Animated Film Critique – Zootopia

By Lily Hamilton

Zootopia (2016) received a lot of buzz last year for being not only a very well-animated film, but also a socially relevant one. This Disney picture is up for Best Animated Feature Film at the 2017 Academy Awards and has already racked up a few other accolades, including the BAFTA award for Best Animated Feature. Zootopia tells the story of a young rabbit named Judy Hopps, whose attempts to prove that she can be a successful police officer despite her size land her in a lot of trouble. With the help of a con artist fox named Nick Wilde, Judy cracks a case that the rest of the Zootopia police force could not, and learns a thing or two about stereotyping and prejudice along the way. Though Zootopia’s attempts to be socially conscious are a bit heavy-handed at times, the film provides a good commentary on the social state of the world today. With clever quips about race and class embedded into the story, Zootopia offers audience members of all ages a solid hour and fifty minutes of entertainment.

The sound design of Zootopia is well done, as is expected in an animated film, since all sound can be recorded in a professional studio rather than on set. Zootopia offers a wide range of sound effects and voice acting work, as there are many different animals, environments and adventure scenes throughout the film. One example of Zootopia’s strong sound design occurs during the DMV scene, when Flash the sloth slowly runs a license plate. Since each of Flash’s movements are incredibly slow, the sound of each action is also slowed. His keyboard clicks are slow and spaced far apart, the sound of his stamp pressing into the paper can be heard distinctly, and you can hear every tiny tear when he rips off a piece of perforated paper. This drawn out, lingering sound design emphasizes Flash’s leisurely pace and makes the scene all the more frustrating. Attention to detail such as this is carried throughout the sound design of the whole film, whether the audio be fur moving in the wind or the walla of a press conference crowd.

Michael Giacchino composed Zootopia’s score, which features twenty one tracks. This is Giacchino’s first feature-length project with Disney, though he contributed to the music for The Incredibles, Inside Out and Rogue One, among others. Shakira sings the film’s original song “Try Everything,” which was co-written by Sia and Stargate. She also voices Gazelle, a politically active pop star, in the film. The score is successful in driving scenes forward as well as setting the tone for specific scenes and characters. “Try Everything” is catchy and was likely purchased on iTunes by today’s technologically savvy kids.

From a filmmaker’s perspective, the technical aspects of Zootopia are very strong. The audio matches up with the animation to create a believable, beautifully done film. Animation today is becoming more and more realistic, so it will be interesting to how the sound design changes with that in the next few years.  

Food Truck Frenzy Offers Fresh, Fun Lunches for Elon University Students

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Students enjoy food in front of Chirba Chirba Dumpling at Elon University’s Food Truck Frenzy. Photo by Lily Hamilton.

“Eat food, have fun,” as Elon University sophomore Jasmine Hager put it so eloquently, is a great way to sum up Elon’s Food Truck Frenzy.

Elon’s Student Union Board (SUB) and Elon Dining Services sponsored the event, which served up a variety of dishes from nine different food trucks today from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Koury Center/Center for the Arts parking lot.

“There’s more this year than last year,” Elon junior Teresa Kuhns said of the trucks as the event opened. “This whole area will be packed soon.”

Many people at the event were veteran food truck patrons who had visited the trucks in the fall and last spring.

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Dusty Donuts at Food Truck Frenzy. Photo by Lily Hamilton.

Charlotte Smith, coach of the Elon women’s basketball team, said this was her third time eating at Food Truck Frenzy. “I always enjoy the donuts,” she said. “That’s my favorite.”

SUB and Elon Dining Services first brought in the food trucks last spring, in the hopes of increasing the variety of food on campus. The nine food trucks serving up grub included Captain Ponchos, Chirba Chirba Dumplings, Soomsoom Pita Pockets, Baconessence, Bam Pow Chow, Parlez-Vous Crepes, Dusty Donuts and Jam Ice Cream.

