McNulty and students debut two original animation shorts


A scene from Tethered

The story of a lonely red balloon fighting oppression; a tale of coffee, consumerism and ignorance.

These are the subjects of two new animated short films by filmmaker and Electronic Media Communication assistant professor Kevin McNulty.

The films, Tethered and Coffee, will be shown as a double feature on Tuesday, Nov.18, at 4:30 p.m. in Room 103 of the Mass Comm building. McNulty will be on hand to answer questions about the shorts and the sometimes painstaking animation skillfully applied to the films.

Tethered, a project conceptualized by McNulty in 2009, was completed just this past summer. Exploring an “otherworld” – where balloons are alive – first began as a simple story of self-discovery, but soon developed into a stirring portrayal of maltreatment.


A scene from Tethered

“It’s about bullying and oppression as seen through the eyes of one balloon,” McNulty said. “It’s about how it can psychologically beat you down. The red balloon sees the atrocities going on, and it does something about it.”

Musician and fellow Mass Comm faculty member Joseph Akins provided an original composition for the film. With the exception of the music, the film was a solo project. McNulty created, animated and rendered the film all on his own.

With Coffee, also written, directed and produced by McNulty, he decided to enlist help.

“I got smart on this one,” he said. “I applied for the URECA Summer Teams grant in Spring 2014 and basically said, anybody want to make a film with me?” URECA stands for Undergraduate Research Experience and Creative Activity.

Kevin McNulty

Kevin McNulty

McNulty handpicked a team of animation students, all volunteers, and asked for a commitment through the summer. Beginning June 9, the team worked from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday for most of the summer. McNulty often came in on weekends, too.

“The dedication was amazing,” he said. “Some students had jobs at night to go to after working on the film during the day.”

One student, Kelsie Richards, even put off her graduation until August to complete the film.  The rest of the student team consisted of animation students Andie Ayotte (’14), Derek Barnes, Chris Dyer, Simon Idiare Jr., Erin Thompson and Raphael Williams.


A scene from Coffee

Coffee is a commentary on consumerism, a look at the “don’t care where it comes from as long its cheap, works and/or tastes good” mentality that exists in the world today. McNulty decided to concentrate on one product – coffee.

Jacob Loper, a member of the heavy death metal band Hell Forged, supplied the music. Recording Industry graduate student Aaron Trimble helped with recording the vocal performances. Students and McNulty all provide the voices for the film.  The result is a four-and-a half-minute coffee ride – “with screams.”

McNulty graduated with an M.F.A. from New York’s Rochester Institute of Technology in 2006 after completing his undergrad at SUNY Geneseo. His focus is digital animation, motion graphics, stop motion and traditional animation. An adviser for the ACM SIGGRAPH student chapter, McNulty teaches Intermediate Digital Animation 3310, Advanced Digital Animation I and II, and Animation Seminar I and II classes, where students create a 30-second short film over the course of two semesters.

Coffee is already at the festivals, showing at the ArtLightenment Festival in Nashville on Nov. 13. McNulty plans to also submit Tethered and hopes it will be traveling the circuit in the near future.

For more information about the animation program in the College of Mass Communication, please click here.

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Categories: Events, Faculty, Students

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