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An animating alumna

By Brian Segna

Oct. 16, 2006 9:00 p.m.

A room full of pencil-wielding toddlers or teenagers with the
hopes of being animators may sound like a disappointment waiting to
happen.

But thanks to Maija Burnett, dreams like those are being
fulfilled on a regular basis.

The 2005 graduate of the UCLA Masters of Fine Arts in Animation
program is now teaching animation workshops for children at the Los
Angeles International Children’s Film Festival. These
one-hour classes focus on teaching children the basics of several
aspects of animation, including traditional animation, stop-motion
animation and even the fundamentals of favorite Hollywood
characters.

Since her graduation a year ago, Burnett has been very busy,
working on films such as “Curious George,”
“Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties,” and recently
assisting UCLA alumnus Shane Acker on his film,
“9.”

But Burnett, who is now also a professor of the required English
Composition 3 course at UCLA, has been happy to add the
festival’s workshops to her plate, as they have been a great
opportunity to combine her passions for both animation and
teaching.

“I absolutely love teaching kids of all ages. It’s
really fun to kind of take the mask off how the process works
because they are really curious,” Burnett said. “They
see these films all the time, and they see special effects all the
time. So it’s nice (to show them) this is how you do
it.”

The second year of the annual festival, which was held at the
Los Angeles County Museum of Art last weekend and the weekend
before, opened with a 20th-anniversary screening of “Stand By
Me,” directed by UCLA alumnus Rob Reiner.

The rest of the festival featured over 100 youth-oriented
live-action and animated films from 30 different countries around
the world as well as question-and-answer sessions with various
filmmakers and actors.

“The whole idea of the festival is to introduce the kids
to different cultures, nationalities and filmmaking
techniques,” said Dan Bennett, executive director of the
festival. “We treat it as more of an arts and education
event, more so than an entertainment or celebrity event. The idea
is to really look at film more closely and help kids understand it
as an art form.”

Burnett’s workshops, teaching children how to animate, add
a finishing touch to the experience of animation.

“I think kids just really enjoy animation because
it’s so different,” Burnett said. “You
aren’t constrained by any of the rules that you are by
live-action film.”

Burnett helps children learn how films such as “Curious
George” are created by displaying 12 hand-sketched drawings
per second, and explains how films such as “Garfield: A Tale
of Two Kitties” are hybrids of live-action and animated
filmmaking.

To facilitate the learning process, she walks her students
through the creation of their own animated flip books.

“Seeing the films, hearing the filmmakers and then being
empowered to sit down and draw themselves I think is a good process
for (the children),” Burnett said.

Burnett has been a part of the International Children’s
Film Festival since it first came to Los Angeles last year. Her
four-and-a-half minute animated short, “Bubble,” a
project undertaken while she was still a student at UCLA, screened
at the festival.

“Bubble” was immediately well received, not just at
the festival in Los Angeles but at festivals in Vancouver, San
Diego and Chicago as well.

“We really liked “˜Bubble’ and we thought
(Burnett) would be a good person to teach animation since she had
so much experience,” Bennett said. “We were showing her
film at the festival and she just had a really great personality
for teaching.”

Profiles run every Tuesday in the A&E section.

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