Animation and education – Stan Heyward

Age no barrier. Animation is now in the hands of children, Stan Heyward tells Ken Clark.

Maya Hayward showing her father how to use the Amiga set-up. Photo by kind permission of The Guardian.

Stan Hayward’s original ambition was to become a chemist but when he received his call-up papers to do National Service he had to shelve the idea. He chose to join the Merchant Navy but when they arrived in Australia he jumped ship and resumed his studies. In his spare time he played in a band. One day his friends decided to tour Europe playing as they went. On arrival in London he was promptly made to account for jumping ship.

He turned his hand to script writing and sent material to the BBC designed for use on the Goon Show. Spike Milligan liked it, sent him two guineas (£2.10) and asked for more. Next time his efforts earned him the princely sum of twenty guineas but it was a short lived success. The Goon Show came to an end.

Determined to pursue the rewards he felt would come from his writing he looked for a likely avenue for his new found talent and for helpful contacts. By coincidence help was on hand from a member of their band who had decided to stay on in Britain. Stan had seen a few cartoon films and believed he could devise filmable scenarios but – how to break into the business? His accountant friend replied, “Oddly enough, we have a client who works in animation”. The client turned out to be Richard Williams. Richard turned him down, but Grant Munro asked him if he could write scripts for commercials. Stan had never written anything of the sort in his life, however, he was barely existing on £1.50 a week and wasn’t about to confess to that tiny detail. He stayed with TVC for nearly three years before producing work for a number of other production companies including Bob Godfrey’s emporium. Here he was responsible for originating the ideas for a number of highly successful shorts, more often than not on the back of an envelope.

Stan has long held the opinion that computer animation has an important part to play in the education of children. The opportunity to research his belief came quite unexpectedly.

“I wrote an article on the subject for publication in the Guardian. Chromacolour liked it and invited me to become involved in the introduction of the Amiga 2000 line tester. I wrote their first manual. Then Commodore asked me whether I was writing software programs. I told them the subject needed deeper research and that I was devising courses that could easily become programs.”

Chromacolour volunteered to loan him one complete Amiga 2000 system for evaluation and experimentation. He tried out various techniques while teaching Maya, his eight-year-old daughter, “She used to be dyslexic but I got her to invent patterns; to write her name, turn it upside down and backwards, using it to make more patterns; and then a whole series of exercises including animation.

“I commenced serious research at my daughter’s school for a couple of hours a week just to amuse them, and before long parents were asking whether their child could come to me so that I might teach them more. Eventually, I organised a small group of them at my home, with the proviso they followed a course I had devised.

“At this stage I wanted to learn from them, their likes and dislikes their abilities and inabilities. I tried a number of different techniques carefully monitoring their progress. I have hundreds of computer games and I watched and listened as they used the computer controls. I provided a wide variety of drawing materials, stencils, etc, and I observed how they worked together; their choice of materials; stencils and so on; their approach to a problem; how quickly they became bored – the threshold of boredom is never far away – and the correct size of their drawing board, all of these factors were of primary interest to me from an ergonomic point of view.

“If they were making multiple tracings from a basic outline figure I quickly discovered the tracing paper slipped around, creased and even tore, if not then, it would happen when they rubbed bits out. But this never happened when they used carbon paper under the original. Interleafed in this fashion they can produce many identical basic shapes. By removing each top sheet in turn and adding extra detail on successive sheets, the final sheet is quite an advance on the first and the series becomes a complete animated sequence which can be grabbed by the camera, digitised and coloured by the computer.

page 1 | page 2