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Media Design School film screening at Comic-Con International: San Diego

Media Design School has received the accolade of having Prickly Jam, a film made in collaboration with students at Media Design School, screened at the world famous Comic-Con International: San Diego on Saturday 23 July.

Since its inception in 1970, Comic-Con International has developed into one of the biggest pop culture events in the world, with hundreds of thousands of visitors expected at the San Diego Convention Centre this weekend for the first in-person festival since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The screening at Comic-Con continues the runaway success of Media Design School’s Prickly Jam, a story about a cricket living in a dystopian world who meets a hedgehog while trying to find love. To date it has been selected for over 17 worldwide festivals, picking up awards at the NZ Show Me Shorts and the South Dakota Film Festival, among others.

Prickly Jam was the capstone project made in the students’ final year of their Bachelor of Art and Design studies at Media Design School. “Doing the short film in your third year [of studies] really emulates a studio environment” says Media Design School graduate Darcy Black, who worked on Prickly Jam. Black continues, “Certainly good to get that experience in before you go out to industry”.

Black is now working as a Digital Artist at Blockhead, an Auckland-based film and AR studio. Black said he appreciated the teaching style at Media Design School. “Learning how to work properly as a team in that production environment was a great moment for me.”

Antony Thomas, who worked on the film with Black, is now working at Wētā Digital as an Assets Pipeline Technical Director. Thomas was excited about Prickly Jam going to Comic-Con. “Awesome to see the stuff that you’ve sweated away at in a dark room for so long to finally be unveiled and see what you’ve worked on come to life. It’s cool to see people’s reaction to it, to see people laugh at the jokes.”

Anastasiia Diachuk, another MDS alumni working at Wētā Digital (as a Motion Tracker) was similarly proud of the deserved recognition the film is receiving from across the globe. “I wouldn’t be where I am right now if it hadn’t been for Prickly Jam, honestly. I’m grateful and proud to have Pricky Jam on my showreel and truly happy that after two years, Pricky Jam keeps finding its recognition on the biggest screens like Comic-Con. I couldn’t be more proud of our team!”

Other graduates who contributed to the VFX in Prickly Jam have also gone on to launch their careers in the industry at studios including Luma Pictures (Australia), Cause and Effects and Pixel Soft with an additional three employed at Wētā Digital, and three more working at Blockhead VFX.

Associate Dean at Media Design School, Steve Dorner, gave his thoughts on the Comic-Con accolade: “We are really excited to see Prickly Jam screened at Comic-Con this year. This is the fourth Media Design School film shown at the Comic-Con conference and we feel immensely honoured each year when our films are selected. Comic-Con is such an incredible showcase for international talent and is just amazing to see the collaborative work produced by our faculty and students acknowledged by the Comic-Con judges. I am so proud of everyone involved in the production and so happy to see the hard work and dedication they have put into the film recognised as meeting the high standard required to be shown at this prestigious event.” 

James Cunningham, director of Prickly Jam, amongst many other Media Design School productions, will be attending the expo this week, kicking off in San Diego from Thursday 21 July – Sunday 24th July (PDT).

About Comic-Con International: San Diego
Comic-Con International: San Diego is a non-profit educational corporation dedicated to creating awareness of, and appreciation for, comics and related popular art forms. The Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival (CCI-IFF), is a four-day event that highlights the best in genre-related filmmaking. Some CCI-IFF films have gone on to greater glory with distribution and creative deals at major studios for the films and filmmakers. For information go to:

About Media Design School
Media Design School was established in 1998 and is the New Zealand’s highest ranked school of animation. It is distinguished by its close relationships to industry, and the first school in New Zealand to offer a dedicated programme of study in 3D Animation and VFX. In 2022 it ranked #2 in animation schools across Australasia and #10 in the world.*

*Animation Career Review, 2022

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