Students’ Film Raises Awareness of the Plight of Wild Wolves in the U.S.

June 16, 2022

This spring, UArts Animation students in Adjunct Assistant Professor Jason Hsu’s Client Animation class collaborated with the Humane Society of the United States to produce a compelling animated film that spotlights the many dangers wild wolves face. The project highlights the ecological benefits wolves provide and the threats they face from trophy hunters and wildlife management decisions. The film debuted in early May on the Humane Society’s YouTube channel.

Working with the Humane Society’s suggestions for the video’s tone, the students worked collaboratively to research and develop characters and create visuals and a storyboard. The students and representatives from the Humane Society also met regularly for feedback sessions, providing real-world experience in developing a film for professional clients.

“It was a real joy to work with UArts students in creating this film, which brings much-needed awareness to not only the cruelties and challenges that wolves face, but also an appreciation for the wolves themselves,” said Amanda Wight, the Humane Society’s program manager for wildlife protection. “Wolves are highly valued by Americans, and this creative and thoughtful film will inspire people to take action to protect this highly vulnerable species.”

“I think classes like this are a great opportunity for students to get experience working as a group while learning time management and communication skills,” Hsu said. “It was disturbing to learn how many wolves have been killed in such a short amount of time due to changes in protection status, but it’s great news to hear the courts are restoring some of those protections. I hope projects like this can help the Humane Society continue to bring awareness to how many threats they face.”

The film arrives at a critical moment for wild wolves in the U.S. In February, a federal judge overturned a 2020 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove wolves from the Endangered Species Act across most of the U.S., restoring federal protections for the iconic animals. While the ruling ended detrimental wildlife management practices in many states, it did not restore federal protections in the Northern Rocky Mountain region, which includes Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, and portions of Washington, Oregon and north central Utah. Currently, the Fish and Wildlife Service is considering relisting wolves in that region, where they are killed by the hundreds yearly.

“Through this project, I not only learned about wolves and the horrors they face, but also what it’s like to work with a client like the Humane Society of the United States and as a production unit,” said Jamir Smith BFA ’22 (Animation). “These are important skills that will aid my future career, and I’m thrilled I was able to learn them while working on such a worthy cause.”