Three trucks,  Baconessence, Bam Pow Chow and Parlez-Vous Crepes, are new to the Food Truck Frenzy roster. First-year Colton Cadarette, SUB’s creative distribution and marketing chair, said the new options were offered “just to increase variety and attract people who wouldn’t come otherwise.”

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Baconessence at Food Truck Frenzy. Photo by Lily Hamilton.

Jasmine Hager is a fan of the new trucks.“I went to Baconessence and got the bacon melt and it’s delicious,” she said.

Madeline Terry, an Elon junior, is appreciative of the variety Food Truck Frenzy offers the campus. “I like that it’s another option that’s on campus, but not the on-campus dining,” Terry said.

 

Bryan Baker, Elon University School of Communications’ Renaissance man, masters both sound and video

By Lily Hamilton

Bryan Baker’s career is in video production, but his passion is in audio. The sound of his words, and their distinct phrasing, has meaning. He speaks slowly, with conviction.  His words are not rehearsed; rather, they are a product of quiet, calm thoughtfulness.

A former high school rock music artist and amateur music video producer, Baker now sits in the main audio editing suite in the basement of McEwen Communications building at Elon University. The room is sparsely decorated. A series of vinyl albums lean on a shelf. This is where Baker spends much of his time, editing professional projects for the university and the greater community.

The inspiration for Baker’s career came from playing around with cameras in high school. Baker and a group of friends had a rock band around the same time he started taking video production classes. He took videos of himself and his friends playing music, camping and hiking, and incorporated the footage into his music videos. “We shot things we thought were pretty,” he said.

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Photo courtesy of Bryan Baker.

A degree in recording industry management at Middle Tennessee State University inspired Baker to focus much of his work on sound — a niche many video producers don’t have. After college, Baker worked as a recording engineer in Nashville. His main interest is in recording live performances. “You’re capturing real audio in high quality camera angles,” he said.

Baker has been working at Elon University for around 20 years. He has been the advisor for WSOE, Elon’s radio station, for almost as long. In addition to working with WSOE and creating promotional content for Elon University and local businesses, Baker teaches a video production class — Fresh TV — to Elon freshmen during their fall semester.

Baker first started teaching Fresh TV four years ago, which means his first class will be graduating this spring. “It’s amazing,” he says. “I’ve totally witnessed the transformation of these students.”

Baker’s passion for teaching is almost tangible. He leans in, elbows on his knees, to further discuss the achievements of his students. “They’re just doing incredible work,” he says. “It’s just awesome to see which direction they took from Fresh TV.”

Many of Baker’s projects are produced with the help of Elon students. His favorite part of working with students is the creative conversations he often has with them. “It’s just cool to be the first person who can have that interaction with them,” he says. “It’s rewarding.”

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Baker working with Elon communications students. Photo courtesy of Elon University.

His own mentor is Don Grady, the assistant dean of Communications at Elon University. “Whenever I go to Dr. Grady, I bring a lot of ideas to him,” Baker says. “He is not hesitant to tell me when I have a bad idea,” he laughs.

That’s the big difference between himself and Grady, according to Baker: Grady sees things in the big picture, while Baker is more project-oriented. “He’s always a calm and reassuring voice, and he has been working in the field of broadcast in the form of TV and radio for 40 years,” Baker says. It’s clear that Baker has adopted his mentor’s relaxed and reassuring demeanor.

Baker also values the way Grady interacts with his students. “Meeting with him has really affected the way I help encourage students,” he says. “He’s very good at breaking down complex situations.”

Baker often goes to Grady for advice and input on projects. “He has seen a lot of change in the industry, and at Elon as well,” Baker says.

More change at Elon is coming soon, in the form of a new building.

Baker has spent a lot of time with the new building already, collaborating with professor Vic Costello to figure out the needs of Elon’s School of Communications. He has visited other institutions in North Carolina to see what equipment works well at other schools and what doesn’t.

