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Getting animated about Summer Research

Theatre professor Ken Parks and John Ruml '17 hang out with their animated counterparts.

Theatre professor Ken Parks and John Ruml ’17 hang out with their animated counterparts.

As evidenced by the popularity of children’s movies like Finding Dory and adult TV shows like Family Guy, the animated film industry is thriving. This summer, John Ruml ’17 is getting a behind-the-scenes look at the booming business by creating his own series.

John Ruml '17 and theatre professor Ken Parks get a sound sample from the fountain in Michels Plaza.

John Ruml ’17 and theatre professor Ken Parks get a sound sample from the fountain in Michels Plaza.

Ruml is working on a Summer Research project with theatre professor Ken Parks to create and develop six short stories, each with a signature look, sound, and theme. The pair is experimenting with different kinds of animation, including digital, Claymation, and hand-drawn scenes, as well as animated soundscapes.

“What’s cool to me about animation, as cliché as it sounds, is that really the possibilities are limited only to what you’re able to imagine,” Ruml said. “Some of the stories you can tell are impossible to create in any other medium.”

For each story, Ruml and Parks have created and developed characters, including a robotic superhero and a stereotypical elderly driver. In the Claymation story, two characters with opposite attitudes about life meet on a set Ruml built himself.

“The two of them are looking at the same building, and while one is always seeing the colorful, bright side, the other is looking at the gloomy, dark side,” Ruml said. “I thought it would be an excellent story for a Claymation because the physical dimension of the building is very clear and it’s not a motion animation, it’s a constructed set.”

Ruml and Parks SRPParks said the project is a great partnership because of his and Ruml’s mutual interest in the subject. At the conclusion of Summer Research, they plan to publish their videos on YouTube and submit them to animated film festivals. They also plan to continue working even after the eight-week Summer Research program has ended.

“John is very interested in sound and has been looking for more ways to delve into it, and the best way to learn that kind of technology is with hands-on practice,” Parks said. “I’ve done some film and video work in the past, and a little animation for shows I’ve been in, but I’ve always wanted to develop something on my own, so it seemed like an ideal time for both of us to try this out.”

A theatre and classics major, Ruml has plenty of previous experience in storytelling as well as lighting and sound design. Most recently, he was master electrician for Randolph’s production of The Maids, and played Duke Orsino in Twelfth Night.

Upon graduation from Randolph, he plans to pursue a career in teaching or continue his creative work.

“This project is giving me a better understanding of the process it takes to create a show and make a project go from just ideas into reality, and I hope to bring that with me into the post-Randolph world,” Ruml said.



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