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Animation Outreach/Education at Museums

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson surveys various animation education initiatives taking place at museums around the globe.

The National Media Museum in the U.K. organizes three major film festivals every year, including the Bradford Animation Festival, which is the country's longest-running and largest animation festival. Courtesy of the Bradford Animation Festival.

Animation is popular with movie audiences, television fans, video game aficionados, and, increasingly, with museum-goers. Cartoon and animation art enable museum curators to make special connections with their patrons, and visitors are discovering that animation adds another dimension to museums through special exhibits, museum outreach and educational programs.

First Stop: England

The National Media Museum (formerly National Museum of Photography, Film & Television) in Bradford has seven galleries focusing on photography, television, animation, light and IMAX film technology, as well as a changing program of special exhibitions. The animation gallery covers over a hundred years of animation, with fascinating exhibits drawn from the museum's collection, including the work of animators such as Aardman, Bob Godfrey and Joanna Quinn. The cinematography collection includes cameras, projectors, magic lantern slides, drawings, posters and documents that trace the history and prehistory of cinema. The IMAX theater offers exciting large format films in 2D and 3D. The museum organizes three major film festivals every year -- the Bradford International Film Festival in March, the Bite the Mango Festival in September and Bradford Animation Festival ( in November, the U.K.'s longest-running and largest animation festival. This November 14-17, BAF! festivalgoers will enjoy an array of talks, workshops and special events led by some of the industry's top names. The festival culminates with the annual BAF Awards, which celebrate the very best in new animation from around the world.

Sarah Mumford, learning manager at the National Media Museum, says "We offer regular animation workshops to schools, families and adults. These are also offered by Cartwright Hall and Bradford Industrial Museum. These workshops complement our animation gallery. We also offer animation activity sessions for children in the holidays." To celebrate Family Learning Week 2007, the National Media Museum recently presented a stop-motion animation workshop inspired by exhibits in the gallery.

The National Media Museum ( also has online resources, including Anim8ed (, which offers ideas, contacts and suggestions for educators and those interested in developing group animation projects. The site includes six step-by-step animation projects, information about animation techniques and animators, and links to animation studios, festivals and courses. Some of the other resources on anim8ed include an animation index (a selection of the most important animators and studios in the business, past and present), animation techniques, and links to animation studios, festivals and resources on the Web. You can also view student projects completed with guidance from professional animators.

America the Animated

Two traveling animation exhibits are currently criss-crossing the United States. Animation, organized by Portland's Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) ( in partnership with Cartoon Network, brings together art, math, science and technology in its exploration of the world of animation. Animation showcases popular cartoon characters from shows such as Dexter's Laboratory, Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Codename: Kids Next Door, and The Powerpuff Girls, as well as popular Hanna-Barbera characters such as Scooby-Doo and The Flintstones.

"For the past nine years, OMSI has partnered with award-winning animators in presenting classes that bring out the math and science behind animation," says Ray Vandiver, VP of exhibits.

"A common misconception about making cartoons is that it primarily requires people who can draw freehand," said Dennis Adamovich, SVP of marketing for Cartoon Network. "What this exhibit will reveal in full interactive detail is the number of different skills involved in creating animation."

Through a series of hands-on exhibits, graphics and videos, visitors will explore the process of animation and create their own animated sequences. As they bring their creations to life, they will use math and science concepts and skills, just as real animators do.

The exhibit's six thematic areas feature concepts important to the field of animation:

  • In "History," visitors learn about early animation. They can try using a praxinoscope, an early device that simulated animation of a three-dimensional figure. At the Penny Arcade, they can "crank" out animations with an old-fashioned mutoscope.

  • "Animation Studio" explores the process of animation and techniques and tools animators use. Here, visitors can develop a storyboard from a series of picture cards and create scenes using layered cels and moving backgrounds.

  • In "Art in Motion," the importance of art and math in the creation of characters, motion and change is highlighted. By taking a series of photographs of themselves and then playing them back in order, visitors appear to magically "move" around a room without moving at all.

