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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


March 20, 2004 - Issue 109


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Kids Put Their Creations in Motion

by Miriam Dewar - Nunatsiaq News
credits: Eight-year-old Malaiya Inookie stands with a picture she has drawn during an animation workshop in Iqaluit. (Photo by Miriam Dewar)

Film board workshop introduces students to animation

Eight-year-old Malaiya Inookie stands with a picture she has drawn during an animation workshop in Iqaluit. (Photo by Miriam Dewar)The studio at the back of the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation building in Iqaluit is pitch-black. The only light comes from a cartoon being screened at the front of the room.

About 12 children sit watching the animated film. It ends, the lights come on, and the children scurry back to their tables and hunch over small stacks of paper stapled together at the top.

The first class of a four-day animation workshop for youth offered by the National Film Board is winding down.

Animation is the time-consuming art of drawing pictures in sequences, which, when viewed rapidly, simulate motion.

Ten-year-old Julie Hanson-Akavak happily shows the flip book she has created.

"It was fun," she says turning the pages of her booklet. She has drawn a series of pictures of the tundra in sequence. On later pages a flower pokes it head up through the ground. When she flips the pages quickly, it looks like the flower is growing.

Producers from the NFB were in Iqaluit, Pangnirtung and Cape Dorset a few months ago scouting for artists with an interest in animation for three workshops to be held later this year.

They visited Iqaluit's Beth McKenty at her home near the beach. McKenty offers painting sessions for children, and the producers were so impressed that, with her urging, they decided to offer one workshop for children in the territory's capital.

John Tanziazic from the NFB centre in Winnipeg is here to teach the workshop and speaks gently to the children as they finish today's project.

"Have we shot your flip book yet?" he asks nine-year-old Alukie, who shakes her head.

Her flip-book is placed on a white piece of paper fastened to a desk under a digital video camera. A laptop computer is on the desk beside it, and another child sits to do the shooting by pressing a computer key.

The first page of the book, which simply shows Alukie's name, is shot 12 times.

"Press 'enter' 12 times," Tanziazic coaches. The next page is shot eight times and the rest three. As Alukie turns the pages and holds the book down, you can see a flower growing blue petals and the yellow and orange sun in the sky getting gradually brighter.

"That's great," Tanziazic says to Alukie's smile. After a few clicks of the mouse and a few seconds of processing, Alukie's film plays on the computer screen. It looks just like a rough cartoon.

Once the students have gone for the day, Tanziazic explains he tries to help them to realize how long it takes to create animation and to feel what it's like if they want to pursue it as a career.

"That's why we start with flip-books," he says. "Often the first few drawings are great." And then the quality tends to diminish. But once they see their own film, even though it's fairly rudimentary, it's enough to keep them motivated to try the next step.

Once they have an idea of how things move on screen, the students will work with paper cutouts, again shooting them in sequence to make a short film before trying claymation.

"None of these guys have done any animating before," he says of the Iqaluit group, but he's sure by the time they start claymation - creating three-dimensional models that are moved slightly each time a shot is taken - they'll be comfortable with the concepts.

To give them an idea of how long that takes, their final exposure will be to a technique called cell animation, a traditional way of making animation where each picture is actually painted on a piece of plastic.

Animation classes are a fairly new phenomenon, Tanziazic says, because making a film 10 to 15 years ago was very expensive.

The computers and programs were costly and the traditional labour-intensive technique was just as prohibitive because it had to be shot on film - also expensive. Today all Tanziazic needed was a laptop, a computer program that can be downloaded from the Internet, and a camera.

"You can even use a Web cam," he says.

These youth may not grow up to work on the next Finding Nemo movie or South Park series, but they will leave the workshop with a sense of accomplishment and, Tanziazic says, a better understanding of how animation is made.

And for Julie Hanson-Akavak, that's just fine. She doesn't want a career doing animation.

"I want to be a policewoman," she says, taking her flip-book and heading out the door.

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