Last month, after making my poster for International Animation Day, I had mentioned how I had been teaching an "animation workshop" class since August. The class has kept me so busy on top of personal projects that I never really had a chance to post anything about it.
The idea came to me last year, when some students at the school I teach at had started asking me questions about animation. They would bring in DVDs of their favorite animated films, read stuff on the bonus discs, then ask "what is a storyboard?" or "what is an animatic?" It instantly reminded me of being that age and having the same questions, and just generally being awe-inspired and befuddled as to how these cartoons magically started to move on the screen.
Of course, when I was growing up in the mid-nineties, animation was in a bit of an odd transitional period. The big digital/Flash boom was on the horizon, but I was too young to have a grasp on any of that, and I was stuck hoping that the library or local bookstores had even one or two copies of books about the animation process (when they did, they were normally too intimidating, how-to books made by old master draftsmen teaching anatomical walk cycles). At that age, most of my animation was spent making flipbooks and trying rough animation on copy paper with a DIY lightbox, since it was essentially impossible to come by the proper type of supplies or equipment (notably a camera and cels). It is kept simple and mostly camera-free for a number of reasons, mostly due to the allotted budget for materials, and the fact that I am far from qualified to be teaching anything more advanced.
In the class, we have done mostly camera-less animation projects. Things like good quality custom flipbooks, working on basic movement the old-fashioned way (lightbox w/ pegbar and punched animation paper), and some claymation using Aardman's "AnimateIt" software. Considering nothing that we do is digital (outside of the claymation, the class is also a bit like stepping back in time. Creatively, I always stress that the class is just about "thinking visually". I am not so much concerned in highly disciplined and fundamentally sound works as much as I am the students just having fun putting their own ideas on the paper. The students are currently working on self-publishing their own class "coloring book" where they each contributed a b&w illustration, and will distribute them to the school.
Another major influence was reading a book about Yvonne Anderson's influential "Yellow Ball Animation Workshop" that she started in the 1960s.
A part of it is also the academic side of animation history when we are not diving in and getting our hands dirty ... learning of the the world outside of Disney/Pixar, both commercial and independent/experimental. We start each class watching a short from around the world. Consensus favorites so far have been Kaj Pindal's "I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly" (the song is now frequently sang), anything Miyazaki, and Nick Park's original "Creature Comforts".
It has been an absolute blast so far and I hope to keep it going, perhaps even as a traveling summer program of sorts. We'll see. Here are are a few photos ...