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South Dakota Animation Festival keeps growing

A festival dedicated to short animated films just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

Animation poster

The SoDak Animation Festival will take place on the South Dakota State University campus and in the Brookings community Wednesday, Oct. 17, through Saturday, Oct. 20, expanding to one day longer than last year’s festival.

“It just started off as a one-hour screening in the basement of the Art Museum,” said Cable Hardin, assistant professor and founder of the animation festival in 2007. “Community interest has been very, very strong.”

The festival grew this year to accommodate an increasing slate of animated short films and three guest speakers.

“They are significant figures in animation,” Hardin said of speakers Ryan Woodward, J.J. Sedelmaier and Kirsten Lepore.

The festival will offer nearly 50 short films chosen from more than 140 entries. Those films give the festival an international flavor with entries from 16 countries. Hardin credits an online submission system for opening the festival up to filmmakers from China, Israel, Iran, Australia, Japan and others.

Another reason for the festival’s growth is its unique subject matter. “It’s one of the few animation-only festivals in the United States,” Hardin said, estimating that there are only a couple dozen animation festivals and hundreds of film festivals.

Traditionally sponsored by the SDSU Visual Arts Department and Daktronics, the festival has an additional sponsor this year in the SDSU Music Department.

“Each night there will be some musical performances,” Hardin said. Each night students of assistant music professors Aaron Ragsdale, Nathan Jorgensen and Michael Walsh will present music from animated films and video games.

The festival kicks off at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday at the Larson Concert Hall in the Performing Arts Center on campus with the first screening of short films.

The Larson Concert Hall also hosts what’s listed on the program as “pre-show antics” at 6:45 with animation, live musical performances and a presentation by Woodward.

A storyboard artist, animator and designer for motion pictures, Woodward has worked on major films including “Space Jam,” “The Iron Giant,” “Ironman 2,” “Cowboys and Aliens” and “The Avengers.” He has directed and animated several critically-acclaimed independent short films and serves as a professor at Brigham Young University.

Thursday starts with more short films at 5:30 p.m. at the Larson Concert Hall followed by a presentation from Sedelmaier in the Fishback Studio Theater of the Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m.

Sedelmaier has worked on some of the most talked about animated projects of the past two decades including the launch season of “Beavis and Butt-Head,” “The Ambiguously Gay Duo” and “The X-Presidents” for the “Saturday TV Funhouse” segment of “Saturday Night Live” and the “Tek Jansen/Alpha Squad Seven” series for “The Colbert Report.” His creative development and production studio has worked on branding for customers that include the Chicago Tribune, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and Bayer.

Another screening of short films follows at 9 p.m. on the Larson Concert Hall.

A showcase of work by SDSU students opens the festival on Friday at 5:15 p.m. in the Larson Concert Hall followed by a presentation by Lapore at 6 p.m.

An animator and director, Lepore’s stop-motion and animated short films have been critically acclaimed. Her client list includes MTV, Yo Gabba Gabba, Newsweek, Whole Foods, Toyota, Facebook and Nestle. Lepore will be spending the week at SDSU conducting workshops for SDSU students.

Lepore’s presentation will be followed by another slate of short films at 7 p.m. This will be followed by the Cowbell Awards Ceremony at 8 p.m. The cowbell awards, presented for the festival’s best films, were crafted by Brookings artist Bob Semrad.

Saturday the festival moves off campus to the Children’s Museum of South Dakota for Familymation Day. Starting at 10 a.m., children and their parents will be able to try their hand at making animated films.

From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. there will be continuous showing of the festival’s short films at the South Dakota Art Museum. A 2 p.m. event at the museum will highlight the work of local animators.

Most of the events are free and open to the public. The film showings have a $5 admission fee that will be waived for SDSU students, faculty and staff with an SDSU I.D. The Familymation Day event is free. Participants who wish to see the children’s museum will need to pay a $6 admission fee.

The National Endowment for the Arts is sponsoring the festival’s speakers. The S.D. Film Office is also a festival sponsor. Complete information about the festival can be found at its website.

Photo caption: Publicity materials for the South Dakota Animation Festival are traditionally made by visual arts students
at South Dakota State University.