Animation and education – Stan Heyward – Page 2

“Using Delux Paint 3 software, colouring is a simple operation with the additional advantage of electronic manipulations. With Lux I can merge animations with live action video, and so many other tricks – a truly multi- media work station. I would like to see many more systems installed in classrooms with a wide variety of animation techniques being employed – rather like a penny arcade where children can move from one activity area to another. Cost might seem to be an argument against such a project but I wonder if this is valid. Surely judicious purchasing of the right equipment in the first instance is the dominant factor. I work in a school where nine or ten computers are standing idle because no-one knows how to operate them, but this system is simplicity itself and we know from actual experience of instructional film that animation can be employed in the teaching of virtually every subject under – and even including – the sun. Animation as a tool is very, very relevant and great fun.

“The hardware and the software costs around £10,000 at present but Chromacolour is building a system around the Amiga 500 which should put it within reach of many schools for the able and the handicapped, for film schools and universities. This is one area where costs are dropping as systems improve.

“The fact is; any child can use it and master it so easily. I have had children of fourteen years with a mental age of four or five years coming to me and I get one of them to write his name, let us say it is Fred. Then I ask ‘What can we do with the word Fred.’ I digitise it on the computer and they see it appear on the screen. I may flip it or bend it, enlarge, reduce or make multi repeat patterns with it. I might get a group of four to cooperate in the production of a pattern then show them how to change it by colour cycling and other computer effects all at the touch of a button. This educates and familiarises them with the many possibilities of the system making it easier to proceed to planning, story boarding and simple animation.

“A wide range of drawings are held in the computer’s memory. They can be reviewed sheet by sheet and items chosen to build a background setting. The individual items chosen to build a background setting. The items may be ‘picked’ off the sheet and placed in position on a clean sheet. This enables a non artist to produce a well drawn video picture in seconds.

“Nothing succeeds like success. If you stand and watch these children tracing picture after picture you can actually see the quality of each one improving – in fact, they amaze themselves. They draw a simple picture – I suggest they add buttons, a coat, ribbons in the hair or a hat, and so on. By the time they have finished they see before them a detailed drawing and they suddenly realize that they produced it. It is the moment they realize they have an unexpected capability. Their eyes have been opened and from that moment on they become very ambitious, their perception heightened.

“We are not using animation in the normal sense of producing a finished product – it is simply an activity, a variation of the colouring book or dot to dot picture. Animation provides a new dimension It is not meant to be any more sophisticated than that.”

At many of the schools he visits, the teacher introduces him to the class saying, “Mr Hayward is going to teach you all about animation,” – and then wanders off to get a cup of tea. This angers Stan. “If animation in schools is to get off the ground it has to be carefully planned in such a way that an animation workshop is as meaningful as a music workshop or any other subject in the school curriculum. When Commodore became interested in the education potential of their product I told them a deal of research would be necessary to clearly define objectives and requirements. The pattern of learning must be clear-cut, foolproof and transferable to any similar location. As with music, one must follow a prescribed path and attempt to achieve various grades.

“I set up the Amiga in advance and supply all the class work material. I begin with pre-printed basic drawings and invite the children to fill in the details and colour them stage by stage, frame by frame. Two-drawing flipper-picture movements are explained, and they set to work. Some produce three pictures and come to me in great excitement, “That’s terrific!” I tell them, “now carry on and draw three more.” When the whole class is busy I put their material under the camera. It was difficult with only one Amiga but then Commodore rewarded me with the loan of two more, making life very much easier. I am now able to split the class.

“I teach them to draw round their fingers and hand, then turn their drawing into an octopus, or an elephant, a monster or an alien being. I provide sheets of paper bearing half a drawing and leave them to complete the picture. I keep changing the program so that so that there is never a dull moment. When boredom sets in all they have to do is ask, “What next?” and I provide a new incentive. Anything taking longer than seconds to accomplish probably will not work.

“The Amiga is perfect for this type of work which I have come to call ‘art therapy’. You do not have to be an accomplished artist or model-maker. Even the most primitive, unrecognisable shapes can be made to move, to grow, to change. For the child, the static image is suddenly and wondrously freed of all constraints and this inspires a variety of imaginative and lateral exploitations of the medium. I am hoping that one day it will be quite natural to say we read, write and animate as one inter-related activity.

“I attempt to stimulate their imagination, for example by drawing a letter V and asking ‘What’s that?’, they reply ‘A letter V’, I say ‘No, it isn’t – it s an ice cream’. I turn the paper upside down and fill in the necessary detail. Then I ask again ‘What’s that?’, ‘An ice cream’, they reply. ‘No it isn’t’, I say and promptly turn it into a face wearing a pointed hat. Sometimes it is possible to make eight or ten changes. Or I may use a word instead – changing one letter at a time. Food becomes good becomes gold becomes sold, etc, etc. On screen it becomes a form of animation with the added attraction it is an aid to spelling. You begin to see the potential?

“This is a fundamental change of purpose. Animation is used as an extension to writing. Animation implies a creative activity – this is creative writing.

“I am working with Ted Rockley on the ‘Animation Workshop series’ to be used by virtually anybody who has never animated. We have originated basic materials such as the half drawings, a bundle of two-key drawings to flip, flipper pads, films, videos complete with manuals. Complete teachers training packs.

“I am getting too old for normal commercial animation, that is too much of a grind. I am quite content to allow this educational demand to take over my life. The speed of development is both exciting and breathtaking and is aimed at an entirely new market, in schools initially but as the cost reduces it will be found in the home. Adult and child alike will have instant access to a new found (for them) dynamic means of expression.

“My aim is to co-ordinate the development. To that end I need to be in constant touch with workshops around the country. The education area is not only growing, it is inextricably entwined with design engineering, computer graphics, et al. Tomorrow’s world has arrived.”

Before I left Stan, I learned that his daughter had appeared on the Rolf Harris Cartoon Club, the weekly Wednesday show for children. By sheer coincidence the following day Martin Lamb producer of the programme, phoned to invite me to spend a day at the HTV West studios in Bristol and be present at one of Rolfs recording sessions. It was an invitation I could not refuse.

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Printed in Animator Issue 27 (Summer 1990)