Tags: Alumni,  Animation & Visual Effects,  Illustration,  Visual Development

Alyce Tzue's 3D animated short film Soar is amassing awards as it flies through the festival circuit. Tzue, a 2014 MFA graduate of the Academy's School of Animation & Visual Effects, developed the film as her thesis project. Soar's accolades so far include first place, Student Animation, Palm Springs International ShortFest; BAFTA Award finalist; first place in Animation, Short Films, at the USA Film Festival...and now, the 2015 Gold Medal Student Academy Award, presented to Tzue by Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter!

Watch the official trailer above.

An Epic Collaboration

To create Soar, Tzue leveraged the impressive opportunities for artistic collaboration available in the Academy’s thriving creative community. “Over 100 people touched it, and we were able to make something cohesive that doesn’t look like a student film,” she says. “All the work that went on behind the scenes is part of movie magic.” With a compelling storyline and clear vision for Soar, Tzue had no difficulty involving students, faculty and professionals in the project. Team members from the schools of Illustration, Visual Development, and Animation & Visual Effects contributed specialized skills—including modeling, surfacing, texturing, and lighting—throughout the animation process.

“It’s wonderful that Alyce was able to realize her vision through the combined efforts of the Academy of Art University
community,” says Animation & Visual Effects Graduate Director Tom Bertino. “Our program is designed to mirror the collaborative atmosphere of a professional studio, and the fact that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has recognized the results is a tremendous tribute to the talents of our student body and the dedication of our faculty.” Academy of Art University previously saw 2010 MFA alumni Lisa Allen, Bernardo Warman and Shaofu Zhang strike gold at the Student Academy Awards with their 2011 animated short, Dragonboy.

Path to Production

As Tzue worked toward earning her MFA in Animation & Visual Effects, the idea for the film took shape and transformed in unexpected ways. Storyboarding and preproduction classes, taught by Bob Steele and Animation & Visual Effects Executive Director Chris Armstrong, had a great impact on her. “The story always resurfaced at the end of those classes stronger than it’d been in the beginning,” says Tzue. “Those courses taught me to trust the process. Constant questioning and experimenting—especially at the very beginning—is not a bad thing.” Tzue produced the film under the guidance of Associate Director of Animation & Visual Effects Derek Flood, whose studio classes are designed for higher-level students ready to apply their education in a fast-paced production environment similar to a professional studio.

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About the Director, Alyce Tzue

"Don't be afraid to let your project grow and evolve. It will not end up being exactly as you imagined, and it shouldn't be, especially if you are taking in good feedback. But it might just turn out better than you expected."


As writer and director of Soar, Tzue managed the project from conception to conclusion, including storyboarding and designing the animatic and layout. She supervised a team of seven animators and also animated 22 of the shots herself. “My primary responsibility was to come up with a clear vision, and then guide the team to execute that vision.”
Other Notable Alumni

Official Trailer

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Associate Director of VFX, Derek Flood

"Soar is a great example of how our collaborative classes can help prepare students for work in the best animation studios."


Derek Flood is an award-winning expert in classical and computer animation. Derek’s Studio  classes were responsible for much of the look of Soar. “We had teams of over 50 VFX students working on the look and lighting for Soar in those classes,” Derek explained. “That’s something that I think really sets the program at the Academy apart: Students get to work on top of the line projects, and learn to work together in a team to produce great results. That’s the perfect recipe for getting a job in the animation industry, and it’s wonderful to see – first with BAFTA, and now with the Student Academy Awards – people taking notice of the great work our students are doing here.”
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