Exceptional Minds Joins Cartoon Network In Speaking Up to Bullies

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Students at vocational school of young adults with autism create seven animated videos for the network's Anti-Bullying, Speak Up campaign.

Who better to speak up against bullying than those who have been bullied? So goes the thinking behind a series of animated videos created for Cartoon Network by Exceptional Minds students, who are all on the autism spectrum and know first-hand the devastating effects of bullying.

The 2D animated shorts run seven seconds each and debuted last month on Cartoon Network’s Stop Bullying Speak Up! webpage. Students Andrew Turney, Madeleine Petti, Ezra Fields-Meyer, Ethan Altshuler, and Matthew De Lorimier as well as graduate Patrick Brady from the Exceptional Minds vocational school for young adults with autism tackled bullying in seven animated vines. The shorts include parodies of classic cartoon rivalries (such as cat and mouse and Coyote vs. Road Runner) to a David and Goliath scenario, a little fish bullied by a “big fish” and a quote by Abraham Lincoln. Narration for many of the shorts was done by voice actor Loren Lester, best known as the voice of Robin in “Batman: The Animated Adventures.”

The Exceptional Minds animators originated and created the shorts based on the Cartoon Network’s anti-bullying campaign and tagline “Speak Up to Bullying.” The students, who are pursuing careers in digital animation and visual effects, developed advanced skills in Adobe Flash and learned the principles of animation to create the seven compelling 2D animations. Each short has a different look and style, from classic cartoon to sketchy line to photo cutout, and each portrays a different way to “speak up to bullying,” with many of the students drawing on their own experiences of growing up with autism.

Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) display a range of behaviors that often make them a target for bullying. A national survey by the Interactive Autism Network (IAN) indicates that 63% of children with autism spectrum disorders between the ages of 6 and 15 have been bullied at some point in their lives.

“What better population than animators with autism to animate shorts about anti-bullying?” says Exceptional Minds Animation Director and Instructor Howie Hoffman.

The Exceptional Minds students expect to follow other graduates of the three-year program into the fields of digital animation and visual effects. Currently, the majority of the nation’s 3.5 million people with autism are unemployed or underemployed, according to government statistics. More than 500,000 U.S. children impacted by autism will enter adulthood during this decade, with one in 68 children to follow.

Exceptional Minds is the only vocational school and working studio to prepare and successfully place young men and women with autism in careers in the fields of animation and visual effects.

About Exceptional Minds (http://www.exceptionalmindsstudio.org): Exceptional Minds is a non-profit vocational center and working production studio for young adults on the autism spectrum. It was chartered in 2011 to provide the training necessary for creatively gifted individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) who may not otherwise be able to make the transition from high school to careers. Exceptional Minds offers technical proficiency and work readiness training that prepares students for careers in graphic arts, animation, web design, visual effects and rotoscoping. Located in Sherman Oaks, California, Exceptional Minds is both an instructional learning facility and a working studio with hands-on student involvement in production projects, many for the film industry.


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Dee McVicker
Grassroots Communications
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