Out & About: Animators collaborate for WRJ film premiere

Liz Sauchelli. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Liz Sauchelli. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

A still featuring Tobi Mueller's interpretation of Buzz Lightyear that is part of a scene JAM campers and staff members contributed to

A still featuring Tobi Mueller's interpretation of Buzz Lightyear that is part of a scene JAM campers and staff members contributed to "Crowdsourced VT: Toy Story." The crowdsourced film, which features contributions from more than 200 people, will have its White River Junction premiere Dec. 10. (Courtesy JAM) Courtesy JAM


Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 11-25-2023 1:40 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Picture this: The classic 1995 Pixar film “Toy Story,” beloved by generations of children and adults alike.

Now try to picture the feature-length movie reinterpreted by more than 200 filmmakers — including campers and staff at Junction Arts & Media (JAM) in White River Junction. That’s what you’ll see if you attend the White River Junction premiere of “Crowdsourced VT: Toy Story” from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10, at JAM at 5 S. Main St.

“It’s like a creative playground almost, just a bunch of people stretching their skills,” said Jordyn Taylor Fitch, community engagement producer at JAM, who helped co-lead animation camps this past summer. “It’s going to be a display of so much talent across the state.”

Four students and four staff members contributed to the two-minute and 42-second scene that the group was assigned by Crowdsourced Cinema VT, a program that’s part of Media Factory, a Burlington-based nonprofit organization that supports and promotes community access in TV, film, radio and other media.

“It just felt like a good opportunity, a good structured activity for our advance animation campers,” said Fitch, who uses the pronouns they/them.

They said that campers got to choose the parts of the short scene to work on over the course of the three-day camp; then staff filled in the rest. Many students did digital animation; one experimented with stop-motion clay animation.

“It was really exciting to see what our campers came up with and how quick they were to just jump into it,” said Noah Mauchly, who was one of the instructors. “As soon as they got it, they ran with it so effortlessly and with so much enthusiasm.”

Tobi Mueller, a freshman at Hanover High School, used an iPad and Apple pencil to create her roughly 10 seconds of footage. It took Tobi around six hours to create her piece.

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“I think my part covered four or five shots,” Tobi said. Previously, she’d worked on animation projects independently. “This was a new experience for me in terms of working with other people to create something.”

For Fitch, that was one of the benefits. While filmmaking is generally a collaborative effort, that isn’t always the case with animation.

“Sometimes I feel like animation can feel a little bit more isolating because usually it’s a one person kind of thing and you’re not always on a set with a bunch of other filmmakers when you’re filmmaking,” they said. One of the best parts of working on the crowdsourced film was seeing the ways campers supported each other in their visions. “They were all able to work together, but have their own lane to be very expressive.”

Campers were able to put the skills they were learning into practice immediately. Fitch and Mauchly said the goal of the project was less about teaching skills and more about trying new styles.

“With animation you’re not bound by anything so we wanted to encourage them to experiment and play and not worry about if things look correct, as long as they’re having fun,” Mauchly said.

Another goal was to celebrate the joy of creating.

“This sort of format encourages every kind of skill level and experience and method to be done,” Mauchly said. “I think it’s just a good place to show that there’s always room somewhere for their work if they want to keep pursuing it.”

After the campers did their parts, staff filled in the rest. Fitch did the sound design and Mauchly, and Nichelle Gaumont recorded the dialogue. In order of appearance, the scene features Fitch, Mauchly, Cedar O’Dowd (JAM coordinator and producer), Charlie Rose (a member of JAM’s production crew), then campers Tobi, Andre Banks, Tucker Green and Lyra Satls.

“We don’t know what the film looks like so it will be doubly exciting to see it,” Fitch said.

At the end of JAM camps there is usually an exhibit to display campers’ work where family and friends come out to see what they accomplished. By having their work be part of the crowdsourced film, the young animators will have their talents seen by more people.

“This is definitely the first time something I’ve made is going to be part of a piece of art that’s going to be seen by a lot more people,” Tobi said. “It’s definitely an interesting and cool thing to think about.”

More information about the film can be found at uvjam.org.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.