He excitedly spoke about the upcoming TV studio and control room renovations in the McEwen Communications building. “They’re gonna be fabulous. They’re gonna be great,” he says. “I’m incredibly excited.”

A true audiophile, Baker is most anxious for the arrival of the new microphone and speaker systems that will be installed throughout the building. “The way we move audio in this building is totally going to change,” he says.

Though Baker says the way we tell stories hasn’t changed much since his own college years, he comments on how much of an impact changing technology has on the projects students can produce.

“Technology has made it possible to do very professional work at a fraction of the cost,” he says. What used to be a linear, time-consuming process is now accessible and easy for students to do alone.

“I’ve learned so much,” Baker says of his experience at Elon.

The Onion deemed ‘most trusted news service in the world’

Or not. News satirist Scott Dikkers talks about creative inspiration and shares leadership tips with Elon students
By Lily Hamilton

The Onion can’t be trusted with the real news, but they can be trusted to make you laugh.

Scott Dikkers, one of The Onion’s co-founders, jokingly proclaimed the satirical news source to be “the most trusted news service in the world” in a lecture at Elon University Tuesday night before launching into a history lesson on all things The Onion.

He bought the newspaper from fellow University of Wisconsin classmates Tim Keck and Christopher Johnson after working as its editor in the late 1980s, and less than a decade later he launched TheOnion.com.

Dikkers emphasized the monumental effort it takes to excel creatively, and he described the type of person it takes to be a successful comedy writer: unusual people with thought-provoking stories to tell.

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Scott Dikkers speaking at Elon University. Photo courtesy of Elon University.

The Onion’s original staff was comprised of colorful characters from Dikkers’ community rather than professional writers. “They were smart, they were bitter and they had no prospects in life,” Dikkers quipped affectionately. He sought to hire people who were drawn to hard work.

He has found that the funniest people are the ones with the saddest stories. “Humor is a wonderful coping mechanism for anything life can throw at you,” Dikkers explained. “It’s a defense mechanism.”

Sometimes geniuses are difficult to deal with, but Dikkers said the art they produce is often worth the missed deadlines. “I wanted The Onion to be a safe place for them to do their work,” Dikkers said.

Dikkers’ attitude mirrors that of his offbeat employees. He described the happiest point of his career; ironically, it was at the same time that he was homeless and working until 2 a.m. each night. “I was doing work that was so rewarding and I was finally getting noticed,” Dikkers said of the time period following The Onion’s online success.

“If taking a risk means diving deeper into your mission, do it,” Dikkers urged his audience.

What started as a few friends putting together a college humor magazine became a decades old, globally known entertainment enterprise. Dikkers attributes much of that success to the type of people he aimed to hire: people who do what they want to do without hesitation.

“Trust your people,” he said.

Scott Dikkers’ comic strip, “Jim’s Journal,” can be found here, and his book, “How to Write Funny,” here. To see the latest in satirical humor, check out The Onion.

Keep up with the film industry through these 10 influential sites

By Lily Hamilton

Though celebrity gossip is everywhere you turn, real information on the film industry is harder to come by. Aspiring filmmakers should frequent these websites for information on upcoming films, as well as tips on how to navigate the business side of showbiz.

IMDb
imgres-1.jpgIMDb, the Internet Movie Database, is a great place to start if you are looking to learn more about the film industry. http://www.imdb.com/ provides updates on not only upcoming movies and celebrities, but the film community as well. It’s a solid source that the pros use — you can even get a subscription to unlock more information on specific films and actors.

 

Variety
imgres.pngVariety offers updates on the latest news in the film industry. With behind-the-scenes articles and videos on the work that goes into specific films, as well as articles detailing upcoming film festivals and projects, http://variety.com/ is a great entertainment news source.

 

The Hollywood Reporter
Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 9.54.16 AM.pngThe Hollywood Reporter sounds like a celebrity gossip source, but the site is actually full of information on upcoming films, as well as movie reviews to check out before going to see the latest Oscar nomination. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/ also offers trailers on its site, so you can preview new movies.