Animation, a traveling exhibit, was organized by Portland's OMSI in partnership with Cartoon Network. Above, kids get to squash and stretch cartoon images in the Science Lab. All Animation images courtesy of OMSI.

  • The science and technology that make animation possible is the focus of "Science Lab." Visitors can create the illusion of a bouncing ball with the technique of "squash and stretch" and find out how the action slows down or speeds up with time-lapse videos. They can explore visual effects while "hovering" in a simplified version of the "bullet time effect" (featured in the movie The Matrix).

  • "Sound and Stage" allows visitors to create sound effects using everyday objects in a Foley Room. They can experiment with matching phrases to different mouth shapes, add their own voices to an animation, and set the mood for a film by selecting background music from a variety of soundtracks.

  • Finally, in "Cartoon Museum," visitors view famous animation clips and important artifacts such as cels, models and storyboard drawings from their favorite animated television series.

Visitors can add their voices to a popular cartoon in

Several exhibit areas feature digital slide shows of real animators working in the Cartoon Network studios. Visitors are able to learn more about the skills and training needed to pursue an animation career.

"It's really about exploring, questioning and experimenting with the science behind the art of animation in a way that makes learning fun," said David Chesebrough, president and CEO of COSI (Center of Science and Industry) Columbus, the most recent stop on the Animation tour (

Future sites for the exhibit include the American Museum of Science and Energy (AMSE) in Oakridge, Tennessee (Sept. 29, 2007-Jan. 13, 2008), the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul (Feb. 9-April 27, 2008), and the Children's Museum of Indianapolis in Indiana, starting in June 2008.

The second traveling exhibit, The Art of Warner Bros. Cartoons, explores the elaborate creative process that produced classic Warner Bros. cartoons, using examples of original production art from the1930s through the 1960s. Visitors are offered a glimpse of the creative genius and inspired artistry of animation legends Chuck Jones, Maurice Noble, Friz Freleng, Tex Avery, Bob Clampett and many other talented artists who worked during what is considered the Golden Age of cartoons.

Most recently, the exhibition has been on display at the Allentown Art Museum in Allentown, Pennsylvania, ( where it will close Sept. 16. In support of the Warners show, the museum's camp sessions included animation tricks, cartoon drawing, sculpture, painting, and storytelling. Kids discovered the fascinating step-by-step process animators use to create cartoon characters and also got a chance to design their own characters. The museum's Art Ways interactive family gallery, which is always themed to their major special exhibitions, became "Toon Town."

The exhibit moves next to the Turtle Bay Museum in Redding, California (, where it will be in residence Oct. 19, 2007-Jan. 7, 2008. Angela Torretta, public relations manager of the museum's Turtle Bay Exploration Park, encourages visitors to take part in such special programs as their Saturday Morning Cartoon PJ Parties, during which visitors can enjoy free hot cocoa and view vintage Looney Tunes cartoons on the big screen in the Visitor Center Theater.

The Art of Warner Bros. Cartoons is finishing a run at the Allentown Art Museum in Pennyslvania and will soon open at Turtle Bay Museum in Redding, CA and the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, CA.

On Family Follies Day (Dec. 1, 2:00-4:00 pm), visitors can meet characters from their favorite cartoons and learn fun facts about the real animal inspirations behind the Loony Tunes toons -- bunnies, coyotes, roadrunners, and pigs! Visitors can also learn techniques of early animation through the creation of flipbooks and zoetropes.

The Art of Warner Bros. Cartoons will also be on display at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, California Nov. 14, 2008-Jan. 11, 2009.

More permanent exhibits devoted to animation can be found at the Museum of the Moving Image ( in Astoria, New York, which offers demonstrations of sound and video editing, as well as a kinetoscope demonstration and family motion workshops. A half-hour motion workshop offers younger students a chance to make a thaumatrope -- a 19th-century optical toy -- and create their own moving images at the video flipbook and digital animation stands. In a workshop called "Navigating the Digital World," students are introduced to the history, science, and technology of digital art and video games. Programs also include a guided tour of the exhibition "Digital Play" and a video game programming workshop. Advanced digital animations and "software toys" from independent makers may be explored at workstations. Workshop students use the programming software Scratch to build their own versions of a ping-pong style video game.

