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BA (Hons) Animation students collaborate with Horniman Museum on exhibition films

Animated still of a girl and a monkey planting a tree.
Animated still of a girl and a monkey planting a tree.
Work taken from 'International Day of the Forests | Monkey Business' - Caye Motilla Galiana, Hristina Iankova and Marcelina Dopierala.
Written by
Chloe Murphy
Published date
11 June 2021

At London College of Communication (LCC), our BA (Hons) Animation course supports students to learn core skills and animation principles while gaining professional experience and insight through live collaborations with industry.

As part of their Principles of Animation Arts unit, second-year students on the Animation Arts pathway were recently invited to explore 1 of 2 live briefs set by the Horniman Museum and Gardens and The Ivors Academy, enabling them to grow their experience while practicing their skills in professional contexts.

The Horniman was established with the aim of ‘bringing the world to Forest Hill’, and has been drawing together issues and stories relating to people, cultures and environments since 1901. With collections ranging across areas including anthropology, natural history and music, the Horniman team use innovative approaches to frame their exhibitions and engage with their large, enthusiastic family audience.

This year marked the opening of the Monkey Business exhibition, which explores how primates have evolved and adapted over time while highlighting the importance of conserving their natural habitats. With a range of related events and activities scheduled as part of their Family Learning Programme, the Horniman team asked BA (Hons) Animation: Animation Arts pathway students to develop rolling short films that could illustrate the major themes of the exhibition in ways that connected with children and families.

Caye Motilla Galiana, Hristina Iankova and Marcelina Dopierala were recognised for the strength of their short which commemorates International Day of Forests (21 March). Focusing on the core concept of ‘Nobody wants their house destroyed for a better understanding’, it follows a girl’s friendship with a friendly, illustrated spider monkey, and her determination to raise awareness around the dangers of deforestation.

We caught up with Caye, Hristina and Marcelina to chat about their creative practice, the development of their animation concept, and highlights from their time at LCC.

International Day of the Forests | Monkey Business

Have you always been interested in animation, or is this an area you’ve gravitated to over time?

Caye: I’ve always loved cartoons, but growing up, I never thought of animation as a real career path. When I found out that you can work as someone who draws all the time - and in television - I knew animation was what I was made for.

Hristina: Ever since I can remember, I’ve always loved drawing and creating. You could always find me doodling in my textbooks and notebooks during class. Initially, I went through a few career ideas, such as interior design and illustration, but I quickly realised that animation is the path for me.

Marcelina: I was always into animation as a viewer, and my passion for the subject came from my childhood experiences with it. I became interested in the production part in high school - I was into film and searching for a way I could enter the world of cinematography. Animation became a perfect tool to express myself.

Do you specialise in any particular theme or area as part of your creative practice?

Caye: I like doing the actual animation work, from roughs to inking and colouring, but I’m also pretty good in the creative field. I love writing stories and designing and creating characters.

Hristina: My personal work is greatly focused on emotions rather than narrative, mostly drawing from my own experiences.

Marcelina: I feel like I’m still exploring all the areas of animation, but I've found myself most comfortable with character animation.

Concept art for an animated background.
Concept background from 'International Day of the Forests | Monkey Business' - Caye Motilla Galiana, Hristina Iankova and Marcelina Dopierala.

How did you find about the opportunity to collaborate with the Horniman, and why did you decide to get involved?

Caye: When we were given the opportunity to work with the Horniman, I got really excited! I thought it was a great chance to create some more professional work, and I love animals and children’s animation, so it felt like it was made for me!

Hristina: We were presented with the opportunity in class by our tutors. I was excited to work with a client on a brief as I had never done that before. I was also particularly interested in this project, as I rarely animate animals and nature, and this offered a welcome exploration of new ideas.

Marcelina: As 1 of 2 assignments we had to choose between for our first term project, I think I decided to go for this one because the subject is close to my beliefs, and I was interested in the storytelling part of the brief. I also thought that it would be a great challenge for me as I usually go for darker and more grim topics.

Concept art for the animated monkey design.
Character concept taken from 'International Day of the Forests | Monkey Business' - Caye Motilla Galiana, Hristina Iankova and Marcelina Dopierala.

What inspired your idea, and how did you develop it?

Caye: I believe Hristina came up with the main idea for the story, and if I remember well, I introduced the option of making the monkey play with a child. But the development was made between the 3 of us.

Hristina: We quickly became a team and started brainstorming ideas and seeing how our personal art styles could work together. I had the idea of drawing parallels between a human girl and a monkey to create a more relatable and thus emotional animation. The story changed and developed throughout the project as we saw what worked visually and added new elements to enhance the final product.

Marcelina: After Hristina came up with the story for our animation, we brainstormed a lot. It was an advantage for the production process that we lived close to each other. We’re good friends, so collaborating was fun more often than not. We had a chance to look at the work that we produce and give constant feedback to each other, so we were able to know if we were going in a good direction.

Concept art for the lead animation character.
Concept art for the short protagonist. Image credit: Caye Motilla Galiana, Hristina Iankova and Marcelina Dopierala.

What roles did you play throughout the project?

Caye: Marcelina adopted the role of director, and Hristina became the producer. I was a big part in the design and creative field.

Hristina: I was the producer, so I arranged all of the meetings and tasks needed for the project. We split the workload to our strengths and tried to have each one of us engage with all sides of the production. During pre-production, I worked on character design and the nature background designs, as well as the initial storyboard.

Marcelina: We took on multiple roles in the production of the short. Among others, I worked as a character designer, background artist, concept artist, 3D and 2D animator.

What were your highlights of the collaboration?

Caye: I think the short came out beautifully in the style we chose for our characters and our backgrounds, and some motions like the monkey jumping and the turnaround are stunning.

Hristina: I enjoyed the experience of working as part of a team in a professional environment as it allowed us to challenge each other and improve our work to create a better animation overall.

Marcelina: I had a chance to learn new software and challenge myself with character design. It previously felt difficult for me to produce content for children, so that was another thing I enjoyed learning.

Test Reel | Monkey Business

What have you most enjoyed about your time at LCC so far?

Caye: I love studying at LCC. It's such a pity that we haven’t been able to study much in the LCC Building during the pandemic, because being surrounded by art all the time was an amazing experience.

Hristina: The collaborative environment is probably the thing I’ve enjoyed most during my time at LCC. Meeting new creatives and connecting on both a personal and professional level has been amazing! I also love learning new software and using the technical resources available.

Marcelina: I’ve enjoyed every second. While the pandemic has meant that I’ve had more time online than in the College Building, I love the creative environment there – I met my friends there. I enjoy the person that I become when I approach tasks and challenges at uni.

What advice would you give to other students who are interested in exploring animation?

Caye: Be ready for a lot of work and quite a bit of stress in the final weeks of each project - but the final product is always so satisfying, I think it makes everything worth it.

Hristina: Personally, I would say just start animating. Animation may seem quite daunting at first, but doing little experiments and gifs will help you feel more comfortable and find your voice.

Marcelina: Prepare yourself for hard work and sleepless nights. However, it's all going to be worth it, because there’s nothing more satisfying than watching your lines come to life in your animations.

Monkey Business is a National Museums Scotland exhibition touring in association with Nomad Exhibitions. It's currently scheduled to run at the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill, South London, until Saturday 3 January 2022.

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