 

Roger Ebert
Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 9.53.59 AM.pngRoger Ebert is a true classic in terms of film review sites. If you are looking for honest reviews written by die-hard movie fanatics who know great films from poor ones, http://www.rogerebert.com/ is the place to go. Unlike Rotten Tomatoes, this site has one critic per film, which provides you with a more cohesive review.

 

Rotten Tomatoes
Screen Shot 2016-04-23 at 6.05.13 PM.pngRotten Tomatoes is like Roger Ebert’s younger sibling. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/ is another review site in which professional critics and other users can submit reviews of the latest films. What’s great about this site is that it provides you with an overall critic rating, as well as an audience score, so you can compare what critics think of the movie against the general public’s opinion. The site also links you to critics’ websites, so you can read their other reviews.

 

Indiewire
Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 9.53.52 AM.pngIndiewire is an entertainment news site with a focus on smaller-budget independent films. http://www.indiewire.com/ focuses on Sundance and Cannes Film Festival winners as well as big-budget films. If, like me, you’re interested in independent or foreign films, this site is the place to go for your cinema news!

 

Gawker Entertainment
Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 9.54.37 AMWhile Gawker itself is a rather gossip-heavy news source, its entertainment page, http://gawker.com/tag/entertainment, is a great source for anything from industry salaries and new technology to reality TV news and broadcast streaming how-tos. If you’re looking for a lighthearted, varied site, check out Gawker Entertainment!

 

Entertainment Weekly
imgres-1.pngWhile Entertainment Weekly is another gossip-heavy site, it’s a great place to go to get the latest on Hollywood news, especially if you just want a quick sense of it. http://www.ew.com/ is full of funny celebrity videos, photo galleries, TV recaps, and links to their partner sites, which often have even more entertainment news. While EW has a television focus, it’s still a great site to visit for a general sense of upcoming projects.

 

Rolling Stone
imgres-2.pngRolling Stone is a more generalized entertainment site, but its “movies” page is full of reviews, lists, and articles on movies and actors alike. The publication is known for focusing on alternative, edgy projects, so if you want to impress your friends with original articles on the film industry, http://www.rollingstone.com/movies is a great place to look.

 

Movies.com
Screen Shot 2016-04-23 at 6.07.31 PM.pngKeep it simple. This site is a one-stop shop for movie trailers, news and ticket purchasing. If you’re looking for the most basic information on upcoming films, such as box office stats, what films have just come out on BluRay or where to see that new comedy, http://www.movies.com/ is the first place you should go.

Meg Lowman addresses underdog scientists in talk at Elon University

By Lily Hamilton

“I’ve actually learned a lot more about people as a scientist than biodiversity,” Meg Lowman said.

Lowman, the Director of Global Initiatives, Lindsay Chair of Botany and Senior Scientist in Plant Conservation at the California Academy of Sciences, proved she knows a quite a bit about both subjects in a talk at Elon University Wednesday night.

The scientist, who has over 30 years of experience in the fields of biology and ecology, specializes in canopy studies. Half of the biodiversity on land lives in the treetops, Lowman stated, and her discipline allows her to examine the insects, birds and flora that inhabit the top branches of forests across the globe.

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Meg Lowman speaking at Elon University. Photo by Lily Hamilton.

While Lowman’s primary job is in ecology, her second job is acting as a role model for women and minorities in science.

“We still don’t have an overwhelming number of women in our textbooks,” Lowman commented. Women make up over half of the global population, yet their presence in the world of science is lacking. “Usually there are only a handful of women people know about,” she said of female scientists.

Lowman encountered the gender imbalance early in her scientific career. She recounted her experience as a young girl entering a New York science fair: she won second place in a sea of 500 bright students. The catch? Out of the 500 participants, Lowman was the only female.

