Calibraska Camps Bring Animation To Life in Nebraska

Young animators at the Calibraska workshop in Lincoln. (Photo by Jack Williams, NET News)
Listen to this story: 

June 14, 2019 - 6:45am

Far from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, the center of the animation world, students in Nebraska are learning how to make images come alive. They’re part of a series of summer workshops meant to provide hands-on animation instruction, something that’s not typically a part of middle or high school curriculum here. The inspiration behind the program is a Nebraskan herself who wants to pass on her love of animation.  

This is not Los Angeles, but Erica Larsen-Dockray is just fine with that. She’s thumbing through a stack of index cards held together with a clip, called a flipbook in the animation world. Little hand-made drawings jump and dance as the cards flip by. It’s a very basic example of animation   

Larsen-Dockray is leading a group of a dozen high school-aged students at a week-long animation workshop in Lincoln that she calls “Calibraska”. She grew up near Scottsbluff, went to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for two years, then ended up at the premier school for animators, the California Institute of the Arts, known as CalArts, near Los Angeles.

Animators Aaron Holmes and Erica Larsen-Dockray. (Photo by Jack Williams, NET News)

“Total black sheep in my family,” Larsen-Dockray said. “No one else really did anything like what I was doing.”

She still lives and works as an animator in Los Angeles, but has returned to Nebraska during summers since 2013 to pass on her love of animation to young people here.

“It incorporates writing, it incorporates photography, it incorporates science, history, it incorporates dance and movement and music and sound aside from the basics of the visual imagery and film-making and all of that,” Larsen-Dockray said. “You can bring in anything you want in animation. It can incorporate all of that.”                 

As part of the Calibraska program, Larsen-Dockray brings animators like Aaron Holmes from Los Angeles to help teach. He’s from Lincoln and is a graduate student at CalArts.

“When I went to high school here, there wasn’t a way for me to learn animation in any kind of academic setting or from anybody who knew about it,” Holmes said. “So I think it’s good to get hands-on animation education. It’s definitely a field that, as far as I can tell, is growing all over the place as there’s more and more screens and more and more people wanting content to fill those screens and a lot of that content ends up being animated in one way or another.”     

Larsen-Dockray with animation students in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Jack Williams, NET News)

Holmes says he isn’t a very good artist himself, but that hasn’t stopped him from becoming a good animator. It’s a lesson he wants to pass on to future animators in Nebraska.

“That’s one of the things that’s pretty important about these workshops is to try to separate the idea of drawing from the idea of animation because they really are not the same thing,” Holmes said. “Obviously, great animation can be created from great drawings, but you don’t need to be able to draw to animate well.”   

Digital animation is what you typically see in big blockbuster movies, but there’s also more basic stop motion, hand drawn and under camera animation that’s just as challenging.

Benjamin Reichle just graduated from Hartington-Newcastle High School in Hartington, Nebraska and is on his way to the new Emerging Media Arts program at the University of Nebraska this fall.

“The coolest thing about it is it’s half-art and half-science,” Reichle said. “Most people are like, you shouldn’t do art. You can’t make a living on that. Do something with science, business, math, lawyers and stuff. But you can find industries that are exactly a blend of technical and soulful and artistic and I’m fascinated by that.”    

Aaron Holmes with young animators at Lincoln workshop. (Photo by Jack Williams, NET News)

Jessica Jackson attends Scotus Central Catholic High School in Columbus, Nebraska. The soft-spoken 9th grader says animation isn’t just a hobby for her. She’d like to make it something more permanent.

“I actually really enjoy animation because I like to see the character I made come to life,” Jackson said. “I’m pretty sure I can make this into a career.”

As Erica Larsen-Dockray demonstrates a down camera and basic stop action animation, she’s thrilled at how far the Calibraska program has come in six years.

“It’s just become a thing and I couldn’t be happier that I’m able to sort of create the space for connections like that,” she said.

The Calibraska animation workshops continue in June in Lincoln and Scottsbluff and in July in North Platte.  



blog comments powered by Disqus