Oak Mountain High students will soon be able to enjoy a class inspired by a recent graduate, and one few schools in the area can boast: animation.
The inspiration for that class, animator Cameron Morris, recently visited her alma mater as a guest speaker in her former teacher John Milton’s television production class.
“It’s nice to talk to high school students,” said Morris, who graduated in 2014. “It doesn’t feel like that long since I’ve been there. He’s got a great setup with lots of equipment. I’m excited for the students and just having that in a curriculum is such a great opportunity to explore all the different things that can come about through it.”
Morris, now 26, said she began considering animation as a career when she was around 16. While Oak Mountain High School did not offer any classes on animation, she did take traditional art classes to do some form of what she loved.
However, that will soon change. Milton said Morris is the inspiration in starting an animation program that will be offered in the 2022-23 school year. It will be the only one in the county and one of only a few in the state.
“Mr. Milton was one of the first people I talked to about wanting to study animation and wanting to get involved in this world I really didn’t know anything about prior to looking into it,” Morris said. “He took what I cared about very seriously, as he does with all of his students. He’s a big supporter and that’s what you need, especially when you’re a kid.”
Milton said Morris is an example of an Oak Mountain graduate doing some really cool things and said she has been helpful in developing the upcoming animation class.
“She came and spoke to the class and networked with our kids,” Milton said. “She’s someone our kids can connect with and she can give them advice that can turn into real life opportunities. Having her has been instrumental just for getting it off the ground and having a vision.”
Milton said the equipment is already in place for the Foundations for Arts and A/V class, which could assist students in continuing on a path for television production. Students will be able to take this class and could continue on a path for television production or animation and motion graphics.
“We are building the curriculum and getting all the pieces in place along with gauging student interest,” he said.
“When students take the foundations class, not only do they get to have a taste of animation, they also get to see if it’s something they really like enough to pursue.”
After graduating from OMHS, Morris attended Auburn University to study marketing and graphic design. She wanted to have a creative career and thought marketing was it, but the more she dug into it, the more she realized the creative part came from animation and graphic design.
“Originally I thought if you get a degree that’s pretty broad that’s great, because you’re not wedging yourself into a little place,” she said. “It was actually the opposite, because the more specific you are about what you like, the more things open up.”
Once she completed her undergraduate degree at Auburn, she headed to the Savannah College of Art and Design, and that changed her world, she said. While studying for her masters degree in animation, seeing others who have made it a career was helpful to her, she said.
“Once you study something you’re passionate about, it’s a new level of learning where you’re studying because you really want to and push yourself to be better than you were the day before,” she said. “Having that community was really important for people that are excited to make the impossible happen by having this be a career.”
She graduated from SCAD in August 2020, during the pandemic. She decided to move home and apply for jobs. She took several online courses with the School of Motion in order to keep the structure of going to class, learning and having a community.
From March until August 2021, she worked with movie making powerhouse Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), founded by George Lucas. In that role, from February to August 2021, Morris did animations for Apple Music for playlist covers.
“There were these playlist covers on Apple that had already been created and designed, and our job was to go in and replicate the images using whatever software we needed and make them move,” Morris said. “The most fun for me was listening to the playlist and understanding this is the intent of the playlist. I love music and giving personality to designs and it was great, I loved it.”
After that, Morris had an internship from September to December 2021 with the Los Angeles- and New York-based design studio Imaginary Forces.
Among the projects she worked on during her four month internship was one of the biggest movie blockbusters of the last year: “Spider-Man No Way Home.”
Morris got to assist one of the 3D artists and they created the movie posters for IMAX. She also worked on the title sequence at the end of the movie.
“The movie was successful in my eyes. It hits all the markers, especially for the people who are so into the details of the Marvel Comics. It was great to be a part of it, even if it was at the tail end,” she said.
Still working remotely in Meadow Brook, Morris started a temp-to-hire position Feb. 7 with a company called Brand New School. The studio based out of New York focuses less on entertainment and more on advertising. She said it’s nice to have a trial period where she does something for a few months to see if it’s a good fit.
In early March, Morris accepted a motion design job with Apple that is based in San Francisco that she will begin this month.
“I’ll initially be working with the App Store and create animation for the Today tab,” she said. “My team and I will design and animate elements of it for users to preview this function. There’s also talk of me animating for the Arcade tab as well.”