Toons in Training
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An Important Facet
When television first became a household fixture, most networks ran black and white cartoons from the 1930s and `40s with few attempts at original productions. In the late 1950s viable made-for-TV animation series appeared, and Saturday Morning "kidvid" was established around 1960. Despite this boom, little of the animation was educational in nature. Two series, however, deserve mention in our history. Sesame Street, which made its debut in 1969, used animated sequences to illustrate basic learning such as identification of letters and numbers. These sequences, presented with the style, speed, and nuances of modern advertising, gave considerable credence to Paivio's theory. The second series, Schoolhouse Rock (1973), consisted of musical lessons in grammar, science, history, and multiplication. These brief episodes (41 in all) served as bumpers between ABC's Saturday morning offerings. Beloved by GenXers (who can sing every episode), Schoolhouse Rock must be considered one of the finest commercial offerings served up in the name of education.

As for the training film, the greatest advancements came with the advent of CGI software. This is an area of animation largely overlooked; for example, when Animation Magazine published "13 Hot Issues and Trends for 1999" in their February 1999 issue, the use of animation as a training tool was not among them. Yet, CGI animation is now being used extensively in the medical fields, where aspiring surgeons can envision multiple approaches to surgical procedures. CGI has also been of great benefit to trainees in the field of meteorology; we were given a glimpse of this last month when 3-D simulations of Hurricane Floyd were displayed on the news hour. The aerospace industry continues their tradition of using animated models and simulations, and computer imaging has been indispensable in the training of future astronauts. Finally, the military, as it has for years, continues to rely on animation for a number of purposes; this would be evident to anyone who followed the Persian Gulf conflict on television. That war was nearly ten years ago; today's computer-generated simulations, including motion capture technology, are closer to virtual reality.

Animation will always be here to entertain us. It is impossible today to assess movies, television, advertising, or video games without considering the tremendous influence that this medium has had in these areas. Although animation's impact as a teaching and training tool attracts far less attention, it is equally impossible to envision a future where animation does not play a vital part in this endeavor as well.

Martin "Dr. Toon" Goodman is a longtime student and fan of animation. He lives in Anderson, Indiana.

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