Skip to Content (Press Enter)

From Sketches to Success: Pencil Mileage Club Sharpens Art Students’ Skills

Share This:

With an illustration portfolio of more than 20 children’s books, including collaborations with Penguin Random House, Disney, Hasbro, Nickelodeon and NBC, Cal State Fullerton alumna Eren Unten attributes much of her professional success to the opportunities provided by the university’s Pencil Mileage Club

Eren Unten

Since 1996, PMC has provided a space for aspiring animators and illustrators to build skills, collaborate and forge lasting friendships. The club also offers opportunities for students to visit studios and network with industry professionals.

“Some of the fondest memories I have are the studio visits and working late in the animation room with friends,” shared Eren ’03 (B.F.A. art-entertainment art/animation). “Another fond memory is how I got to hang out with the person who would later become my husband.”

Her husband, Wayne Unten ’03 (B.F.A. art-entertainment art/animation), has been a character animator at Walt Disney Animation Studios since 2005. He has worked on films like “Bolt,” “Frozen,” “Wreck-It Ralph” and “Moana.” Most recently, he was the head of animation on Disney’s new film, “Wish.” 

He, too, acknowledges PMC’s influence on his career. Despite his busy schedule, he remains connected through the club’s social media and Disney Animation Studios outreach events.

Wayne Unten ’03 (B.F.A. art-entertainment art/animation)

“As a past member of Pencil Mileage Club and a CSUF alum, I enjoy talking to students whenever I have a chance,” said Wayne. “I remember how challenging learning animation could be, but also how fun and inspiring it was to attend talks from those working in the industry. 

“Animation is a craft, and like any craft, the knowledge of it is passed down from one generation to the next,” he said. “It’s always a pleasure when I get to be a part of that.”

Unleashing Student Creativity 

As one of the largest and oldest student organizations in the College of the Arts, PMC prepares students to thrive in the animation industry. The couple praises PMC not just for its professional impact but for creating a community of enduring personal support. To this day, the Untens remain close with friends they met through the club. 

“Pencil Mileage Club is one of the biggest support systems that visual artists and people interested in the animation industry have on campus,” said Ramón Aquino, the club’s current president. “People who graduate from Pencil Mileage Club work professionally in the industry, and many prospective students come to CSUF to be part of PMC.”

Aquino is committed to expanding membership and creative initiatives. He also gave some backstory as to how the club earned its name. 

The term “pencil mileage” comes from industry professionals who often tell students that they need to “get in their pencil mileage.” This means that they need to spend time drawing and expanding their skill sets. That’s what the club is all about, explained Aquino. 

Pencil Mileage Club meeting

Students have opportunities to expand their skills through various events, including Arts Week. The club hosts an annual Arts Week in collaboration with the Arts Inter-Club Council to promote performing and visual arts for the campus community. The club also hosts an annual film festival in May, which showcases student films in 2D, 3D, stop-motion and live-action. 

The 24 Hours Animation Contest is a global competition in which students create a 30-second animated film in just 24 hours. Pencil Mileage Club has been participating in the contest for more than 10 years. In 2023, 65 students from CSUF competed, creating 13 animated films.

Aquino, who previously worked as a production intern at Cartoon Network, said the club is preparing him for a career in production management, outreach and recruitment.  

“Not only has Pencil Mileage Club given me the technical skills and abilities necessary to improve in my craft, but it also has helped me connect with peers, alumni and faculty to build a community and safe learning environment,” said Aquino. 

Written by: Victoria Field
Lynn Juliano