MTSU double feature focuses on professor’s animate...

MTSU double feature focuses on professor’s animated short films

The short films in MTSU’s latest double feature are home-grown: they’re new animated short films by Kevin McNulty, an assistant professor in the Department of Electronic Media Communication.

“Tethered,” the story of a lonely red balloon fighting oppression, and “Coffee,” a tale of the delicious brew mixed with consumerism and ignorance, will be screened Tuesday, Nov. 18, at 4:30 p.m. in Room 103 of the Bragg Mass Communication Building.

The screenings are free and open to the public. A searchable campus map with parking notes is available at

McNulty will be on hand to answer questions about the short films and the animation used to create them.

“Tethered,” which originated in 2009, was completed this summer. McNulty’s plan to explore an “otherworld” where balloons are alive began as a simple story of self-discovery but soon developed into a stirring portrayal of maltreatment.

Kevin McNulty

Kevin McNulty

“It’s about bullying and oppression as seen through the eyes of one balloon,” said McNulty. “It’s about how it can psychologically beat you down. The red balloon sees the atrocities going on, and it does something about it.”

Fellow mass communication faculty member Dr. Joseph Akins provided an original composition for the film. Otherwise, the film was a solo project; McNulty created, animated and rendered the film on his own.

McNulty’s writing, directing and producing efforts on that film convinced him to enlist help for “Coffee,” a commentary on consumerism and what McNulty calls the “don’t care where it comes from as long as it’s cheap, works and/or tastes good” mentality.

“I got smart on this one,” said McNulty. “I applied for the URECA (Undergraduate Research Experience and Creative Activity) Summer Teams grant in Spring 2014 and basically said, ‘Anybody want to make a film with me?’”

A group of MTSU animation students volunteered, and the team worked from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays beginning June 9. McNulty often came in on the weekends, too.

“The dedication was amazing,” the professor said. “Some students had jobs at night to go to after working on the film during the day.”

Senior Kelsie Richards even delayed her graduation until August to complete the film. Andie Ayotte, Derek Barnes, Chris Dyer, Simon Idiare Jr., Erin Thompson and Raphael Williams made up the rest of the student team.

MTSU assistant professor Kevin McNulty, far right, leads his digital animation students in a chorus of screams for the the soundtrack of his animated short film “Coffee.” Joining the professor are, from left, Kelsey Hoggard, Simon Idiare, Chris Dyer, Raphael Williams, Andie Ayotte and Michael Hegner (MTSU photo by Darby Campbell)

Jacob Loper, a member of the death-metal band Hell Forged, supplied the music, and Aaron Trimble, a graduate student in the Department of Recording Industry, helped with recording the vocal performances.

McNulty and the students provided all the voices for the film, creating a caffeinated 4.5-minute ride complete “with screams.”

McNulty earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from New York’s Rochester Institute of Technology and focuses on digital animation, motion graphics, stop-motion and traditional animation.

Currently an adviser for the ACM SIGGRAPH Student Chapter, McNulty also teaches Intermediate Digital Animation 3310, Advanced Digital Animation I and II and Animation Seminar I and II classes, where students create a 30-second short film over the course of two semesters.

“Coffee” is part of Nashville’s 2014 Artlightenment Festival, and McNulty plans to submit “Tethered” to film festivals too.

You can learn more about the animation program in the College of Mass Communication at

The red balloon that stars in MTSU assistant professor Kevin McNulty’s animated short film, “Tethered,” appears to have picked up a passenger in this scene. “Tethered” and a second film, “Coffee,” will be screened free at MTSU Tuesday, Nov. 18, at 4:30 p.m.

One of the scenes from MTSU assistant professor Kevin McNulty’s animated short film, “Coffee,” shows a coffee-bean family happily growing in the sun.