Manhattanville Arts Institute Instant Animations

Had the opportunity to be the final workshop guest at this year’s Summer Arts Institute at Manhattanville College in NY. (Thanks BIll Gordh!) This intensive course focuses early childhood, elementary, middle, and high school educators on the possibilities inherent to the arts. Educators encounter an in-depth arts experience via a variety of art forms: storytelling, music, creative movement, and the visual arts. Yours truly showed up with a bag of animation tricks to round out the week. But I discovered, with relish, the participants had created Balinese puppets the day before. I knew they were exploring puppet making, but actually seeing what they had created was a dream. The animations below only feature a few, but they all were wonderfully realized. I was jealous I hadn’t been able to make one myself.

I put away what I was going to do, and chose to animate one of the puppets, to demonstrate how to think about motion, in animation terms. Improvising with a puppet which had only one leg and one arm rigged for motion was a challenge. After about ten minutes this is what I rendered. (The audio was created afterwards in iMovie with instruments on hand)

I then had an opportunity to create a second animation with the entire class watching the process.

I broke the entire animation process into three segments:

Anticipation, Action, and Follow Through

Weight Distribution

Overlapping action

With these in mind, and a dragon with only the legs and one arm articulated, we did this:

We had a delightful time. We did all this in less than an hour. Not including the puppet building!!!

Bill was gracious enough to send me one of the feedback comments. It is instructive for all who’d like to try this and bring their creations to life, and more importantly, create an audience online for the performance.

(Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to go into best practices in creating an online audience, but that is an entirely different workshop)

Anyway, here is what one of the educators had to say:

“The highlight of my week was the animation piece, in which our work became animated and put in action. It was exciting to learn how animators work. When I heard of the years that it takes to work on animation, I always questioned why these artists would be willing to work on it for that long. This is no longer the case; I began to love the idea of isolating movements, like we learned in the creative moment class, to create a living and breathing thing. The puppets came alive and developed personalities. I think this is definitely something that can be used in my classroom. I will work on trying to incorporate this building wide next year. I think my school district should make the software available for this process when they realize how powerful the experience of animating can be.”

Bingo. This is just what most people experience when they see how accessible this kind of storytelling can be. Once you pair it up with the unlimited possibilities having to do with creating an audience for your stories online, you move into hyperdrive and find the satisfaction that comes from preforming for an audience of raving fans.

Let me know what you think about these short clips. Can you see this exercise motivating those in your organization to pursue animated storytelling? Even if it is only for a blog?


One response to “Manhattanville Arts Institute Instant Animations

  1. Hey Joe!
    You don’t know me, but I am the artist that conducted the puppet workshop the day before you came. I LOVE these little animations! Very fun! This is exactly something I have done with my own middle school students using cut-outs. I’m sure Bill’s students loved working with you. Would love to meet sometime.

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