Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Little Guide to MAPA: Who We Are

WELCOME TO the Midwest Association of Professional Animators

We are very proud to have you with us. Your experience brings a fresh and unique perspective which can benefit us all. Your input is invaluable. Since we are all collaborators in our respective fields, you know any great production is dependent on the particular contributions of each and every member.

MAPA offers an exceptional opportunity for you to network, share ideas and learn along with other dynamic artists in your area. We pride ourselves in showcasing the best of the Midwest. With that in mind, we invite you to bring your finest critiques and allow other members to equally push you in your own work.

As artists in a world of competitive business, we understand each one of you are involved in developing “trade secrets” which you cannot share with other members. In fact, you may see designers at our meetings you directly compete with in your job. However, each one of us has specialized skills, techniques or “tricks” learned during projects which have already been unveiled. These are the unique contributions we all can benefit from. We cheer each member’s successes and hope you will share those experiences with your MAPA brothers and sisters.

Who We Are and Where We’ve Been

Part I: Building the House of Mouse

In May of 1922, a young, would-be animator pulled together $15,000 with the help of his banker brother and built a Kansas City animation studio. The new studio, Laugh O’ Gram, was commissioned to make six shorts based on fairy tales to a company which soon after went bankrupt. Among the employees on the series were several pioneers of animation: Ub Iwerks, Hugh Harman, Rudolph Ising, Carmen Maxwell, and Friz Freleng.

The animation company fell into a financial slump. By the end of 1922, the owner was living in the office and taking baths once a week at Union Station. He gained some comfort by taking care of tamed mice at his drawing table.

The owner described the experience in a later interview:

“They used to fight for crumbs in my waste-basket when I worked alone late at night. I lifted them out and kept them in wire cages on my desk.

I grew particularly fond of one brown house mouse. He was a timid little guy. By tapping him on the nose with my pencil, I trained him to run inside a black circle I drew on my drawing board.”

Financial troubles spiraled for the studio. After creating one last short, Alice Comedies, the studio declared bankruptcy in July 1923.

The owner’s brother consoled him. He said animation was booming in Hollywood, California. So the owner sold his movie camera, earning enough money for a one-way train ticket; he brought along an unfinished reel of Alice's Wonderland.

Five years later in 1928 during a train trip to New York, the former Laugh O’ Gram owner showed a drawing to his wife Lillian Marie Bounds. Directly inspired by the tame little mouse from his now closed studio, the man said he was going to call his new character "Mortimer Mouse." His wife replied that the name sounded "too sissified" and suggested Mickey Mouse instead.

Part II: How Far We’ve Come

MAPA is nothing new. Animation has surged through the heart of this community since many of the first cartoons were inked. We celebrate our artistic heritage, embrace Midwest creativity and are at the threshold of new techniques in content creation. As design evolves, we evolve along with it to stay in the forefront of commercial production.

Kansas City is home to more than 20 production/post production houses, dozens of graphic designers, and many of the top animators in the country.

Local designers have worked with many high-profile clients including Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Microsoft and Universal Studios.

Fundraising Team / Treasurer

Money makes the world go around and, in our case, sends new worlds spinning. As much we would like to avoid it, our programs, events, trips and ultimately our film festival depend on finding creative ways to raise a club treasury. So we encourage those interested to volunteer for our fundraising team. A Treasurer will be elected to head up this subset of MAPA. However, ALL club members will need to participate in the fundraising events put together by this team. All the money raised will be used directly for our club evolution.

Group Events and Trips

There are a number of fantastic events, both local and across our nation, which are beneficial to all animators. Some of these include:

• Local

1. Kansas City FilmFest 2010: April 14-18 (Still looking for volunteers)

2. KCAI Student Animation Festivals in May

3. The District Art Annual...Downtown Kansas City Art Fair (3rd Annual): Friday - Sunday, June 25 - 27, 2010

4. PLAZA ART FAIR 2010: September 24, 25 & 26

• Abroad

1. The National Association of Broadcaster’s Convention: Animator’s Ball

2. Photoshop World Conference and Expo

3. SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival

4. Annecy International Animation Festival

Members are encouraged to attend and volunteer for as many events as possible. Each year, we hope to attend one or more as a group. Our fundraising team and Marketing team will work hard to get the best deal for the dollars we raise.

Refer to or for more events and also feel free to submit events to the club roster.

Film Festival

Tentatively set for Fall 2010, our all-animated film festival will be the first of its kind in the Midwest. We concede that the KC Jubilee, now part of the KC Film Fest, has an animation category in their program. However, our annual event will bring to the Kansas City area an exclusive showcase geared specifically for both still artists and animators, regardless of technique. (See attached list of animation techniques for ideas).

As this will be OUR film festival, we have the unique opportunity to craft it in whatever image we see fit. We can list a number of categories of our own choosing, which will culminate together in an overall, “Best of Show” competition.

Now even though we are listing animation styles elsewhere on the blog, let us not forget our still artists. Our festival will also have similar listings for Frame Cartoonists, Canvas Masters, Photographers, etc. We embrace all artists who further the realm of design.

Webmaster and Internet Team

As any working designer will tell you, without a website we have no identity. This blog is step one in fullfilling that need.  It is the job of our Webmaster and the MAPA internet team to keep our identity in cyberspace.

As our club progresses, we aim to continuously reinvent our web presence.  Expect new and exciting versions as we grow!
Mentorship Team and Non-Profit Status

A primary advantage of any club is establishing a marketplace of ideas. Sharing thoughts and visions should be at the very heart of everything we do. We are collaborators, innovators and the creators of new worlds.

We understand that many of our members compete in the professional world. Our intention is not to compromise that competitive spirit. But by sharing ideas and techniques, when appropriate to do so, we all grow as artists.

With that in mind, our club must mentor to the aspiring talent of tomorrow. We are committed to helping local design students achieve their goals by sharing our experiences with them. Whether you develop stationary for weddings, run Chyron for a newscast or build new environments in Cinema 4D there is a young mind hungry the unique knowledge you can give.

As we fulfill our mission over the next year, club administrators will be working with the Kansas City Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts to secure our non-for-profit status. This will secure our club within the community and the perpetuation of our annual film festival by allowing us to apply for state grants.

If you are interested in being a mentor, please let one of us know. We will be pairing you with students to share your knowledge with. Mentorship is not required, but strongly encouraged.

Logo Design Competition and Monthly Contests

A wise man once said, “We never achieve so well as when we compete against each other.” In that spirit, MAPA will host a monthly design competition to show different approaches to problem solving and have a little fun.

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