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Intro to Animation: Mini Unit Study

animation

I was talking to a friend of mine last night, and I realized this is our third year homeschooling, and I’m only beginning to get our “school” the way I want it. The first two years, I was so terrified of Murph falling behind, that I felt obligated to have curricula for everything. And lots of it. Seriously, I have books upon books of programs we tried out that didn’t suit us. Our first year was an all-in-one which I desperately wanted to work, but it dawned on me that as nice as a boxed curriculum would be, none of it would ever be right.

I can definitely appreciate the curriculum may have been perfect for the author or the author’s child or classroom, but it’s usually filled with literature that bores Murph to tears or science lessons we’ve already covered or math that’s well below Murph or spelling lists above him. It’ll never be right, even if it’s easy – and there’s a certain reassurance that it’s “up to code.” So, our second year was filled with individual subject’s collected from here or there. But we found that schooling at home was simply not the way Murphy learns best.

I think we’re in a better place, but I’m still not where I want to be – I have a bad habit of planning lessons that last too long and lose interest. It feels like if we spend more than a day or two on a topic, the project sits on the kitchen table, unfinished, because our interests are on to something new. But what I would like, eventually, for this site, is to create a bunch of unit studies, in mini-form. Lessons that cover a topic with lots of hands-on projects, easily doable in a day or two. Lessons I can pull for the littles when they’re older or any other homeschool families who need a substitute teacher day. Lessons that are more age and interest appropriate for Murph, since lap books and coloring pages may as well be cursive writing worksheets (a.k.a. what he gets threatened with when he’s misbehaving. Seriously, though, I need to buy whoever invented cursive writing sheets a drink as a thank you for being our bad cop, because they really may be the worst thing on the planet).

So, I’d like to present our first mini unit study: Intro to Animation. Now this does focus a bit on Walt Disney as opposed to Warner Bros., Studio Ghibli or any other major contributors to animation simply because this lesson is prep work for an upcoming vacation.:)I’ll probably do a second unit study with more of the studios and more actual animation projects later – this focuses more on the history that lead to animation and early contributions.

 

Intro to Animation

Magic Lantern

Thaumatrope

Phenakistoscope

Cartoon Drawing

Zoetrope

Kineograph

Watch Animation Clips

 

Intro to Animation

So, I created the following .pdf with some information – apologies for any typos. I haven’t slept through the night in three years, and I typed it in photoshop, so there’s no spell check there. Anyway, we started reading through it and paused and built the projects below as we went through.  pdf: intro_animation

 

Magic Lantern

This simply shows the idea behind the Magic Lantern – images on glass with rudimentary movement by having two plates of glass together, one with the “moving” piece manually manipulated. This also helped us with the concept behind cel animation (just briefly mentioned in the .pdf)

Instructions: Draw a picture on parchment paper. On a separate piece, draw the “moving” piece. Place together and show movement.

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

 

Thaumatrope

Instructions: Using a circle cutter, punch or simply by tracing and cutting out a circle from card stock, draw a picture on either side of the circle – both facing up if you flip the paper over vertically. We made this mistake and had an upside down bird and an upside down heart on our first attempts. So, if you hold it up in the air, one side will be drawn upright and the other will be upside down – that you want to merge together. Also realize both pictures need to be very close to the center of the circle. Our heart was too high up which, when spun, put it just about between the man’s legs. Coupled with it being an upside down red heart… well, a seven year old definitely knows what it looks like when Mom bursts out laughing. Cut holes in the sides and tie strings. With the string between your fingers, rotate it as quickly as possible to see the images merge together.

© 2013 Nickel City Studios© 2013 Nickel City Studios

Phenakistoscope

Instructions: We used this Howcast tutorial to make our phenakistoscope. We drew a picture of a fish and cut it out as a template for each frame to make things a bit easier.

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

Cartoon Drawing

Instructions: I pulled four “how to draw” tutorials from Pinterest/google, and we practiced a panda, a shark, Mickey Mouse and Jake. I pulled the panda and shark because they were pretty easy, and I probably should’ve just pulled four Adventure Time characters because he was super stoked to learn how to draw Jake and really couldn’t have cared less about the panda and shark.

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

Zoetrope

Instructions: We used this Howcast tutorial – though instead of using a marble, we stuck another push pin through the bottom into a pencil. It was was way easier. In hindsight, the phenakistoscope and this project were so similar, we should’ve only done one of the two.

© 2013 Nickel City Studios© 2013 Nickel City Studios© 2013 Nickel City Studios

Kineograph

Instructions: Otherwise known as a flip book. I wised up on this one since our drawing skills aren’t quite at animator level yet (I had to keep explaining for the zoetrope and phenakistoscope why we couldn’t animate a tennis match or a wizard battle), and we used a ball stamp I picked up at Party City for $.25 a while back and did a ball bouncing around the book. It was definitely the win since it took the frustration for not having the drawings exactly the way he wanted away and made the project more fun for him.

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

Watch Animation Clips

Then we finished our mini unit watching our YouTube History of Animation playlist to follow along with some of the animation milestones noted in the .pdf.  There’s also, randomly, “Let it Go” from Frozen. Because, uh, it’s the most recent CGI film, and not at all because Mom likes singing along to it. If you can watch it through a device on your television, I’d recommend it instead of crowding the computer – even without watching the full New Gulliver film, it’s a good hour+. Also, as a head’s up – you’ll need to skip ahead to about 17 minutes into the New Gulliver film to see the stop motion puppetry.

And the more I write in this blog post, the more I realize there is definitely going to have to be a sequel mini unit on stop motion and CGI. They just didn’t get the love here in this one:)

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