Virtual bridge spans gender gap in computer animation

The extra credit assignment in Robert Lonergan’s high school computer animation class boiled down to this: create an animated fight scene with three stick figures in a minimum of 100 frames.

Heather Francis, a sophomore at South Grand Prairie High School, shows a boy and girl standing near a car, a heart floating above them in the sky. Another girl approaches them because, as Heather put it, “It’s a love triangle.”

The girls in her scene find out the boy dated both of them at the same time. They think about fighting each other but instead decide to gang up on the guy.

“I thought I’d put a little story in mine,” said Heather, one of 12 girls in Mr. Lonergan’s class of 26 students.

Heather represents a still small but growing number of girls statewide who are enrolling in animation classes where students learn the basic tools for creating animated films and video games.

Men still dominate the growing field, but industry observers say women are making gains in part because of interest from the younger generation.

“We are seeing a small but definite increase in women entering both the artistic and engineering ranks at our studio out of undergraduate and graduate programs,” said John Tarnoff, head of show development at DreamWorks Animation.

He and others say such programs at the high school and college level are important to introduce students to new technology.

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