Although Bin has found the arts atmosphere frustrating at times, she notes that the differences between Harvard and the traditional art school are understandable because of Harvard’s liberal arts focus. “I kind of see Harvard as this weird break period for me, four years to do all this incredible stuff. And then I’ll return to what I really want to do.”
Animation itself is a taxing process. Added on top of schoolwork, it’s even harder. According to Luo, one of the greatest challenges of animating is time and timing. “You would want to have solid chunks of hours to set something up and just get all the way through with the shoot,” Luo wrote. “That becomes somewhat difficult when, you know, we are being college students at the same time.”
Luo identified an additional challenge in the fact that many studio VES classes are significantly longer than the usual one-and-a-half-hour or two-hour classes. Some VES studio classes can stretch to five hours per class.
“Once you’re lucky enough to have found an animation class that fits into your schedule, you’ll have to find whole afternoons or evenings where you can work without interruption,” Luo wrote.
Although it wasn’t easy to balance out animation and schoolwork, Luo was able to figure it out. “It’s sort of universally true that Harvard kids get themselves into way too many classes and extracurriculars,” Luo wrote. “So you just have to figure it all out either ahead of time or as you move along.”
Many of the students interviewed agreed that animation at Harvard is rather small and not necessarily well known. “It’s not particularly popular or hip, as it seems to me that people didn’t even know or expect that there’s animation at Harvard,” Luo wrote. “Aside from my classmates in my animation classes and the fellow thesis friends who have done animation, there wasn’t much of a community, mainly because there just weren’t that many of us.”
However, Luo feels that the few people in the animation scene were able to bond really well and that the small size translated into close bonds with professors and TFs. “In that sense, the community is really closely knit.”
However, some of Harvard’s animators feel estranged from the Harvard animation community. “There are a lot of people interested in film and some people that are curious about animation, [but] I haven’t met any animators, actually,” Wong says. “I wish there was a little bit more cohesive community of animators.”
Collaboration is particularly important to animation given the tedious, painstaking nature of creating the films. “Opportunities to collaborate [are] a huge thing,” Wong says. “That’s something that I think would be really nice.”
“SOMETHING OUT OF NOTHING”
Though animation is time-consuming, tedious, and sometimes frustrating, it is the boundless sense of possibility that draws students in. “You could have a love story between a salt and pepper shaker…[You can] make everyday objects have a story,” Fiorenzoli says.
For Hua, much of the charm lies in the inevitable imperfections that accumulate. “In such a medium, you have to churn out frame by frame quickly. You end up making a lot of mistakes, and you’ll see that [in your animations], and it’s really beautiful,” Hua says. “Art is defined by its mistakes.”
Bin says she enjoys the storytelling element of animation. “You’re literally creating something out of nothing and then making it live. [Animation is] a business, but it’s a business out of making magic, which is what I find incredible.”
Luo agrees. “Animation has the power to really reach down into common human experiences and touch everyone, children and adult alike,” he wrote. “It is frankly pretty fantastic to imbue life into inanimate things the way animation can do. You labor for hours, and then at the end, magic happens.”
—Staff writer Laya Anasu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Brianna D. MacGregor can be reached at email@example.com.