A look at what's going on in a selection of children's animation workshops in North and South America, Europe and Israel.
Across the globe, there are pioneering people sharing their love for the art and craft of animation through teaching children. Some workshops are affiliated with the ASIFA International Children's Workshop initiative, while others are run independently of any other groups. From cameraless techniques such as Zoetropes and drawing on film, to drawn, cutout and model animation, these workshops have one thing in common: they teach children to understand abstract concepts of time, movement and design, while giving them an opportunity to express themselves creatively. Here are profiles of what some teachers are doing.
Carousel, Tel-Aviv, Israel
Eitan Oded heads up this workshop, which finds its home base "all over the country," with funding derived from "school budgets, parents, and educational funds." This independent workshop is designed for children ages 6-17. Oded reports that, he's "a computer systems analyzer, freelance journalist, interior and graphic designer, and a teacher of animation, art and photography." "Carousel," Oded notes, is a "one-time animation workshop, aimed at giving the inexperienced participant the basic experience of creating a short animation film. I don't need any special preparation to do the workshop, but I can start at once. I use a big Zoetrope to show the animations, and we usually record the short films on video as well. "One of the most rewarding experiences I have had occurred when I was asked to do a workshop in a special school for mentally disabled children. I was a little skeptical about the chance for the activity to succeed, but I decided to try it anyway. All the teachers warned me to lower my expectations, so I would not be disappointed. We started the workshop with many anxieties, but finished with lots of joy and happiness. The films were wonderful and especially colorful. The sensation and the atmosphere during the whole workshop was happy and everyone was smiling." Eitan Oded, 32 Har-Zion Blvd., Tel-Aviv 66047 Israel, Tel/fax: 972-3-6391555. Tekenfilm Club, Amsterdam The Tekenfilm Club is located in Veenendaal, Utrecht, The Netherlands, and draws its faculty and funding from Rembrandt College; it is headed by independent filmmaker Monique Renault, whose films include Pas a Deux and Borderline. It teaches its workshops to children up to 13-years old. Its mission is, "To give children a different look at what they take for granted when they passively watch TV. To make them critique and show them how it moves. How long is a second?" The workshops take place each Thursday afternoon for an hour-and-a-half over a 6 six week period with 20 children. It teaches its kids to do flipbooks, drawing on film, animation on paper and pixilation. Monique Renault, Nieuwerdammerdijk 157 10-25-LG Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Animation Workshop, Baco Bampo, Mexico
In November of 1996, Austrian artists James Clay and Renate Zuniga traveled to Baco Bampo, the remote village of the Yoreme Indians in Wayparin, Mexico. Here, they presented a one-month animation workshop for the children in the village. Four minutes of animation were produced by 12 children who had never even seen animation before. The film they created was based on a ceremony called "La Danza del Venaldo" which is very important to the cultural and religious life of the village, a mix between Spanish Catholocism and native Shamanism. Every detail of the Baco Bampo project had to be thoroughly planned in advance, as there would be no supplies available in the village. There is no electricity, so Clay and Zuniga had to bring flashlights to use underneath the makeshift animation drawing tables (see photo). They also brought with them all paper, pencils, and art supplies, even handmade animation pegbars made of metal strips and pieces of wooden dowel. Film was processed in Mexico city after the workshop was complete. Clay recalls that it was difficult to get the classes started on schedule, as there were no watches or clocks in the village, the children just showed up at irregular times. The solution to this problem turned out to be to make the classes start first thing in the morning.
The workshop was funded by donations from the city of Vienna, the Austrian Ministry of Culture, UNESCO, and Austrian television, which also produced a 15 minute documentary film, featuring the children's animation and covering the entire workshop in Baco Bampo.
James Clay is a member of the ASIFA International Children's Workshop group, and teaches animation in Austrian schools and prisons.
James Clay, Siebenbrunengasse 92/12/35, A-1050 Vienna, Austria Tel: 1-555-8535
Single-Frame Studio, Norwich, Vermont, USA
Independent animation teacher Gail Banker states as her mission to "foster the understanding of hand-crafted filmmaking." With more than 12 years experience teaching animation to people of all ages, Gail has educated all kinds of people about the art of animation. In addition to teaching animation part-time at a New Hampshire middle school, and for six weeks each summer at a Massachusetts arts program, she operates a variety of workshops out of her home studio in Norwich, Vermont. Funded by a modest tuition, Single-Frame Studio offers spring and fall workshops, which are 20 hours each taught over the course of 6 weeks; they cover flipbooks, cutouts, clay animation, object animation, pixillation, sand animation, collage, and "any other techniques students wish to explore, with the exception of computer animation." The films are shot on super-8 film and screened at a special showing for family and friends at the end of the six weeks, then transferred to video for the students to keep.
In a course for more advanced students, called "Kids Speaking to Kids," the students create public service announcements on subjects such as substance abuse, racial tensions, sexual harassment, HIV prevention and substance abuse. The PSAs are then presented in doctor's offices and on local public access cable stations.
