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The gift of the tiger:

Grad’s Animation Dreams Come to Life in Short Film
Jimi Bonogofsky describes advantages of studying animation at Huntington University, a Christian college.

"It’s really exciting knowing that so many people from around the world are seeing your film."

Jimi Bonogofsky was always doodling — a face here, a tiger there — and that’s when she discovered her future career path.

As an animation major, Bonogofsky, a 2010 graduate, was exposed to various types of animation during her time at Huntington University.

“For the first two years, we get to try everything,” she said. “Just having that many options is really cool. You get experience in everything and then you get to focus on what you really wanted.”

Originally, Bonogofsky planned to become a computer animator, but soon realized that computers were not for her. But she did find a new passion for hand-drawn and puppet animation.

Over four years, Bonogofsky developed her craft to the point that she caught the attention of an international film festival. In October 2010, a children’s film created by Bonogofsky and Josh Addessi, also a 2010 graduate, appeared in the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival.

The film, titled “The Tiger’s Gift,” is an animated short film that tells the story of a baby who came to live in the jungle. As a way to welcome this boy, all of the animals of the jungle wanted to present him with a gift — a gift fit for royalty. The tiger’s gift, though, was only a gourd that sounded like a rattle, certainly not a proper gift. But to the tiger’s surprise, it was the best gift of all.

“It’s the only gift that made him happy because it was a gift for a baby and not for a king,” Bonogofsky said.

“The Tiger’s Gift” was one of more than 200 films from 40 different countries shown at the festival.

In 2012, “The Tiger’s Gift” won Best Animated Film at the Sundial Film Festival, a relatively new festival held in Bonogofsky’s hometown of Redding, Calif. The award included a $500 cash prize and put the film in the running for the Best of Festival trophy at the final showcase.

“It’s really exciting knowing that so many people from around the world are seeing your film,” Bonogofsky said of the film, which was also their senior project at HU. “It’s just kind of an honor to get a student film into a big festival.”


In the short time since graduation, Bonogofsky has been accepting freelance jobs while working as the manager of a coffee shop in her hometown of Redding, Calif. But she’s not worried about her future career. She said this job is actually a blessing in disguise.

“I’m meeting a lot of people,” she said, explaining that she has received freelance jobs, made connections and met people who run a local film fest. “It’s cool how God is bringing stuff together.”

Bonogofsky said that she is committed to the coffee shop for one year and then plans to branch out to her ultimate career goal: working at a film studio or as a freelance illustrator.

For now, though, she wants to pass her wisdom on to future animation students.

“Don’t be afraid to try new things,” she said. “Listen to where God’s leading you and give everything a try, but be prepared to work hard. It’s not an easy thing.”

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