Denver is home to one of only two University programs in the U.S. where students can create an annual, large, high-production-value senior short film, a film that is of the same caliber as animated films like “UP.”

Twenty senior students from the University of Colorado Denver College of Arts & Media’s Digital Animation Center (DAC) under the supervision of three faculty members Howard Cook, Paul Conner and Tripp Vroman have worked on an approximately five minute, 30 second, animated film since January 2009 in a learning lab environment.

This year’s film, A Complex Villainelle, was fully designed and produced by students using the same technologies, software and hardware as most of the large animation studios in LA and NYC. The production is set up and run like a real studio as a hands-on, collaborative learning experience. All other University programs have students do individual shorts or work with one or two other students. The DAC creates an in-house studio and runs the production as it would be at a “real” studio.

This year’s film is amongst the most ambitious student animated films attempted, already receiving high praise by a number of animation studio executives. As a result, some of the senior DAC students (graduating May 15) have already been contacted and interviewed by leading animation studio Sony Picture Imageworks.

A Complex Villainelle revolves around the Penguin (Batman and Robin fame) before he became the overweight, obsessive sadsack of his later years. His choice of travel, by umbrella, was not unique. A certain nanny, a Miss Mary Poppins, also traveled by umbrella. A meeting is arranged and the Penguin has high hopes for the possibility of more than just a casual meeting. But sadly, things don’t work out and his rejection seals his future as the Penguin we now know. (This previously unpublished story is written and recorded by Jonathan Goldstein of the National Public Radio show This American Life.)

The short has been entered into the Student Academy Awards as well as festivals that include Cannes, Sundance, Hiroshima and Ancey.

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