Oscar Nominee Brings Animation Experience to Harvard

* Caroline Leaf '68 creates 10-minute films, focuses on closed spaces

Those who believe that Disney is the synonym for animated films have not met Visiting Lecturer in Animation Caroline Leaf '68.

In a career that has spanned from creating animation for MTV and "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood" to receiving an Academy Award nomination for her art film "The Street," Leaf says she thinks of animated films as a vehicle for self-expression and experimentation.

"My films aren't the usual animation stories," says Leaf, who, belying her soft-spoken demeanor, also hasn't followed a typical career path.

Specializing in short, 10-minute animated films, Leaf takes pride in her independent style.

"Each of my 10-minute animated films took about two years, doing everything from scratch. I haven't ever worked for anybody," she says.

In many ways, Leaf's career in animation has also been an ongoing work of experimentation.

Fittingly enough, Leaf's exposure to animation came about almost randomly. As an architectural sciences major at Radcliffe, she "thought it was a cool idea" to take a film course.

As it happened, she decided to take animation.

"I didn't know what animation was until I took the class [on animation] in the fall and spring of my senior year," Leaf says. "And then I traveled at loose ends in Europe for a year...I think I was a person without a plan."

Her former animated film professor, Derek Lamb, played a hand in bringing her back to the world of animation by suggesting that she return to Harvard to finish her first animated film that she had begun in his class.

"I was so glad, I didn't know what I would have done if I hadn't been called back," Leaf says.

In the fall of that year, she received the Loeb Fellowship to work on animation for a year.

Her first completed film in hand, she went on a cross-country drive with a former roommate. One of their stopovers was St. Louis, where they visited the home of a friend of her roommate's. As chance would have had it, the friend's husband owned a film company.

"He liked my work," Leaf says.

Emboldened, Leaf went back to Boston and rented an apartment near Radcliffe to pursue a career in animation.

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