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Sandy Journal

After-school 3D animation classes offer new skill set early on

Feb 01, 2018 08:57AM ● By Keyra Kristoffersen

Dan Hill teaches students the basics of 3D animation. (Dan Hill)

Kids as young as 5 and 6 years old are being offered the opportunity to learn a new skill set in 3D computer animation from Sandy company Paper Plane Productions.

“There’s really no ceiling to how young you can start learning this,” said Dan Hill, a former commercial artist and former art director for the Waterford Institute. He pushed to incorporate 3D animation classes after the success of movies like Pixar’s Toy Story. “There is not a single movie that we go to nowadays that does not have a single piece of 3D animation.”

Hill and his partner, Lindsay Higbee, started up Paper Plane Productions in 2011 when they both left the Waterford Institute to pursue their own production company. However, soon after opening, Hill found himself missing teaching. With a quick expansion and new computer lab in 2012, Paper Plane Learning was created. 

“I started teaching classes here using the same basic principles that we taught in the AP classes and college level material that we’re giving to kids as young as 6 years old,” said Hill, who was amazed at the level of creation even the youngest children could come up with in as little as six months. 

The general age group of students is between 9 and 18, but all ages are welcome to sign up and sometimes, Hill said, parents and kids will take classes together. The computer lab is equipped with 12 computers, tablets and styluses for each student, and they have access to all of the software needed to create characters, games, commercials and movies, as well as 3D printing. 

Paper Plane Productions, along with its work in 3D animation, video production, aerial videography and photography, also houses an audio studio where students can create and record the voices of their characters and sync them together. They can even create custom music to pair with their animations.  

“They get a full experience of what it is to work at Pixar or Disney or Sony,” said Hill. In fact, some of their students have gone on to those big-name multimedia production companies. “We’ve had kids who have been coming for years and they’ve learned to work together with each other as a team, and that’s another skill that you’re going to need if you want to work in a studio.”

Hill has insisted that the classes be affordable and accessible for all ages, providing everything a student needs to get at least the basic understanding of how animation works and affects modern life. In addition to the three-month series of classes taught four times throughout the year that cost $20 per class, anyone interested is welcome to stop by any of the free introduction classes taught in Sandy and various public libraries all over the Salt Lake Valley. Classes are taught after school so students who are interested in learning creative options have the opportunity, just like with sports and drama. 

Hill said the competition is so huge with technology constantly changing that by the time most kids get to high school or college, unless they’ve begun a program of study, they’ll mostly be playing catch-up, making the need to start them off with the foundations and basic skills at a younger age more urgent.

“So for those kids that are really serious about a career in animation, this is a really good springboard,” said Hill. “It’s part of our lives and now it always will be, and it’s fun to show these kids what is involved in producing it.”

For more information about Paper Plane Learning classes, visit