Sheldon High animation students create ‘Tea Time’ animated short
November 2, 2011

Sheldon High animation students create ‘Tea Time’ animated short

SACRAMENTO, CA — The annual class project by animation teacher Shawn Sullivan’s class at Sheldon High School in Sacramento, California, is always a major highlight of the year. In fact, you never know when one of his classes is going to produce another Emmy.
Over the past decade, Sullivan's classes have landed three student Emmys, and his spring 2011 class is hoping for the same with their six-minute animated short titled “Tea Time.”

The work is intense and pressure-packed, but thanks to a professional studio environment supplied with Cintiq 12WX interactive pen displays from Wacom, students experience amazing creative control and ergonomic comfort by employing the same technology used by Hollywood’s elite animators and designers. “Tea Time” tells the story of two friends who disagree on what’s more important, playing tea party or eating chocolate chip cookies. It features impressive animation and colorization, and student animators give compelling personalities to characters Michael Boy and Little Tiffany.  (Watch the video on YouTube at  

Serving as executive producer in the advanced animation class, Sullivan guides his students in creating a professional workflow for each production. He commences each project by interviewing students for key positions, such as editor and art director, and defines the technology needed for the production pipeline. “Tea Time” is the first class production using the Cintiqs after school administrators purchased 36 Cintiqs for the class last year at Sullivan’s behest. “Everybody was in support of the concept that using the right technology is one of the best pathways to get from high school to college to career,” Sullivan notes. “Cintiqs have become an essential part of the professional animation workflow, and being able to train students on them from the start is ideal.” The Cintiqs provide seamless hardware-software interaction for students working with Adobe CS5, Autodesk's 3ds Max, and Toon Boom Animation’s software, and Wacom's innovative pen-on-screen workflow is ideal for training. With the Cintiq’s intuitive workflow—including non-dominant hand features for changing tools, zooming, and adjusting brush size in applications such as Adobe Photoshop—students quickly discovered how natural and easy it was to draw using the Cintiq interactive pen display. Students contend that the Cintiq removes the barriers between the artist and what the artist is creating.

“We were able to refine the look of ‘Tea Time’ and create multiple character iterations with amazing speed,” says one student. “It feels like drawing on paper, except that it's a lot more convenient and creative.” There is no question that the intuitive Cintiq workflow contributed significantly to the outstanding look of ‘Tea Time,’ Sullivan says. “Being able to draw, paint, and edit directly on the image allows students to work faster and make better creative decisions,” he adds. “When you combine professional tools with talented students, good things will always happen."

As their work on ‘Tea Time’ reveals, Sullivan's animation students are serious about their craft. He is particularly proud that at least one student from his class has been accepted at the prestigious California Institute of the Arts every year, and several Sheldon graduates have gone to work at places such as Cartoon Network and Pixar. In a true testament to the success of the program, several others undoubtedly will be following in their footsteps soon.