What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of France and the arts? The Louvre? The Mona Lisa?
Hiroshima, Mon Amour
? It’s probably not animation. Yet the influence of French animation is also enormous, from the first animated film in history, Reynaud’s
Pauvre Pierrot
to Illumination Studios’ newest blockbuster,

Dodge’s Digital Arts students were invited to explore this world firsthand through Professor Bill Kroyer’s class, The Influence of French Animation.

Starting in Paris, students visited the Louvre, the Dorset, and the Museé Rodin. They also visited the Cinémathèque Française, a theater with one of the world’s largest archives of films from around the world, and the Aardman Studios Exhibition at Art Ludique, featuring the clay puppets from
Wallace and Gromit
Chicken Run.

wallace and grommit and vacuum

“Perhaps the most surprising and unexpected experience we had in Paris was when we visited the Natural History Museum,” says Professor Kroyer. “They had skeletons of turtles, monkeys, giraffes, brontosauruses, and whales, nearly every animal that has ever been alive on earth, all arranged by species. As an animator, to see the entire biology of the world in one place like that was wonderful and we spent all morning sketching and drawing.”

The students also toured the premiere animation trade schools, Supinfocom and Gobelins, and Illumination Studios, which produced the animated blockbuster
Despicable Me

“Illumination Studios doesn’t usually give tours, so they were pretty secretive, but happy to have us there,” says Aharonit Elior (BFA/Digital Arts, ‘17). “They took us around to different productions and one of the lead animators broke down their animation process for us. It was nice too that their workflow is not all that different from what we’re doing in Digital Arts. Watching the professional application of what I’m in the baby steps of doing helped me see the aim of my student work.”

bill kroyer offering statue medicine

The highlight of the trip was a visit to the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, one of the oldest and largest animation festivals in the world. Among the many films students got a chance to see were
Long Way North,
a visually stunning film that relies on shade and color instead of line work to separate characters from backgrounds. They also saw the director’s cut of Richard Williams’
The Thief and the Cobbler,
a film nearly 50 years in the making whose creator was greeted by a standing ovation.

Of course, films weren’t the only thing the festival had to offer. “I think what mattered to me the most were the people I met,” says Taylor Reynolds (BFA/Digital Arts, ‘17). “Any opportunity to reach out to a larger community of animators is refreshing and it was amazing to be surrounded by so many people who are as passionate about animation as I am.”