of Comprehension of Animation Logic in Young
Wendy Jackson Hall
Artist/Educator, Seattle, WA
Presented at the 2002
Society for Animation Studies Conference, Glendale,
Note: This paper is intended to
be read in conjunction with the viewing of a companion
videotape of student work samples. Please contact the
author for information about obtaining
a copy of the video.
Announcement: Wendy died November 16, 2005. She was only 32
years old. I did not know her. Looks like a
an animation educator who could have continued planting the seed
of animation to many more of the
young and help keep the art alive.
AWN news about Wendy
today are immersed in media, and in particular, animation, as it is found
on television, in movies and in video and computer games. Yet few children
think about how animation is created until they are given an opportunity to
do so themselves. New technologies available for home and school use are
making animation an accessible form of self-expression for
first exposed to the art of animation when I was in high school. Shortly
after I began making my own frame-by-frame movies with Super-8mm film, I
started teaching it, in turn, to children, as an apprentice to my mentor,
animation teacher Gail Banker. I worked with her for several years before I
began teaching animation classes on my own. Since then, I have had the
pleasure of working with more than 1,000 children, teaching animation at
summer camps, in after-school programs, in libraries, community centers and
presentation is based on observations of hundreds of children ranging in
age from four to fourteen, made during animation workshops I have conducted
in schools. I am currently listed on the Washington State Arts Commission
Roster of Art Educators, so I am often hired as an artist-in-residence at
one school for two or more weeks. Working in public schools, I face the
challenge of including several hundred children in an art experience that
lasts only a few weeks. Depending upon the amount of time and the number of
children I have to work with, I adapt my instruction to provide the best
experience for the situation. I have developed various curricula to fit
different situations and grade levels.
In all of
my workshops, I always start by asking the students about their favorite
animated television shows and movies. As can be expected, the most
to-the-moment properties are cited, mainstream, commercial stuff. But
talking about these properties in a school setting is very exciting for the
children, and engages them in a way that allows me to focus their attention
on the concepts being presented. The idea is that they will watch those
shows differently after having experienced creating animation themselves.
One of my goals is to show that animation is an art form as well as a
In the State of
Washington, public schools are regulated by a set of guidelines called the
Essential Academic Learning Requirements or EALRs, which define benchmarks
for learning at each grade level. Sets of EALRs exist for 10 content areas:
Reading, Writing, Math, Communications, Mathematics, Science, Civics,
Economics, Geography, History and Health, and an 11th has just been
introduced for the Arts, a category that includes Visual Art, Performing
Arts, Music and Dance. Obviously, there is not and will probably never be a
category for Animation, but I believe that the art of animation is an ideal
companion art form for connecting not only the arts but also other content
areas. I am a supporter of multi-disciplinary education and am always
looking for ways to use animation as a learning tool in helping teachers
teach other subjects. As art education is virtually eliminated from public
school education by school systems facing budget cuts, such creative
integration of the arts will be a key component of successful education
reform in the future.
over, I have observed commonalities in the ways that children of various
ages respond to animation instruction. A pattern has emerged that seems to
naturally fit with the learning benchmarks set forth in the EALRs.
Children's understanding of what I like to call "Animation Logic," or how
animation works, goes hand in hand with concepts learned at each grade
level. I have observed children's comprehension of animation logic on
several levels as it connects with other content areas. These
Comprehension of multiplication, division and fractions help children
understand that 24 frames are combined to create one second of
The Arts: Aesthetic principles of design, composition,
contrast and visual symbols; Motor skills, hand-eye coordination and
the ability to repeat a drawing are helpful in creating
Reading and Writing: Principles of storytelling, story structure,
characters and settings help children express themselves beyond the
realm of experimentation.
Science: Scientific principles of visual perception, cameras and
projection technology are extremely high-level and can only be brushed
upon before intermediate grade levels of six and up.
Physics: Physical laws and limitations of movement, velocity,
gravity, transformation and metamorphosis are also complex ideas that
come into play when children are having their second or third
experience of creating animation. This is when they begin to apply the
laws of the natural world to their animation.
what I teach also ties in with "Media Literacy," an increasingly important
item on school's agendas. Although these principles are helpful in the
process of learning animation, they are not a prerequisite to a child
having an experience creating animation. I have adapted my instruction for
each grade level.
My most common residency is two weeks
long. In this time frame, I have found that flipbooks are the simplest way
to work with many children. There are multiple class groups, and I spend
one period with each, then they visit the "studio" where my animation
equipment is set up-usually on the stage or in a spare room-- while the
flipbooks are being filmed.
In the 40
minutes that I get to spend with each class group, after I listen to them
talk about their favorite animation, I have them gather in a circle on the
reading area of the classroom floor. I let them handle and share 30
examples of small hand-held flipbooks, looking at them "fast," flipping the
book forward and backward to see the whole motion, and "slow," turning each
page of the flipbook one at a time to see the changes made in each drawing.
We pass the flipbooks around as I review them one-on-one with children and
discussion among students is encouraged. When it seems they have grasped
the concept, I ask them if they are ready to make their own flipbooks, and
the response is always a loud "yes!" from the group. The children return to
their desks and get a pencil out while I pass out 5 x 8-inch, 100-page pads
of unlined paper, which are pre-taped at the binding to prevent pages from
falling out. While I demonstrate on a large pad, we start the flipbooks
together. Starting at the bottom page of the pad, each student draws a dot,
then together we make the dot bigger and bigger on each page for five
pages. This demonstrates the first technique they learn for animation:
change of size. I go on to teach them four techniques for animation that
they then have the option of using. They can change:
Size: Making an image progressively larger or
Shape: Progressively altering the shape of an image until it
becomes something else. Also called morphing for
Position: Changing the location of an image to create the
illusion of it moving around.
