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BYU Animators Take Home First-Place 'Student Emmy' for Estefan

June 2013

Recent animation grad Lauren Taylor will add to the well-stocked BYU Center for Animation trophy case after winning first place in the animation category last weekend for Estefan at the 34th College Television Awards.

It’s the 12th College Television Award, commonly called a “student Emmy,” in the last 10 years for the animation program.

During that decade BYU students were awarded for other animated favorites like Pajama Gladiator, Kitesand DreamGiver, providing a tradition of excellence for future students to follow.

“Winning an Emmy is awesome,” said Taylor, producer of Estefan. “The animation program has a long history of entering the student Emmys. It’s kind of a relief that we can continue that tradition and heritage and hit that benchmark that we set for ourselves.”

Estefan is a six-minute 3D animated short. The production was a senior project that took two years in the making and included the work of anywhere from 25-40 different students at any given time.

Some of the past BYU animation films have had much heavier thematic elements, but Estefan’s lightheartedness allowed the animators to go much more over the top.

“Animation lends itself to exaggeration, and Estefan is all about exaggeration,” said story and layout lead Lauren Oppenlander.

Estefan the character, Oppenlander’s brainchild, is a Spanish hairdresser. But more than that, he’s an artiste. He’s the best hairdresser in the world, and he knows it. In the short, Estefan is faced with a challenge he’s never faced before when a woman walks into his salon and has no hair. His search for a solution for her takes some outside-the-box thinking on his part and makes for some entertaining viewing.


In preparing to animate Estefan, the students examined film of flamenco dancing to capture certain movements and expressions. They also looked at bull fighters. Every little aspect was scrutinized.

“People are always surprised that a five-minute film could take two years to make,” Taylor said. “But because we’re not filming live action, we need to create a person and an environment and all of the little objects that are in their environment.”

The process of creating Estefan was an invaluable learning experience for the students as they were able to mirror how a professional studio would work. In fact, DreamWorks, Pixar and Sony served as mentors on the project. Recruiters from all three studios asked if they could help after seeing Estefan and worked very closely with the students, providing feedback and coaching.

According to Kelly Loosli, head of the animation program and theatre and media arts assistant professor, this sort of experience is setting his students up for success in the future. The program has a history of placing graduates consistently in the top studios in the business. He said the key is in the collaboration. Students are able to work together, as a team extensively, putting away egos and working for a common goal.

In Estefan, Loosli said he saw the group come together quickly, work extremely hard and have a lot of fun in the process.

“I think there are a number of factors that make it an emmy winner,” Loosli said. “I think this is probably the best character animation we’ve ever put into an animated film, which is unique for us because we don’t really focus on character animation in our program. And then secondarily, I think it’s the most solid story in terms of the way that it’s structured, the way it sets up, builds and then pays off.”

About the BYU Center for Animation

Established in 2008, the BYU Center for Animation operates under the direction of two colleges—the College of Fine Arts and Communications and the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences. The animation major is intended to provide students with the skill sets necessary for success in the animation, live-action, special effects and game industry with emphasis on both the artistic and technological avenues. The computer science animation emphasis gives students the opportunity to learn both the technical and artistic side of creating and implementing digital animation and games, preparing them for technical careers with animation and game programming studios.

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