May 15, 2019 3:05 PM
Dane Lisser

Student animations provide new attraction for zoo visitors

Scovill Zoo visitors can witness the impressive animation work of Millikin University Arts Technology students as they enter the park this summer.

On May 14, students from Millikin's Motion Graphics Animation course unveiled their artistic creations on an LED multimedia canvas called "Leaning Curve" made by Aaron McIntosh. Learning Curve is located at the edge of the sculpture park, near the entrance to the Scovill Zoo in Decatur, Ill.

This is the second time students from the course have exhibited their work on the canvas. In April 2018, Millikin and the Decatur Park District established a new partnership that highlights the work of Millikin arts technology students at Scovill Sculpture Park.

In an interview with, Jessa Wilcoxen, associate professor and chair of the Arts Technology Department at Millikin, said, "The pieces that were chosen from the media committee came from three students: Stephen Gardner, Allison Brannon and Carrie Thompson. We are very honored that their pieces were selected to be shown on the sculpture."

Stephen Gardner, a senior graphic design major from Illiopolis, Ill., created an animation feature about a man stranded on an island after an airplane crash. The feature also includes sound effects.

In an interview with the Herald & Review, junior Carrie Thompson, a graphic design/computer art major from Carbondale, Ill., said she was surprised to find out her piece would be included.

"Coming into Millikin, I didn't think I would have something this big, in the middle of Decatur," she said. "I created a poem based on late-night drives with my friends. I then made an animation based off of each stanza and line and added music to it."

At 20 feet tall, "Learning Curve" was unveiled in October 2017 and features an LED screen curved over a square pool of water. McIntosh said his vision was to have something that peeled up out of the ground to reveal more about the local community.

Throughout the Motion Graphics Animation course, students learned visual storytelling techniques, abstract shape creation and how to blend those with music and sound.

"The students had to pitch a theme and they chose the theme of 'Stories' which is something they felt would be great for the younger audience that attends the zoo," said Wilcoxen.

Allison Brannon, a junior graphic design major from Spring Valley, Ill., aspires to pursue a master's degree in animation after she graduates from Millikin. Her favorite technique is frame-by-frame, a technique that creates the illusion of movement by making incremental changes between every keyframe.

"This is the biggest thing my art has ever been on," Brannon said. "I'm glad I can contribute to the community."