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Hopes high at Y. for ‘PetShop’ film

Will students’ animated short be another winner?

SHARE Hopes high at Y. for ‘PetShop’ film
"PetShop," BYU's four-minute animated film, will be presented at festivals around the world this winter.

“PetShop,” BYU’s four-minute animated film, will be presented at festivals around the world this winter.

Brigham Young University

PROVO — The first animated film created by Brigham Young University students won a "student Emmy" and a bronze medal at the student Academy Awards.

So, will BYU's second short film be an encore performance?

Students have completed "PetShop" and will unveil it Monday to selected audiences.

BYU plans to present the four-minute "short" at animation festivals around the world this winter, which is how the award-winning "Lemmings" built momentum last year, starting with clips shown at the Cannes Film Festival.

Animated shorts have a long history, from Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig to Pixar Studios' popular computer-generated animation. BYU students use computer technology to learn artistic and technical skills, which in turn make them marketable to DreamWorks and other animation and special effects companies.

"We've been really successful in finding that niche the studios like," BYU technology professor Brent Adams said. "We have the right kind of students, and we work on these group animation projects so they can use both the artistic and technical sides of their brains."

The animation program is 4 years old and BYU graduates have worked on such projects as "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy and "Pirates of the Caribbean."

Each BYU film represents the joint project for a senior class of animation students. "Lemmings" was completed by the senior class two years ago and "PetShop" was the project for last year's seniors.

Trent Halvorsen, a Layton native now living in Syracuse, was the director for "PetShop." He graduated from BYU in April and works for Avalanche Software, a Utah video game company. One of his projects is a video game for "Chicken Little," the new Disney animated movie due to be released in theaters next year.

"I do mostly the mini-movies in the game," said Halvorsen. "I'm doing the story for Chicken Little in the game. A lot of what I'm doing right now is similar to what I did on 'PetShop' last year."

Each year, BYU's senior class of animation students gathers and listens to pitches from anyone with an idea for the senior project. "PetShop" is the brainchild of Logan Deans, a former BYU football player and a film student.

In the film, a not-so-lovable chinchilla desperate to leave a pet shop does his best to win the attention of his potential owner, Billy, who seems more interested in a lizard in a neighboring cage.

The four-minute film took more than a year to complete and involved 18 BYU seniors and other students. They used textures and lighting schemes to emulate the characteristics of a 3-D hand-painted illustration to give "PetShop" a distinct look, Adams said.

Synthesis, BYU's premiere jazz ensemble, performed the music for the film, along with performers from University Singers.

Both Halvorsen and Adams think "PetShop" will outperform "Lemmings."

"Most people that see 'PetShop ' think it will play better than 'Lemmings,' " Adams said. "I know the students spent a lot more time in the look of the animation. The textures are better, the lighting is better — there's just a ton more things going on."

BYU officials are considering ways to distribute the films locally, including the possibility of selling a compilation DVD with both shorts at the BYU Bookstore.

The school has produced a DVD of "Lemmings" complete with bonus features, bloopers and a short piece on the animation program, but it is not yet available commercially.

E-mail: twalch@desnews.com