Driving Inspiration Brings Animation to London's Paralympics
Technology has played a key role in making the international project a reality. Bunting, along with Schwartz, used Skype and Adobe Connect to run two live online workshops at each of the overseas schools. As Hope-Walker explained, this included an initial lesson about the Paralympics, their history, and the values the Games represent; Determination, Inspiration, Courage, and Equality. Teachers at the overseas sites worked with the students, uploading finished drawings, storyboard ideas, film, and photographs to a Dropbox, where they were retrieved and developed by pupils in the UK. The UK and overseas students then conversed live online about the final ideas for the film, ensuring that all parties were happy and that there was, in Hope-Walker’s words, “no cultural misinterpretation.” Final films were then made and assembled in to one massive collage of a film, what Schwartz exuberantly calls an “anijam.”
The inspiring nature of the work encompassed not only the students involved, but amazed the teachers and production team, opening up a dialogue across continents. Susan Hay, teacher at the Queen Elizabeth II School in Horsham, UK, found herself confessing to the principal of School Murat Akta, in Ankara, Turkey that her staff was surprised by the amount of work the students were able to do in such a short period of time, and that the parents that saw the work were impressed. Michelle Grande Berck, teaching in France, thanked Hope-Walker via e-mail for making Driving Inspiration possible, and stating that, “the students were really impressed by the work of their counterparts.”
"This was an ambitious project,” Hope-Walker shared, pointing out not everything has been smooth sailing; for instance, the technology that was essential has also been unreliable. International and local conflicts have also played their part. “We have had delays due to bombings, teachers on strike (but very apologetic) because they have not been paid for months, and [in one place] the internet going down for over 1 month.” But, she counters, “the excitement from all over the world [allowed us to] brush aside such problems and [find] ways around them.”
Hope-Walker noted, “I have been struck by the similarities between young people in the way they think and [in the] crossing over of ideas. It has opened everyone’s eyes to both similarities and differences. We have had young people from wealth, poverty, and disability. Children who have never heard of the Paralympics, and have been amazed at the idea that a disabled/disadvantaged person can be so successful. We have had the most beautiful drawings from a girl who up until a few months ago had never been to school, working as a dishwasher until the age of 10!” She went on to say how inspired she was at seeing schools incorporate the Paralympic values into their everyday routines, and into their policies about who can have access to schooling.
According to Hope-Walker, the massive collaborative effort will have its debut as part of the Olympic relay on July 9th, as well as the Paralympic Torch relay that will follow the closing of the Olympic Games. Following the relay, it will be part of an exhibition at the Stoke Mandeville, the birthplace of the Paralympics, and will "likely" be in the Paralympic Suite at the main stadium during the 2012 Paralympic Games, not to mention showing up on the BBC's big screens. Schwartz and Hope-Walker hope to line up a solid run for the project after its high-profile introduction, at festivals and venues throughout the world. Ultimately, Schwartz says, his hopes for Driving Inspiration are to have as many eyes on the production as possible, promoting awareness of disabilities "in the public consciousness through the international language of animation."
Thanks to Vicky Hope-Walker, David Bunting, and Gary Schwartz for offering their insights to AWN, and for their hard work on this international production. To learn more about the Paralympics and Driving Inspiration, visit Mandeville Legacy’s site: http://www.mandevillelegacy.org.uk/category_id__23_path__0p5p.aspx