Who we are:

Rocky Mountain Animation Labs is a dynamic learning environment for a variety of animation techniques including 2D, Stop-Motion, Cut Out, and 3D CGI animation.  Our target student body are children and adults alike.  Courses will be available both in location-based classrooms and online using state-of-the-art Learning Management System software.

Why Animation?

Animation, as an art form, is becoming more and more prevalent in today’s society.  Over the years animation has exploded from a successful niche-form of entertainment to a $222 billion dollar per year juggernaut in the US alone.  In fact, according to MarketandMarkets, the Global Animation and Gaming Market was represented at $122 billion back in 2010 and is expected to jump to $242.93 billion by 2016.  Almost every form of motion-based entertainment from feature films to gaming uses some form of animation, whether 2D, Stop-motion, cut-out, or CGI and special FX.  In response to demand, the number of animation studios and animation employees must continue to rise, and the educational community must continue to develop talent prepared to fill this need.

Pre-college Animation Education

While 20 years ago there were only three viable college-level options for a program of study in animation in North America (Cal Arts, Sheridan College, and Rhode Island School of Design), today there are over three thousand college-level animation programs.  College-age students have many different animation educational paths to choose from.  Young adults, teenagers, and children have few, if any.  School-age children and young adults are becoming sophisticated consumers of animation – not only can they name the cartoons they enjoy watching, they can often tell you whether they are watching stop-motion animation, cel animation, or CGI.  In addition to having a nascent understanding of the specific animation technique, they are familiar with the studios, and sometimes the specific directors of these films:  They know if a film was made by John Lasseter at Pixar Studios or Hayao Miyazaki at Ghibli studios.  They  are not only hungry for new animated shorts and features, but also hungry for information on *how they were created*.  They want to learn animation.

Rocky Mountain Animation Labs’ will provide this opportunity through the use of dynamic, interactive, web-based curriculum and in-house classes.  Motivated children, teenagers, and young adults will have the opportunity to create animation using a variety of techniques including stop-motion, cut-out, cel animation, and 3D CGI all from their desktop computers augmented by low-cost art supplies and simple household technology.  All of our students will be exposed to a dynamic new pedagogical approach called the DEFINITE method (patent pending).  The method, which utilizes traditional animation processes, is an acronym for Dream, Equip, Fabricate, Investigate, Name, Implement, Take Account, and Enhance.  Variations of this method have been used successfully in classrooms both in the US and Europe.

Online Education:  Trending Up

Online education is a trend that is accelerating at an ever-increasing pace, with better and better results.  Research by the Online Learning Consortium for the year 2013 finds that:

   • 7.1 million of higher education students are taking at least one online course.

   •  The 6.1 % growth rate represents over 400,000 additional students taking at least one online course.

    •  The percent of academic leaders rating the learning outcomes in online education as the same or superior to those as in face-to-face instruction, grew from 57% in 2003 to 74% in 2013.

As of 2014 there were only 3 successful web-based animation education programs:  Animation Mentor, IAnimate, and AnimSchool.  Animation Mentor is the oldest and most successful, with an enrollment of 400 students per semester and an annual net income of $4,000,000.  The student body demographic for these online schools are pre-graduate, post-graduate, and early-career animation professionals, with an age range of between 18 – 40 years old.  The success of these online animation schools combined with the upward trend of online education in general suggests there is a large and growing market.

Curriculum and Course Structure

RMAL’s initial course offerings will include a series of four 10-week courses covering introductory, beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels in a particular style of animation.  Students will be able to decide on a particular “track” after the introductory semester:  Stop-Motion, cut-out, 2D, pixellation, or 3D CGI.  After successful completion of these 4 courses, they may enroll either in the “Short Film” or “Character Animation” series of courses.   All students will go through a short application process in which they will be asked to submit basic materials that demonstrate their capacity for success.  This application process is crucial for determining our target student’s ability to succeed, and to make sure classes are populated by enthusiastic capable students.  We want to make sure our online students can have the basic computer skills to work independently.  Applicants may opt to enroll in advanced-level courses of their choice.  This option will be available through advanced placement application.

At RMAL we believe that success and mastery of lessons and coursework is critical in fostering enthusiasm and motivation for ongoing learning.  Each lesson will be engaging and exciting, with outcomes that demonstrate the core concepts of each lesson in easy-to-complete short films and other assignments.  Course curriculum will be age-group defined for maximum educational success.  The lessons for 8 through 12 year-olds will by necessity be more accessible and require less time to complete than the coursework required of the 16 through 20 year-old students.


Short and Long Term Goals

RMAL’s marketing goal is to present animation as an art form worthy of the same extra-curricular expenditure as other art forms such as music or dance.  According to a recent RMAL survey, 90% of parents have paid for extra-curricular courses of study for their school-age children or teenagers.  39% of respondents state that they spend between $1000-$2000 or more per child per year, while another 32% spend between $500 – $1000 per year.  In this same survey, over 90% of respondents claimed that “they consider animation an artistic study worth exposing their child to”.  Another 84% said that they would consider “animation a valid career choice” for their child.  These responses support RMAL’s short and long terms goals.

RMAL’s 5-year plan is to approximate the success of Berklee College of Music’s Online offerings.  Berklee Music college began  as a private music college in the 1940s.  Berklee’s idea was to buck the trend of “classical” music training, choosing instead to employ professional musicians working in jazz, radio, and commercial music production as instructors rather than degreed academics.  Over the years the school developed a renowned reputation, and today they have parlayed this into a very successful web-based program.  Their offerings in degree and non-degree 12-week courses cost on average $1000.  Their web instruction utilizes a standard LMS (learning management system) augmented by instructor critique and asynchronous “office hours”.  Their online enrollment as of 2014 was 24,427 students.  RMAL, with a similar course and pricing structure is aiming for an enrollment of 10,000 students worldwide by 2019.

Our long term plans include establishing an ongoing animation arts institution – expanding our Durango campus to include adult education, summer camps, seminars, artist residencies, and teacher training workshops.  We see Rocky Mountain Animation Labs as a learning institution that exists and prospers well into the future.