The Museum of the Moving Image also has online educational materials and programs, including "The Living Room Candidate," which presents 284 historical presidential campaign commercials from every election year, beginning with the first television ad in 1952. You can learn about the moviemaking process from an archive of in-depth conversations with over 50 innovators in film, television, and digital media. The Moving Image Collection Catalog is a searchable online database that gives users access to historical objects through zoomable digital images and background information. Another great online resource is the Sloan Science Cinematheque, which allows visitors to examine the dynamic intersection of science and technology with moving-image media. You can view award-winning student films, watch video of museum panel discussion programs, and read articles on scientific themes in film and television.

The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art in New York City regularly has exhibits related to animation and hosts special events like this reception for Stan Lee. Courtesy of MoCCA.

While animation isn't a primary focus, the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art ( in New York City regularly has exhibits related to animation and hosts special events and MoCCA Mondays. A recent MoCCA Monday explored "Metro Anime: A Brief History Of Anime Violence." MoCCA also has online exhibits, such as the historical "Cartoons Against the Axis!"

The ultimate outreach by a museum is to bring art to where the people are. You can catch some culture on the fly at the San Francisco International Airport Museum ( Swing by the international terminal at SFO and check out the new exhibit From Hare to Eternity! The Enduring Art of Warner Bros. Animation, featuring vintage production art used to create the original Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodie cartoons. The animation exhibition showcases cels, storyboards, production drawings, model sheets and rare collectibles dating back as far as the 1930s. This is a very special exhibit, as most of the original Looney Tunes artwork was destroyed. The exhibit is free and there is no need to be a ticketed passenger, as the display is located outside of the security area. It runs from August 16, 2007 to March 1, 2008 and it's open 24 hours.

Catch some culture on the fly at the San Francisco International Airport Museum at its new exhibit From Hare to Eternity! The Enduring Art of Warner Bros. Animation, featuring vintage production art. Courtesy of San Francisco Airport Museum.

At the San Diego Museum of Art (, the Animated Painting exhibit running from Oct. 13, 2007 to Jan. 13, 2008 shows how artists use traditional methods with forms of conventional animation and how they record live-action sources into painterly styles. Animated Painting features 25 cinematic works by 14 international contemporary artists who adapt traditional painting and drawing methods to the concepts and technologies of animation.

The San Diego Museum of Art is proactive in education and outreach. In addition to offering school tours and free workshops, the San Diego Museum of Art also has programs for Girl Scout and Boy Scout groups as wel as online educator resources. They also offer classes through the Museum Art School. In the "World of Comics" summer camp, young artists learned how to create comics and bring their stories to life on paper by combining caricature, figure drawing and illustration.

San Diego Museum of Art will present Animated Painting, which shows artists using traditional methods with forms of conventional animation. Bellona (after Samuel R. Delany) by Ann Lislegaard. Courtesy of the artist and Murray Guy. NY.

This is the third year that the education department has been involved with the A.L.B.A. (Alternative Learning for Behavior and Attitude) Community School Academy for Change. A.L.B.A has four school sites in the San Diego Unified School District for children grades 3-12. The school is an alternative learning school for at-risk children. Artist/teachers from the museum's education staff visit A.L.B.A. campuses weekly throughout the school semester, bringing lesson plans, slides, art supplies, and a passion for art. This program helps students learn how to express their ideas and feelings in a constructive manner.

The Wizards of Oz

Crossing the Pacific Ocean, the next stop on our tour is Australia, home of the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) (

From the wonders of more than a century of cinema, to television, computer games and the screen-based art of the future, ACMI is the world's first museum dedicated to the moving image in all its forms. (The Museum of the Moving Image in New York is only dedicated to film). The main function of ACMI is to preserve, exhibit and promote the Victorian, Australian and international content of moving images in all its forms. There are also education and production zones in the center.