Add/Subtract: Tracing and then adding or subtracting part of
an image on each page to create the effect of something being drawn or
erased by an invisible hand.
students have one week to finish the flipbooks during classroom "free time"
and recess. Once I collect the books, I film them "on threes," holding each
drawing for three frames, which makes one second out of every eight
drawings. In the average school, with about 300 students, the flipbooks
combined make a video about one hour long.
Frame-by-Frame, Grade by Grade
Now I am
going to show you a video of samples of flipbooks by each grade level, K-6,
and point out some of the typical characteristics.
Kindergarten, when children are age 5 and 6, they:
draw the same or similar image repeatedly. They are learning about
patterns and repetition, which enables them to draw an image repeatedly
for at least four pages. After that, the short attention span of this
age group takes over and causes the child to change the image they are
drawing, essentially "starting over."
to draw the same thing, and are often taught "how to draw" various
simple things such as a tree, a face, or to write their name. The way
to get the best finished animation results from this age group is to
instruct them to draw something over and over again. First, find what
they like to draw, then ask them to turn the page and draw "another
not capable of tracing one drawing over another. They are better off
drawing something again from scratch.
trace the outline of their hand on the page, and this is a fun way to
animate for kids who get stuck.
First Grade, when children are age 6 and 7, they:
longer attention span, can keep drawing the same image for more pages
than a Kindergartener.
move the position of an image sequentially on each page.
change the size of an image one page at a time, particularly an
increase in size.
finding ways to tell stories, and have a particular interest in natural
occurrences of metamorphosis, such as a caterpillar turning into a
butterfly or a bird egg hatching.
influenced by media they consume, often trying to depict characters
from their favorite TV shows.
an emerging ability to morph shapes.
tell elaborate stories like ones they are reading, and often draw
images with large changes, looking more like comic books than
Second Grade, when children are age 7 and 8, they:
grasp morphing, changing shape of an object slowly. Can change the
shape of a complex object.
letters of the alphabet as images.
Frequently use symbols in drawing: sun, moon, house, star, flower,
to demonstrate an abstract sensibility, drawing similar shapes or
patterns to create an animated design.
learning geometry, and often draw shapes: triangle, square, circle,
definitely animate but still a bit too fast. Interestingly, at this age
they learn about basic fractions, ½, ¼, but not small enough
to understand 24 frames per second. Technically, at 3 frames per
drawing and 24 frames per second, each drawing is 1/8 of a
each other, want to be like their peers.
Third Grade, when children are age 8 and 9, they:
the first multiplication tables, and have learned fractions, so they
have a rudimentary understanding of parts making up a whole, which can
be applied to understanding animation.
grasp and focus on the additive methods of animating, creating a
drawing one step at a time.
often trying to tell stories that are too elaborate.
able to draw within a constrained area-the TV frame zone is only for
grades 3 and up.
to tell stories about their lives, and express emotion.
Fourth Grade, when children are age 9 and 10, they:
multiplication and division, and really understand the animation
phenomenon of 24 images or eight drawings creating one
understand optical illusions, such as an increase in the size of an
image creating the appearance of an object getting closer to the
able to visualize and draw different body positions of characters to
create believable locomotion. This entails visualizing the action in
"slow-motion," which I sometimes act out with the children.
tell stories in stages, and often draw scene "cuts" into their
opt for the additive method.
depict scenes based on themes being studied in class, such as Native
into the pure concept of motion, and often create abstract sequences of
just shapes or lines moving.
Fifth Grade, when children are age 10 and 11, they:
to lose ability to create simple good animation because of their
stronger urge to tell complex stories. Comic books may be more
appropriate for this age. They are too impatient to focus on something
simple without proper supervision.
use the additive process to create an image, then subtract to make it
depict sports action like skateboarding, baseball and
to develop personal style and a desire to be creative and
to depict violence such as accidents, rockets, explosions.
social influences, wanting to depict themselves and their friends
acting out in their "movie." Often put their names and other words into
though they understand the frame rates and sufficiently repeat images,
they rarely make the deduction themselves that words would need to be
repeated for several pages in order to be read.
Sixth Grade, when children are age 11 and 12, they:
Definitely grasp the concepts of 24 frames per second, and often
come up with amazing concepts for timing, cycles, and economical use of
their drawings. They find ways to make shortcuts.
depict action, especially sports, violence, etc.
very well with metamorphosis; some more than others.
action lines as seen in comic books.
influence gets in the way of true creativity.
to depict vulgar actions and scatological humor, to challenge teachers
and parents, and impress peers.
to make fun of teachers and others.
inhibitions about their drawing ability, which limits what risks they
are willing to take when trying to animate.
to own their images, have an independent identity.
Sometimes display a sensibility for abstract images.
conclusion, animation is an art form that combines aspects of several other
art forms and several academic content areas. It can be taught to students
of any age, provided the expectations and instruction are tailored to match
the learning capacities at each level.
Integrate with Stop Motion by Joe
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