July 3, 2014

Animator Teng “Eric” Cheng won for "Higher Sky"

At the John C. Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts, students are encouraged to not only embrace traditional forms, but to innovate and experiment with the forms using imagination, creativity and critical thinking.

It is with this kind of approach that helped the M.F.A. Animation student win the Animation Silver Medal at the 2014 Annual Student Academy Awards in June for Higher Sky, an animation using traditional Chinese styles and art forms.

He said winning the award further validates his ultimate goal of making an animation that speaks to a global audience.

“I will say this is award is a very important thing for me because it can improve my work, which could be accepted by audiences here,” Cheng said. “This is what I really care about.”

Cheng’s talents developed in his home country, China, where he completed a B.A. in computer animation at the Communication University of China and made two animations, which were well-received.

However, in order to make a popular commercial animation, he decided to attend SCA.

“I wanted to make global stuff,” Cheng said. “With that goal, I needed to go to another country that had a totally different cultural ideology.”

While working on his own projects at DADA, he used his knowledge of Chinese culture and style to set himself apart from other students.

“During my studies here I knew that if I wanted to do something outstanding, I needed to do something different, that belonged to me,” Cheng said.

Higher Sky’s animation style used traditional Chinese art styles, with swift brush strokes and water-colored images to tell a Chinese folklore involving a swallow and monkey.

“I tried to pick some Chinese elements to explain the story the way everyone could understand. I made it simple and old-fashioned,” Cheng said.

Cheng said he attributes much of the success of the award-winning animation to his production team and the professors in the division including professors, Michael Patterson Candace Rettinger, Tom Sito and Eric Hanson.  

One of the most important and lasting lessons Cheng learned from his professors at SCA is how to think about a story in a fresh way that speaks to audiences globally.

“The ideology, the way to tell your story, how to communicate with your audience, this is something I can not learn from other places,” Cheng said.

Cheng is currently finishing his master’s thesis, which involves a story about a human and mosquitos.