Illustration of animated sea creatures in an undersea environment from the book, Our Plastic Ocean Our Clean Ocean

Animation students continue effort to address ocean pollution with “Sea Creatures Congress”

March 2, 2022

In fall 2020, members of the NEWM-N441 3D Team Production class taught by Media Arts and Science (MAS) faculty Albert William and Zebulun Wood built a 3-minute animation of a sea turtle, Mr. Bubbles, based on Herminia Din’s book, “Our Plastic Ocean, Our Clean Ocean.” Din is an artist/author at the University of Alaska-Anchorage, currently living in Taipei, and wrote the book to raise awareness of plastic pollution in the oceans.

This was an international collaboration led by Dr. Darrell Bailey, with music created in Sweden by Erland Hiland, story by Despina Mosidou, and screenplay by Larry McCollough.

Recently, a new team of students in the same course elaborated on the theme and created the next chapter of the story, titled “Sea Creatures Congress.” There will eventually be at least one more installment to complete the book’s narrative, according to William, with all the same collaborators. “This was a unique and extraordinary opportunity for students to collaborate with international partners to address a significant environmental issue. Zeb and I are extremely proud of how the team met all of the challenges in a short time frame to produce an outstanding piece of animation,” William said.

The story, and the animation, continues

Sea Creatures Congress once again stars sea turtle Mr. Bubbles, who now has several aquatic friends helping him battle the ever-growing plastic pollution of the ocean.

Jacob Bridenthal, Virginia Hooten, Aaron Keilman, Jacob Moffitt, Kendall Riley, and Alexander Young were members of the development team for this second film.

Young and Bridenthal, both Media Arts and Science students specializing in 3D Graphics and Animation, were the designated pre-production duo, responsible with determining the layout of the sets and how the heroes, Speckled Maya and Mr. Bubbles, would journey through them to reach their destination at Gull’s Inlet. Beyond their initial iterations, the pair moved on to incorporating assets as they were being created, then used those revisions to continue ideating on their vision for the film as a regular progress presentation for their team-members and professors. This process continued most of the way through production, and even as the team was tying up loose ends in animation and texturing, there were still camera and shot-composition changes for Young and Bridenthal to make that would enhance the final product.

Throughout all that, Bridenthal helped with modeling many of their trash-berg assets, unwrapping models for texturing, applying Riley’s toon-shaders and look-development tools and validating they all worked correctly and consistently in scenes, animating heroes and background characters through all of scenes one and three, set-dressing scenes one and three, and rallying the team’s efforts for rendering in the last couple weeks.

Team work makes the dream work

Bridenthal explained that everyone bore some responsibility for many aspects of the project at some point or another. “In terms of personal highlights, it was pretty difficult to contain my excitement and concern for my non-conventional use of XGEN to populate scene one with trash,” he said. “It was thrilling to get it to work the way I wanted, but the road to get there was rocky. Producing the film was an exerting endeavor for us, and I’m very glad we made it out the other end intact! This experience was a great way to crack the shell of solo-work and learn the ropes of working on a production team.

“It’s a caliber of intensity and difficulty that I hadn’t encountered yet with group work, and I feel it really pushed us all to make sure we were doing our most in terms of collaboration and coordination. I’m excited for where it’s already taken me, and I’m looking forward to my next opportunity to tackle a project as impactful as this one!”

Young added, “The highlight of my experience was getting to work with a great group of other talented students to create the short film. It was a great learning experience from beginning to end.”

Bridenthal, a senior, is currently working a capstone internship at Aero Industries, Inc., a manufacturing company in southern Indianapolis, where he is taking on niche projects for their industry as a Media and Marketing Intern, and will be traveling with IUPUI’s Service Learning Project to Greece, where he’ll be working on multi-media projects to document cultural artifacts, historic locations, and the local traditions of the people of Paros. He hopes to work as a CAD drafter and 3D Environmental Artist following graduation and eventually end up at a major production studio like Industrial Light and Magic.

Young, who is a junior, is preparing for capstone next fall and after graduation wants to work in the animation industry as a storyboarder or character designer.

Media Contact

Joanne Lovrinic