Animating with the heart of a ‘Champ’

Passion comes in all shapes, sizes and clay. For music major Peter Zavala, stop-motion animation, specifically Claymation, has been a secret interest.
Zavala’s stop-motion feature will be the only student film entered in the national competition during the upcoming Gumby Fest hosted by Citrus College on Sept. 18, 19 and 20.
Stop-motion involves manipulation of three-dimensional objects animated frame by frame.
12 animation films will be judged at the stop-motion competition, including entries from Canada and the United Kingdom.
“This won’t be our last Gumby Fest,” said Matt Jackson art professor and Gumby Fest animation competition organizer. “It is a great vehicle to help get us launched into what could grow to be a very large competition. It has the potential to grow Comic-Con size.”
“Stop-motion is one ofmy favorite forms of filmmaking,” Zavala said. “Everything you deal with is real. You can make it surreal and bizarre. You can make it anything you want, but it is all really there.”
Zavala made his first stop-motion animation in 2012 using nothing but a Gumby action figure, a music stand and his iPod. The 30 second animation was of Gumby just walking across the screen.
Every year since his first attempt, Zavala has made an animated short.
“I would be really happy during the process, then get really discouraged because there was no purpose to it,” Zavala said.
Gumby Fest has provided him with an excuse to challenge his passion and creativity.
After watching a few of his animations, art professor Dyane Duffy encouraged Zavala to get involved with Gumby Fest.
The fact that he was majoring in music, not art, did not deter him.
“I have never taken an art class in my life, so I was stabbing in the dark,” Zavala said. “It almost killed me because I never made a long film before.”
Starting from the storyboard to submission day, Zavala worked for two months in his garage to create his five-minute film.
“The average day was six hours long and it was after work and school,” Zavala said. “I bought over a hundred pounds of clay.”
Zavala’s film focuses on a little mushroom named Champ,  “a lonely character who can not find his place.”
“It is a story of life, death and birth through mushrooms,” Duffy said. “You get his sense of humor through the piece. It is definitely Claymation, and there is something raw about it.”
For the competition, the films will be categorized as independent, academic college, and academic age films.
Each film was required to be under 10 minutes long with family friendly content.
All submitted films had to go through a selection process by a panel committee of industry professionals.
A winner will be selected in each category to receive $250 prize.
An overall grand prize of a Clokey trophy and $500 for “Best In Festival” will also be awarded.
Jackson is creating special awards for each submission in the Gumby Fest film competition.
“I want the awards to be tailored toward the special glimmer that each animator brought,” Jackson said. Each animator has a specific story that drives how the animation was made, he said.
The creative process for any stop-motion film is no easy task.
Zavala, like most animators, needed a team to help make his vision come to life.
Zavala wrote the theme and transitional music for the film. He also directed, designed and wrote the script for the film.
He turned to others who share his passion for animation and film to help him.
Jason Dominguez, former Citrus College student and Zavala’s friend, created the set design and inspired the voice and mannerisms of Champ.
Victor Zavala, aspiring artist and Zavala’s cousin, designed the storyboard, character design and edited the film.
Risa Ata, current Citrus College student and Zavala’s girlfriend, co-wrote the story, voiced acted, and suggested the idea of Champ being a mushroom.
“We were really serious about it.” Zavala said. “For what we had, and the amount of experience we had, it is good. Everybody had an enormous passion for it.”
“Champ: A Mushroom Tale” will be featured continuously at Gumby Fest on Sept. 18 and 19 in PA 192.
“I did it because it has always been a dream of mine,” Zavala said. “It is this clumsy lump of goo made into something cute. Of course you want people to like it. It is five-minutes, which is a long time to sit and hate something [especially a mushroom].”



Jaclyn Spencer is a second semester staff writer on the Clarion. She is journalism major who hopes to transfer to University of Southern California or Cal State Fullerton to purse a Master’s degree in Communications. Spencer dreams of one day becoming a producer in the broadcast or entertainment industry.