Just last year, Britton Hill was a student majoring in graphic design at Georgia College & State University.
The only problem was, Hill knew she didn’t want a career as a graphic artist.
She wanted to study animation, but Georgia College & State University didn’t offer any such program.
Hill didn’t know what to do.
“I needed a change, so I started looking around at different colleges,” Hill said. “And I heard that Augusta University was offering courses in animation. I immediately decided, ‘I’m applying. I’m ready to move to Augusta.’”
Fortunately for Hill, Augusta University’s Department of Art and Design has launched a new Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a concentration in animation this fall.
The mastermind behind the program is A.B. Osborne, the new assistant professor of animation, who came to Augusta University a year ago to design the courses.
“The university brought me here to start the animation program from scratch,” said Osborne, who has a master’s degree in animation from the Savannah College of Art and Design and has taught at the Art Institute of Ohio and the University of Cincinnati as an adjunct professor. “My goal was to find a place where I could build my own program in animation. That’s why it was really exciting to come here, especially with Georgia being such a hot market right now for both film and video games.”
In fact, Georgia is currently the No. 1 filming location in the world, according to Lee Thomas, deputy commissioner of the Georgia Film, Music and Digital Entertainment Office.
“As soon as everybody knows that Augusta University has animation courses, people are going to be swarming here,” Hill said. “I’m so glad I was accepted into the program, and I can’t wait to start.”
Augusta University’s animation program is a ‘magnet’
The addition of the animation concentration makes Augusta University unique as one of only two public universities in the state to offer the program.
All of the other animation programs are offered by private colleges.
“Animation is one of the fields where students will go to a school that has that program and there are only two public schools in this state that really have this degree: Kennesaw State University and us,” said Scott Thorp, chair of the Department of Art and Design at Augusta University. “Other public schools offer animation courses, but they don’t have this type of degree. Once the word gets out that we have it, I think it will be a magnet for us.”
Not only was Hill happy to learn about the new animation courses being offered at Augusta University, but she was also thrilled to discover Osborne’s vast knowledge in several areas of animation.
His professional experience ranges from technical and medical animation to classic cartoons.
Specifically, Osborne’s expertise includes 3D modeling, texturing and lighting, rigging, character performance, rendering, 2D animation, motion graphics and compositing.
“I want to know a little bit about everything having to do with animation, and that’s what Professor Osborne is all about,” Hill said. “He’s done everything, and he knows something about each one. So, I’m excited about learning all the different aspects of animation and then seeing where my artistic ability leads me and what area fits me the best.”
The happiest place on Earth
Hill already knows where she’d like to land a job in the future, or at least an internship next summer.
“Last year, I did the Disney College Program, and I worked full-time at the resort in Orlando,” Hill said. “I was working about 40 to 60 hours a week, and I absolutely loved it. I worked at The Little Mermaid ride in the Magic Kingdom, and I got to meet people from all over the world.”
She was also introduced to some of the executives at the Disney park and learned about how they develop props and rides throughout Disney World.
“It was really fascinating,” Hill said. “So, I want to do character animation, and my dream job is to be an animator for Disney.”
Of all the Disney characters created over the years, Hill said her favorite is Rapunzel from the movie Tangled.
“I absolutely love Rapunzel, but I also really like Ariel from The Little Mermaid,” Hill said.
Even though it will take her an extra year to graduate now that she has changed her major and transferred to Augusta University, Hill said she wouldn’t have done it any other way.
“It’s going to take me two years to go through the animation program, so I am graduating a year later than scheduled, but I’m fine with that,” Hill said, smiling. “I would much rather graduate with a degree that I love than a degree that I didn’t want.”
Animation equals opportunities
A degree in animation opens so many doors these days, Hill said.
Just this summer, Hill said she was amazed by the remake of The Lion King.
While the film has generally been referred to as a live-action reinterpretation of the 1994 animated classic, The Lion King should actually be categorized as an animated film, she said.
“But it is not your typical animated film,” Hill said.
It used cutting-edge digital tools in pursuit of photorealism.
In fact, all 1,600 shots in The Lion King were made entirely using computer-generated imagery. But, at the same time, the movie’s creative team also used a range of live-action filmmaking tools and techniques to develop the film.
“The Lion King is all animation, but it looks exactly like animals. It’s so crazy,” Hill said. “So, animation is just growing all the time. It’s not slowing down.”
Not only is Hill excited about her decision to study animation, but so are her parents.
“At first, my mom was like, ‘Good Lord, you are changing schools and majors again? Get it together,’” Hill said, laughing. “But I told her, ‘No, Mom. This is it.’ Then, I told her all about the animation program here at Augusta University, and she was so excited for me. She told me, ‘You could do so many things with that degree.’”
That meant a lot to Hill because she believes her artistic talent comes from her mom.
“My mom got a bachelor’s degree in art from Georgia College & State University,” Hill said. “She loved it, but she graduated with a degree in art management and, at the time, it was difficult to find a career in that field. So, she went back to school and got a nursing degree.”
But Hill vividly remembers her mother’s love of art inspired her to draw as a child.
“I loved drawing when I was little,” Hill said. “I would sit there and watch her draw, and then I would do my own little picture. It was so much fun. So, I am so happy that she supports my decision to study animation. It means a lot.”