3D animation as a way of addressing social issues

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
Degree programme
Master's Programme in New Media
The thesis focuses on producing a short 3D animation film on a social issue of the international division of labor. I have chosen this topic for the film because, in my opinion, it is at the same time the cornerstone of the world economy and one of the most tolerated and disregarded injustices that should get more public attention. My goal was to create a film appealing to wider audiences, not just artists and activists, but also effective in raising awareness and triggering further discussion and social change. To achieve this goal, I have conducted several types of research: a literature review on the problems of the international division of labor with two case studies, a content analysis of some of the most viewed and impactful animations dedicated to social and environmental issues, and a practice-based research, the artistic production itself. Along with the short film, the main results of the thesis are recommendations for independent artists and students willing to use 3D animation to call for changes in society. The key recommendations assembled in the thesis are: to allocate enough time for developing a short and effective narrative that would only include parts working directly on passing the intended message to the audience; to outweigh the heavy topic with appropriately used positive and entertaining elements; to make use of the strong points of 3D animation as a medium (story twists and visual styles not possible in the real world, non-human characters, amplified emotions and movements) while mitigating the weak ones (being regarded as something not serious and childish, the difficulty of passing complex meanings); to develop empathy in the audience as much as possible by making the narrative character-driven, setting the main character to be imperfect and easily relatable but changing and growing personally; not to overcomplicate technical solutions, in particular, in the areas of simulation and rigging. The validity of these recommendations comes from my personal production experience and the success of the animation films I analyzed. I hope that the recommendations or principles that I have assembled will be valuable for creating future animations addressing serious issues, both social and environmental, and will be developed further in these projects.
Lappalainen, Kai
Thesis advisor
Pohjavirta, Tatu
3D animation, social issues, international division of labor, 3D modeling, 3D texturing, 3D rigging
Other note
Media files notes: Invisible Servants Description: A short animation film by Alexey Nikolaev. The film was created as a production part of the master thesis “3D animation as a way of addressing social issues.” Aalto University, School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Department of Art and Media, The Media Lab, 2023. Media rights: CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0