Gail herein shares with us her favorite teaching exercise: Round Robin Flipbooks.
"This is a beginning exercise for three or more students. Using a 100-sheet, 6" x 9" blank pad of paper, trace a rectangle on the last page that will represent the 3 x 4 ratio of the movie screen. Then mark both side ends of the book with a line corresponding to the top line of the rectangle.
"Now open the book from the top, and on the second page from the top, make a simple drawing in the (visualized) space of the rectangle. Don't become too involved in this drawing, because you will not really be working with it. When the drawing is complete, flip the above page down and make a tracing of your drawing. Now you have two identical drawings. Tear out the top page and pass it to the person on your right. When you receive a drawing from your neighbor, tape it into the pad on the last page, where you made the rectangle. "Bind the top of the pad with masking tape, so that the pages will not come loose while you are drawing. Now you are ready to start drawing animation in your flipbook. Everyone should use the same kind of pen so that the line throughout will be consistent. Begin with the blank page above the drawing (your neighbor's) that you just taped in. Trace, and gradually begin to change the drawing a little bit each page, until (98 pages later) you transform the image into your original drawing. "When everyone has completed their flipbooks, film them frame by frame, in order so that the first drawing of each book corresponds with the last drawing of the previous book. Depending upon how many students are involved in this exercise, you may have a longer film with no pre-determined beginning or end. It is interesting to see how themes emerge and re-emerge in this exercise."
Gail Banker, Single-Frame Studio, 212 Waterman Hill Rd. Norwich, VT 05055-9687 USA Tel: 802-649-1081 Fax: 603-650-6898 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Camera Enfants Admis, Liege, Belgium
Camera Enfants Admis (CEA) (which translates as Camera Children Admitted) is an association that aims at initiating the public into audiovisual media from early childhood on up. They have developed standard programs which are adapted according to the wishes of teachers. The workshops teach a variety of techniques, including cartoons, cutouts, and puppets. They are held all year long at schools, and are usually given over 1-10 three-hour periods in a classroom. During holidays, they like to give week-long workshops open to everybody, from 5 to 95.
The CEA's mission is "to develop the critical mind of the media `customers' we have become." The staff works in school circles and in youth centers, both in Belgium and all over Europe. The association also organizes weekly workshops for children, evening classes for adults and introductory courses during school holidays. One of its main activities is to facilitate the creation of short animated films by giving participants the opportunity to engage in all stages of the animation process.
CEA also puts on two "didactic itinerant exhibitions," takes part in international festivals, as well as in competitions and cultural meetings "as much in Belgium as abroad."
Jean-Luc Slock, Veronique Michel, Camera Enfants Admis, Cour St. Gilles, 35, 4000 Liege Belgium Tel: 4-253-5957 Fax: 4-252-5631
Los Angeles, California USA
Inner-City Arts is a private non-profit art school located in downtown Los Angeles, which hosts a Teen Saturday Animation Program and a biweekly Animation Program for Elementary School Children.
Their mission is to explore the artistic potential of animation. Teenage students do hands-on work with Sony animation equipment, see videos and films of cutting-edge animation, do group and individual projects in a variety of media. It works with 450 elementary children a day on weekdays, year round, in visual arts, animation, ceramics, dance, drama, music and language arts. Its Saturday component offers a teen animation program taught in collaboration with California Institute of the Arts graduate students."
Inner-City Arts in Los Angeles.
There was a young girl in our first elementary animation program who hated animation. The CalArts student teachers worked hard with her and turned her on to the creative process--she did a 180 degree turn; she became so good and so fast that she wound up helping her classmates.
"To see the excitement on the faces of new students as they first experience the Zoetrope, which allows a strip of 12 drawings to become animation."
Inner-City Arts, 720 Kohler Street Los Angeles, CA 90021 USA. Tel: 213-627-9621 Fax: 213-627-6469
Animathon International Inc., Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada
This private organization, whose faculty includes André Leduc, producer, and Florence Bolté, Professor of Cinema and Scriptwriting. It is funded by asking for "financial participation" from host organizations and/or from participants. Leduc sent in the following description of what it's all about:
"Ludoptik is a workshop for making optical toys such as Thaumatropes, Phenakistoscopes, Zoetropes, or flipbooks without frame-by-frame filming. It is ideal for young children, ages 6-13 years old, as it takes only a few hours to show students the frame-by-frame principle and initiate them into the world of cinema and animation. Simple exercises help students understand the phenomenon of retinal persistence and enable them to grasp the technique of quickly creating animated images, without using a camera. The toys created could then be filmed frame by frame and turned into an animated video.
"The word animathon, which is a combination of the words animation and marathon, expresses the two aspects of our project, i.e. the production of an animated film in record time. Usually it takes several weeks or even months to produce an animated film. The animathon takes place on the challenge of producing an animated film in record time, all participants are working against the clock. An animation film produced by 6 to 8 people that runs about 30 seconds from start to finish takes about 30 hours. This is indeed "record time". A standard animathon lasts between 24 and 32 hours.
