Whatever happened to …

… Clay Animation?

The time frame was during what many call the golden years of Saturday Night Live.  One of the popular segments was featured Mr. Bill.  The skits were hilarious. About the same time, a recurring television commercial featured the California Raisins.

One of the CAITs that I had the honour of working with attended a Clay Animation workshop, came back, and shared the concept with us.  Basically, it was frame animation.  You know the type…you take a picture of something, adjust it just a bit, take another picture, adjust it a bit, take another picture, etc.  When you were done, you’d stitch them together and export a movie.

We experimented with the concept and purchased kits to further our exploration.  It was good and it delivered on the promise of technology.  You couldn’t just sit down and just do something computery.  You had to have a story line, sketch out the actors, perhaps even plan for an audio to go with the movie, sculpt the characters, …  Then, it was to work.  And, work it was.  The kit contained sculpting tools, coloured plasticine, and other goodies including what we called googly eyes.  You know, those big white eyeballs with the black centres.  We had a whale of a time making our own movies and decided that we’d roll it out to the system.  So, we purchased one of the kits for every school and making movies became a regular activity at our CIESC meetings.  It was quickly adopted in some places in schools and they purchased additional kits.  But, the best part was when teachers and students looked around the classroom and found all kinds of other content for their stories.  It was making at its best.

Movies could be shared easily in the saved format.  The class wiki or school website was the perfect place for this.

With the provincial licensing of software, there were wonderful applications licensed for us in all Ontario schools to support the cause.  I’m thinking Hyperstudio, Frames, Photoshop Elements, …

While the kit came with its own stage, students really enjoyed colouring and creating their own backgrounds.  It was a natural launchpad to working with green screens to create environments that were difficult to create manually with classroom tools.  Of course, green screening itself became popular – I remember my friend Nazreen bringing me up to the stage at an ECOO Conference as some sort of embarrassment/payback with Hall Davidson as keynote and I was to be transported somewhere.  Sadly, I still remember the blue and green chequered shirt I was wearing.  It was a teachable moment that every weather forecaster knows; don’t wear anything green when you’re doing green screen.

Green screening has made a comeback – it was a popular and fun event at last year’s BIT conference but, sadly, Clay Animation not so much.  Perhaps we’ve moved on; perhaps it just requires too much time/planning; perhaps it’s too messy; perhaps digital animation is easier to implement, maybe the only focus is only on being a good digital citizen?  Regardless, you don’t hear much talk about it any more.  I was at an event this past week and made some old connections and Clay Animation and other workshop topics were part of the conversation which brought all this back to mind.  So much fun and so many great movies, Public Service Announcements, comedy sketches, etc. were created.  I wonder if anyone even uses the kits anymore.

It certainly wasn’t a quick and easy activity like some of the follow up lower hanging fruit activities.  But the learning was fantastic.  Perhaps with the current love affair with “making”, it will return?

I’m interested in your thoughts.

  • Do you do Clay Animation with your students?  Have you ever?
  • Are there more popular alternatives for movie making?
  • Do you see animation of any form having a place in your classroom, library, or maker space?

Do you have an idea or thought that would be appropriate for my “Whatever happened to … ” series of blog posts?

Please visit this Padlet and add your idea.  I’d love for it to be an inspiration for a post!

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