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Ethan Briscoe never would have earned a student Emmy nomination at next month’s College Television Awards for the humorous BYU student-produced animated short film “Stowaway” without some divine intervention.

Just like the baby kraken who wound up an unsuspecting stowaway on a pirate ship in the short, Briscoe never intended to attend BYU.

Fresh off a Latter-day Saint mission to Vancouver, B.C., Briscoe decided to head to Provo, Utah, for a semester to be among friends while he waited to find out if he would be accepted to film school.

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By the time NYU’s prestigious film school sent him an acceptance letter, it was too late. Briscoe was taking a class called Introduction to 3-D graphics that is a prerequisite for acceptance into BYU’s own prestigious animation program. He felt both hooked on animation and spiritually guided to the right place with the right people.

“That decision has been confirmed over and over again,” he said. “I met my wife in the animation program.”

And now “Stowaway” — written and directed by Briscoe and produced by fellow student Tyler Bitner — is up for a college Emmy. Briscoe and his wife work together at the Tooele animation studio Digital Gravy, which helped produce the animated shorts in a series of videos about the covenant path for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You can find the videos on the YouTube channel Gospel for Kids.

“Stowaway” is the story of two pirates, one looking for buried treasure and one who swabs the deck. The second pirate accidentally scoops a cute baby kraken out of the sea. The pirates’ fear of the legendary sea monster spins out of control.

Briscoe storyboarded and pitched the idea for the animated short to the other students in his animation class in November 2019, the same month the “The Child” character Grogu (aka Baby Yoda) debuted on “The Mandalorian” on Disney+. Briscoe said the baby kraken was created before Grogu and was influenced by Gromit from the “Wallace and Gromit” stop-action shows.

“We haven’t seen that many animated movies about pirates, for some reason,” Briscoe said. “I thought, ‘How about a fun, swashbuckling adventure?’”

To help with the storyboarding, Briscoe built a pirate ship out of Legos. He used the Lego model to work out ideas about where the pirates and the baby kraken should be during various parts of the story.

The students voted to develop “Stowaway,” and his fellow seniors in the BYU animation program completed the short last year.

Short films produced by students in BYU’s Center for Animation have been nominated for and won many college Emmys since the center launched in 2001. “Lemmings” won the first BYU student Emmy in 2004. “Faux Paw: Adventures in the Internet” and “Pet Shop” won in 2005 and the program has continued to earn awards regularly ever since.

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BYU students win animation student Emmy

BYU’s advertising program is also winning at the College Television Awards. A team of students won a 2020 Emmy in the commercial, PSA (public service announcement) or promo category.

This year, BYU student-produced shorts swept all three nominations in that category with a public service announcement about sexual assault and commercials for the Los Angeles Times and Ford Mustang.

A total of 58 colleges submitted entries to the College Television Awards.

“It’s important to emphasize how much ‘Stowaway’ is the product of the dozens of students who worked on it,” Briscoe said. “We were only able to get it done and do it well because of entire team of student artists who added their own creativity to the pool and made it what it is.”

The Television Academy Foundation’s 41st College Television Awards ceremony will be held virtually on March 26.

“It’ll be nice,” Briscoe said, “because we’ll be able to wear pajama pants.”

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Behind the scenes

Here are a few more images from “Stowaway”:

The title card of the BYU student-produced film “Stowaway,” nominated for a 2022 College Television Award.
The title card of the BYU student-produced film “Stowaway,” which earned a student Emmy nomination for animated shorts from the 2022 College Television Awards. | Television Academy Foundation
A moment from the BYU student-produced film “Stowaway,” nominated for a student Emmy for animated short films.
A moment from the BYU student-produced film “Stowaway,” which earned a student Emmy nomination for animated shorts from the 2022 College Television Awards. | Television Academy Foundation
Ethan Briscoe
Ethan Briscoe | Ethan Briscoe

Other students who worked on “Stowaway” include art directors Emilee Dummer and Do Park with music by Collette Jones and sound design and mixing by Andrew Brewer. Other students on the team were Kalen Stewart, André Alves, Uberto De La Rosa, Matt Walker, Riki Kuniyuki, Joey McConkie, Chelsea Domino, Jenika Wimmer, Ethan Berrett, John Damon, Ivy Rich and Eli Miller.

The BYU students nominated for student advertising Emmys in the commercial, PSA or promo category are:

  • Lauren Finlinson, Edgar Garcia, Amy Hauck and Allie Jones for “Asking for It,” a public service announcement about sexual assault.
  • Connor Dean, Quinn Frehner, Enoch Lui and Cam Tribe for “Decisions,” a commercial for the Los Angeles Times related to border crossings.
  • Rebekah Baker, Campbell George, Asher Huskinson and Tyler Richardson for “Life’s Journey,” a commercial for the Ford Mustang.