Driving Inspiration Brings Animation to London's Paralympics
Thanks to a starting sprint in Wales that included the Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, the lead-up to this year's Olympic and Paralympic Games in London is well on its way. The accompanying visual spectacle is just as expected as the record-breaking feats of athleticism, and the Paralympics will be no exception. Born from an international effort befitting the spirit of the Games, the film project known as Driving Inspiration will have its debut at the Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer. Incorporating material from students in locations as diverse as Italy, Israel, Bosnia, Turkey and Germany, among others, Driving Inspiration tells the story of the Paralympic Games and the personal journeys of its disabled athletes.
Contributions to the film include elements of dance, theatre, visuals, creative writing and music, communicated through animation. As told to AWN by Gary Schwartz, the project's Animation Consultant/Advisor, Driving Inspiration is about "inspiring young disabled and non-disabled people to identify and fulfill their own dreams, and to celebrate diversity." In maintaining the core values of the project, all of the artists and animators involved are themselves disabled. As explained by producer Vicky Hope-Walker, “This may be a physical disability like a spinal injury, or it might be a learning disability like Dyslexia, or Aspergers.” Hope-Walker told me that this choice was not only to uphold the central spirit of the games, but to present students at participating schools with examples of successful, disabled professionals who have still achieved their goals.
Driving Inspiration came about through a chance meeting in 2007 between Hope-Walker, who is a freelance arts projects producer, and Martin McElhatton, retired Paralympian and CEO of WheelPower, UK. Hope-Walker has long had an interest in pursuing projects that focus on young people and new media, and was inspired by McElhatton’s work. The two have since collaborated on numerous endeavors in visual art, dance, music and film with thousands of young people. In 2012, Hope-Walker says, “we decided to raise the stakes and do something more ambitious involving [young people across] the globe, with a focus on animation and live online lessons.”
“The key aim of Driving Inspiration was originally to raise awareness of the Paralympic movement through contact with Paralympians and disabled artists. But it soon became clear that in doing so we were providing young people, both disabled and non-disabled, in poverty and in wealth, with wonderful role models for life, and making them think about diversity and equality in a new way,” Hope-Walker explained.
The project was soon on its feet, picking up sponsorship from Accentuate, a funding arm of London 2012 for the Olympic and Paralympic Cultural Olympiad, Arts Council Great Britain, and the Buckinghamshire County Council. Hope-Walker brought frequent collaborator David Bunting on board as director. Schwartz, an Oscar-nominated animator and educator, joined the team after seeing an advertisement from Hope-Walker and Bunting, eager to lend his experience and avant-garde approach to the unconventional project.
Participating schools include 10 sites across the UK, and additional sites in France, Germany, Italy, Bosnia, Uganda, Turkey, Singapore, Israel, Brazil, Nepal, and the USA, totaling 23 sites in all. The students involved in Driving Inspiration are an all ages mix, ranging from as young as 5 up to 18-year-olds helping out at some sites. Divided into 10 sections, the unifying concept for Driving Inspiration is the Olympic Torch. Students from each of the schools were asked to create storyboards around the Olympic relay race, a fitting analogy for production pipeline, and for the exquisite corpse appearance of the finished product.