“Toymaker,” a seven-minute animated short developed by Senior Lecturer in Computer Science Barbara Meier ’83 MS’87 and her students was accepted to the Athens Animfest 2018 film festival Feb. 16. The short follows the occasionally tense but ultimately loving relationship between a toymaker and her daughter.
The process of creating “Toymaker” began when Nellie Robinson ’17, a Brown/RISD dual degree student with an interest in animation, wanted to work on a collaborative film project and pitched the idea to Meier in fall 2015.
After Meier got on board, Robinson started to develop the story. “I started to think more about the style and feeling I wanted to convey first,” she said. “I wanted to convey an excitement about creating things, about creating fantasy worlds, about turning something everyday and mundane into something more magical, and from there, it was just a matter of what story would allow me to convey those feelings.”
Working with other RISD students, Robinson developed concept art, the script and the storyboard to create the look of the film before the animation began fall 2016 in one of Meier’s animation classes.
The film’s production — which divided responsibilities between members of the small team — involved animation, lighting and shadows control and a long rendering process, among other tasks.
The project took about a year from inception to completion and was created by the team “as if we were an actual small animation studio,” said Kenji Endo ’18, who led the group on modeling and set directing.
Meier drew inspiration for this class structure from her own experience in the visual effects industry in Hollywood and from her work on integrating computer graphics into live-action movies. “I have a lot of professional experience doing production, so I modeled the class after that,” she said.
The film was selected for showing alongside 417 other films, 68 of which were student-produced. The festival will be held March 15-18, and films will be evaluated for prizes in various categories including shorts, student work, Greek films and experimental projects. The festival will screen works from over 50 countries.
The success of “Toymaker” has left Meier open to the idea of doing future long-term projects, but not alone. “I also need the group of students that is willing to put their heart and soul” into the project, she said.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated a RISD the team is to present the short. In fact, Brown students were also involved in the process. The Herald regrets the error.