Gobelins L’École de L’Image is a prestigious Paris-based school of visual communications. It offers courses in Photography, Animated Filmmaking, 3D Animation, Motion Design, and Video Game Design.
The world renowned Cinéma Department of Animation traces its history back to 1975. Over the past forty years since its foundation by Pierre Ayma, the department has been playing a major role in the development of the European and global animation industry. It offers comprehensive courses that prepare students to work at all stages of the animation process: creation, design and production. Their courses also give special attention to character animation.
Talented graduates have established reputations with their artistic visions and developed skills. Many of the graduates are working with international animation studios such as Disney, Universal, Pixar, and DreamWorks, as well as in many prestigious animation studios around Europe to contribute significantly to the foundation and growth of the European animation industry. Former students include well-known distinguished individual artists Didier Cassegrain, Jean-François Miniac, and Pierre Coffin, to name but a few.
Creative and Technical Excellence
Well-structured teaching, a strong support system for the students, and a strict selection process of quality talent accompanied by students’ passions and efforts seem to be keys to a proven record that Gobelins keeps achieving.
Rigorous selection process
The difficulty of the entrance exam for the Animated Filmmaking course at Gobelins is widely known. Applicants usually have studied the arts two or three years before applying for Gobelins to be accepted, and they have to face multiple rounds of drawing tests as a part of the selection process. Odile Perrin and Aïda del Solar both admit that the selection process at Gobelins is very strict. Perrin says, “Animation is a way to communicate with drawings. You have to have really good drawing and technical skills to freely animate your creativity. Every professional who teaches and supports students pushes them to achieve their best in an artistic way.”
Perrin adds that Gobelins also tries to maintain diversity in artistic style among the students on top of their drawing skills to stimulate their creativities and have a good synergy among them. “It is important for us to recruit and choose students with great skill in different styles. We do not want the students to have the same style of animation.”
Learning both 2D and 3D animation
The curriculum of a four-year full-time degree for Animated Filmmaking is structured to ensure each student acquires solid technical skills as well as a good cultural understanding. Students learn every step of animation from story development, character design, storyboard, layout, use of lights, and sound design. They also have life-drawing classes supplemented by lessons in perspective, painting, and human anatomy.
Students learn both 2D and 3D animation to be able to express and animate their artistic visions at their own will. Del Solar says, “For example, they choose to make a film all in 2D, but they use a 3D for layout and placing the camera, then they work again in 2D. They are using both as tools.”
Graduates who acquire the necessary skills to express what they want can choose their career paths without any restraints. They have the skills to be able to join companies, work on professional projects, and adapt to changes in their future professions after completing the four-year course.
Not only the diversity of artistic styles is seen, as Perrin said, there is also a diversity of stories in the animations created by students and graduates. Questioning the thought process seems to be the crucial part of the studies behind these two characteristics.
Del Solar says, “I think that there is a kind of tradition being a rebel in France. You find and invent something new with things that are already there. During the creative process, students have to deal with contradictions, but they have the art and skills to be able to deal with those contradictions. When you discover something and are good at doing it, ask yourself ‘Why am I doing this?’ or ‘Why am I not doing this in a different way?’ There’s a spark in our students.”
Although it is not always easy to manage students who are asking questions all the time, as Del Solar acknowledges. Teachers treat these questions as important, and encourage students to think in classes.
Thinking is essential for students to be successful with their artistic styles in the world of animation industry, according to Perrin. This is because Europe does not necessarily have ample budgets for animation projects like in the United States.
Perrin says, “In Europe, the projects are much smaller than in the USA. At the same time, you can create a film with more freedom and be more creative, because you have to create within certain limitations. Another characteristic is that we have a tradition of having a strong relationship among stories, images and metaphors. Our graduates can create their own animations with strong passion and skills.”
Strengthening Pedagogical Innovation
Strong Tie with Professionals
According to Perrin and Del Solar, Gobelins’ programs take an innovative pedagogical approach. Students are given various opportunities during their school years. Gobelins nurtures students through every possible means such as teamwork, workshops, project-based courses, tutoring and self-training with specialised resources, interdepartmental projects and collaboration, professional assignments, final projects presented in exhibitions, publications, and international festivals.
Gobelins places importance on their professional ties with the industry. Students are presented with opportunities to learn the latest technology and tools that are used in actual animation studios, so as not to be behind the times. Perrin says, “The school is the only place where students can test something freely and have advice from professionals. Most of the teachers are not only teachers, but they are also working in companies and production studios. Students can learn everything used in professional environments.”
This is the reason why graduates are known to be at professional levels when they join the industry. Teaching staff from the school work hard to build and maintain professional networks for the students.
For example, the teaching staff comes to Cartoon Movie (a pitching event dedicated to European animation features) along with some of their students. Perrin and Del Solar explain that there are two objectives of their visit – one is to give students opportunities to learn how to pitch professionally, and another is to know the latest projects on which their graduates are working, and let their students learn about internship opportunities or help their career building.
Preparing Students to be Able to Collaborate among European Countries
One of the characteristics of the animation production scene is co-production within European countries, says Perrin. To help students learn to work collaboratively with other European countries, there is an initiative called “Animation Sans Frontières”. The participating schools are Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg in Germany, Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design in Hungary, The Animation Workshop in Denmark, and Gobelins L’École de L’Image in Paris. The program consists of a 4×2 weeks set of lectures and workshops, and is designed for junior European animation film and production professionals to understand the European and international animation industry and markets, and to acquire tools to develop, finance, and produce their own projects and careers.
Perrin explains the importance of this program that she coordinates. “When you are working in France, it’s very important to understand that we are in Europe, and to know exactly how to work for a European project. We try to get participants to work on European projects, and participants from each country learn how they can work together to make a European project. It is very interesting for the students to understand the characteristics of each different country in Europe.” Del Solar adds, “After this program, they can make a company together, or work together on a project. It’s a good way to learn together in Europe.”
The International Exchange Program
Nowadays, the animation industry is one of the unique industries open for people to work globally with their own technical, creative, and artistic skills. Gobelins has been trying to produce talent who can work in the global environment, as well as to have a strong establishment in Europe.
It is not easy for schools to integrate an international exchange program into their curriculum, as Perrin describes. “The cooperation must be based on the program and, in fact, it’s an academic exchange. We must combine the practices in our school and another school abroad. If it is too different, it makes it difficult for students to get their diploma or the skills they need to learn before graduation from Gobelins. So we make sure to look at the academic program of another school, to check when would be the best time to go and come back to their degree, before deciding to cooperate with other schools abroad.”
One of their efforts is resulted in a new degree program titled “Master of Arts in Character Animation and Animated Filmmaking.” Del Solar says, “It is open now for international students, but they have to have the same skills and degree as Gobelins graduates to join this new program.” This two-year full-time course will have a special focus on character animation. After completing exercises in writing, storyboard, and animation, students work on an open-themed studies in similar conditions practiced in the professional workplace.
Message for Prospective Students
As previously mentioned, the selection process at Gobelins is rigorous. To pass the entrance exam, “Just draw”, says Del Solar. “Draw, draw, draw, and never give up. I know that students love to draw because you have to draw 24 images per second for a scene. You really have to love to do it.” In addition to drawing skill, a good communication skill is required according to Perrin. “Making animation is a team work. Students are expected to have good communication skills.”