“I had to work twice as hard,” Lowman commented in regards to gaining prominence as a woman in a male-dominated field. She encourages female scientists to support each other’s careers and makes it her mission to inspire scientists of all genders, races, ages and socioeconomic backgrounds to pursue their passion.

“Kids don’t grow up with any understanding of what lives in their ecosystems,” Lowman said, emphasizing the importance of environmental education as a critical aspect of elementary and secondary education. “From the mouths of students come the truth,” she said. The more scientifically educated students are, the more change they can make in the future.

In addition to women and the youth, Lowman seeks to educate people living in Third World countries about the environment. During a trip to Ethiopia, she did this through religion.

“I want to conserve biodiversity, they want to conserve all of God’s creations,” she said of the 200 priests she workshopped with while abroad. Western scientists should make their work more accessible to people in other countries, Lowman stated.

“Our science needs to be applicable to global problems,” Lowman stated toward the end of her presentation. Weaving science into bigger ideas, such as religion, inspires interest and understanding from more people, she said.

“We need to write for more than just our peers in science,” she commented. Her publicly released book, “Life in the Treetops,” is printed in multiple languages.

“Explore, explain, and sustain life:” that is the California Academy of Sciences’ mission, and Lowman takes this very seriously, with the hope of extending the same motto to an array of diverse scientists around the world.

To learn more about Meg Lowman, visit her website here: http://canopymeg.com/. Her book, “Life in the Treetops: Adventures of a Woman in Field Biology,” can be found here.

Elon University’s Loy Farm working to create a greener community through solar energy

By Lily Hamilton

Elon University’s collaboration with Duke Energy is a sustainable partnership in more ways than one.

Jessica Bilecki, Loy Farm’s Education and Outreach Coordinator of three years, led Elon students on a tour of the farm Wednesday.

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Jessica Bilecki in front of Elon’s solar farm. Photo by Lily Hamilton.

Elon University purchased Loy Farm in 2000 and mainly used it for biology classes until 2011, when the AgroEcology program increased student engagement. In 2012, Elon students helped build up the farm into what it is today: an interactive area that proudly houses a solar farm, environmental center, design studio and agricultural space.

The solar farm, leased by Elon University to Loy Farm Solar LLC, boasts 9,900 solar panels and produces 4,500 megawatt hours (Mwh) of electricity per year. To put that into perspective, the solar panels produce enough energy to power 415 U.S. homes each year, according to Bilecki.

Among all of Loy Farm’s projects, the solar farm is the one that piqued the interest of Bilecki’s tour group — and the interest of Duke Energy.

“Any time you do something like this, you have to develop partnerships to be successful,” Bilecki said of Elon University’s collaboration with Duke Energy, a local for-profit sustainable electric and gas company. Elon University and Loy Farm have agreed to sell the solar-generated energy to the company, who ties it into the power grid through transformers.

Duke Energy uses energy from the campus’s solar panels to power the surrounding communities. However, there is potential for the university to purchase the solar farm for its exclusive use after 15 years. Right now, the solar panels power roughly 10 percent of Elon University’s annual electrical use.

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A look inside one of Loy Farm’s greenhouses. Photo by Lily Hamilton.

If the university were to purchase the solar farm in the future, it would help offset the campus’s carbon emissions. By 2037 Elon University hopes to have carbon neutrality, or a net zero carbon footprint. This is a long and difficult process.

“If we change our behaviors and use less, this type of technology could be producing more,” Bilecki said of the campus’s solar energy farm. By reducing emissions and becoming more energy-conscious as a whole, the campus will greatly increase its carbon credits. “In 15 years, when we’re a lot closer to the 2037 date, we’re going to want those credits,” Bilecki said.

The solution to total carbon neutrality is complicated. Otherwise, it would already be solved. In the meantime, Elon University and Loy Farm will continue to work with Duke Energy to model sustainability for the town of Elon and beyond.

For more information on Loy Farm and its upcoming projects, visit: http://www.elon.edu/eweb/academics/elon_college/environmental_studies/farm/default.xhtml.