"Before starting the animation, the team agrees to the graphic style they want at the storyboard stage. The final prototype evolves after swapping drawings, trying out various possibilities, and making a few compromises. The drawings are usually shot frame-by-frame on Super VHS video. Our setup also equips us to shoot a range of mediums: VHS, Betacam, 35mm or 16mm. No previous experience is necessary to participate. The workshop makes animated cinema available to everyone who wants to participate in a game, produce a film, and see the results quickly. These films are based on music, which is an international language; they address a vast international public, unhampered by language barriers. This activity can be done with children from 14 years old.
"Teaching animation is a way of communication by knowing new people and culture. With Animathon those past years, we have been in communication with thousands of people from 6 to 79 years old in 15 countries. For us, making an animation is a human experience through art; it is also being close to the imaginary which is always a privilege. Everywhere we go, we have memorable experiences. We would like to share one of them with you.
Teaching Animation to the Blind
"In 1991, two young nonsighted people registered to participate in an Animathon workshop. We had to adapt our equipment to meet their needs. We had no doubts about their capability to draw; the muscular memory principle--developed by Norman McLaren--which enable one to reproduce a drawing and then keep the movement memory for the following ones, reassured us.
"The mark system is usually determined by transparency; it defines the field/space in which the animator can work. In order to simplify it, we created cardboard guagesthat we put above the drawing paper and the lugs to insure stability and shooting within the norms. We chose scented pencils to help them identify the colors: strawberry for red, mint for green, blueberry for blue, coffee for brown, etc.
"These two youngsters, with an animator, started the marathon with some anxiety. They soon felt more confident as, within an hour, quicker than the others, they built their screenplay by listening to the music. They immediately recognized a musical leitmotiv and decided to built their screenplay using it. In the same way, these musical pieces allowed them to use less drawings. They found an humorist Title, the Man Who Planted/Dumped in the Trees, in reference to their handicap (and to Frédérick Back's The Man Who Planted Trees), and started working.
"During the workshop, they refused to use the scented pencils that they found disgusting. They accepted the cardboard guide and finished their film in time.
"They demystified to our eyes and ears the relation of the man to art. Their speech can be summarized by this question, debated during these hours spent together: `Who can claim to art, the sighted or nonsighted people?" As the nonsighted has no visual reference, isn't he the one who can?"
Atelier de cinema d'animation d'Annecy et de Haute-Savoie (A.A.A.), France
Besides Nicole Salomon, the workshop is staffed by Laurent Alessandrini, Karine Jeannet and various professional animators who come as guests. The age of children in the program ranges from 5 to 20 on up. Funding comes from the Ministries of Culture and National Education, CNC, City of Annecy, and the District of Haute-Savoie.
The workshops will usually enroll up to 20 to 30 students. During the school week, they get students from local elementary and secondary schools, when the kids and their teacher come there instead of their regular school.
Films are made using 16mm or in UMatic video, usually with drawings and some cutouts, on a theme they have chosen previously. A collective storyboard is decided upon on the first morning of the week. Then each student chooses a segment that he/she draws, animates and shoots. On the last day of the week, "the classes take care of their soundtracks."
During the week, the children go through each step of the animation process, ending with a finished film that is the result of a collective effort, in which everyone has participated in. As a result, the students "become more critical spectators."
For individuals, the workshop offers three hour sessions on Wednesdays, either in the morning or afternoon during the school year. During short holidays, it holds 4-5 day workshops, lasting 6 hours a day, for kids 7 on up.
All A.A.A. workshops cover various frame-by-frame techniques, starting with optical toys and screening of auteur films. Techniques used include drawings, cutouts, plasticine, pixilation, powders, objects, puppet and direct-on-film animation. Each participant works on either a personal or collective project, based on a technique they chose.
When asked about their most memorable experience, Nicole Salomon noted that, "Each time we have animators as instructors who do not speak French, the communication between them and the kids becomes totally visual: pantomime, drawings and gestures. And at the end, there is no misunderstanding.
"The best time teaching animation is when the first results are visible. The students are fascinated when they see what they've done. Even their line tests make them happy: they have created life!
She concluded that, "The greatest challenge is to have the less talented kids be able to get results and take an active part in the class production."
Nicole Salomon, A.A.A., 4 passage des Clercs - BP 426 - 74020 Annecy Cedex, France. Tel : (0)4-50-45-1930 Fax : (0)4-50-45-9985 http://www.awn.com/aaa
Wendy Jackson is Associate Editor of Animation World Magazine. As an animator, she has been involved with teaching animation to children and teenagers for the past six years.
In the future, Animation World Network would like to publish information about additional animation workshops, classes and training programs around the world. Please tell us about workshops you know about or are involved with, by writing to email@example.com
Event Preview: NATPE's Animation & Special Effects ExpoPrevious Post