Children can experience traditional storytelling techniques within a green-screen environment in "Screen Adventures." Through the magic of 3D animation and cutting-edge chromakeying, young audiences are able to immerse themselves in the land of the dinosaurs, the rambling plains of the Wild West, or the interior of an alien spacecraft.

In hands-on workshops, visitors are introduced to a digital studio and the technology involved in producing moving images so that they can develop the skill to produce their own work. Work from participants in ACMI hands-on production workshops can be accessed in the "Memory Grid," a display which allows access to over 100 hours of film that have been recorded by ordinary Australians, independent filmmakers, students, and community-based practitioners.

ACMI hosts programs like an intensive three-day workshop (Sept. 26-28) where teens learn the basics of flash animation, or the full-day Machinima workshop, which introduces students to the craft of making movies using visual and audio components of video games. Utilizing the game The Movies, student teams design characters, build sets and develop story lines using conventional Hollywood narrative structure. A teacher's kit has detailed resources to support and extend this program in the classroom.

Melbourne's ACMI holds professional development sessions and workshops for the community. This weekend the museum presents local animator Dave Jones in a workshop as part of its

During the summer, ACMI holds professional development sessions for teachers in claymation, cut-out animation and scratch animation. Another ACMI program for teachers is "Animate it! Animation in the Classroom," in which educators can explore basic stop-motion animation production processes and work in teams to complete a short stop-motion animation. This practical cross-curriculum program prepares teachers to help students produce their own simple stop-motion animations.

ACMI has two main cinemas that are equipped to play every film, video and digital format, with the best projection facilities in the Southern Hemisphere. THX-certified sound systems provide state-of-the-art acoustics. ACMI also arranges "Focus On" seasons, during which famous directors, actors, writers and cinematographers are featured.

The Games Lab is ACMI's display area for interactive computer and video games. It celebrates the past, present and future of games. An interactive game-based, site-specific installation called AcmiPark is on permanent display at the Games Lab. AcmiPark replicates and abstracts the real-world architecture of Melbourne's Federation Square. It also houses highly innovative mechanisms for interactive, multiplayer sound and musical composition.

The current exhibit at ACMI's Games Lab is Best of the Independent Games Festival 2007. Featured is RoboBlitz (Naked Sky Entertainment, Inc., United States, 2006). Courtesy of ACMI.

Getting Oriented to Animation

In Tokyo, where over 40 Japanese anime-related companies are based, the Suginami Animation Museum ( -- the museum of Japanimation -- collects, preserves and displays original pictures, cels and other anime-related material. Recently renovated, the museum has an anime library and theater, exhibits on the history of the Japanese anime industry, and a recording booth and workshop. Special exhibits are held four times a year. Other animation museums in Japan include the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka (limited to Studio Ghibli works), the Toei Animation Gallery in Nerima (limited to Toei works) and the Bandai Museum (limited to works related to Bandai).

The last stop on our tour is South Korea. The Animation Museum, built on the grounds of Anitown Festival near Seoul, is the only museum of its kind in Korea. Visitors to the museum, which is operated by Chuncheon city and Chuncheon Cultural Industry Promotion Foundation, can see the origin and development of animation, a variety of work techniques, and the history of Korean animation. They can also create their own animation using equipment provided by the museum.

The Animation Museum has some 10,000 items, including a projector and slides from the 1800s, a 1960s gas projector, a camera used for the first full-length animated film, and the video and scenario of the first puppet animation.

The museum has an experience program, special exhibit hall, art gallery, 3D theater, sound room, information retrieval room, horror studio, cafeteria, shop and animation-only theater.

Animation has a global reach and a universal appeal. And now, no matter where you are in the world, you're not far from a museum where you can learn about, study, and create your favorite type of animation. Exhibits have integrated new technologies and made museumgoing more accessible and enjoyable. Whether through a visit to a museum, or a virtual tour via the Internet, there's a great big world of animation out there, waiting to be explored.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson is a recruiter, hiring strategist, career coach and speaker, available for personal consultations and speaking engagements. She writes the monthly column Career Coach for AWN.