BFA concentration, enabling students to study a wide array of animation techniques including claymation, old school film animation, hand drawn and computer animation.

“This is a huge move for us,” Gilbert said. “The arts are so important, and this is a huge opportunity for our students.”