Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Content for animation

 Following my post of yesterday on animating the animators, I want to take a look at the writing aspect of things. Not the skill of script writing so much as the content.

Judging by my grandchildren's response to and use of cartoons and animated series, children are not merely passive consumers of the content. They learn a lot from these sometimes seemingly mindless stories and activities and interactions of the characters. I have seen them pick up their ears at a classical piece because they recognise it from some cartoon. Many of the cartoons do not speak down to them in the way that books sometimes do, so their vocabulary expands very quickly. . I keep repeating the story of how surprised I was when my eight/ nine year old grandson knew what I meant when I used the phrase 'Déjà vu' in conversation with him. When I asked where he had heard it, his answer was  - in a cartoon.(I learned this phrase much later in life)

The interactive nature of some of the more educationally skewed animated programmes introduces them to historical figures and events in an entertaining way  - all of this foreign based at present. But in Jamaica so many things are 'sacred' that if you made a cartoon out of it, if you animated it in an entertaining way to catch the children's interest, some people might very well be offended:  Animated figures can look distorted. Many believe that animations and cartoons are for light entertainment only.  Are we ready to see Marcus Garvey's  story told  in cartoon format? Or any of our heroes, for that matter? Are we willing to touch slavery ? Present politics? Iconic figures past and present? Controversial subjects?  For example - could you animate a story with an environmental message using  the 'two little lizards' contemplating their future in a transformed Goat Island without bringing down the wrath of certain sections of our society. 

Can we just have fun without merely ridiculing sections of our society? It can be done, of course, what I am really asking is would this be popular or merely annoying to some. Remember the controversy around the first erected Bob Marley statue near the stadium? How dare the sculptor, Christopher Gonzales, try something different. 

People are we ready to really explore the benefits of animation both for learning and entertainment using our own stories?

animated figures from http://heathersanimations.com/

Monday, April 28, 2014

How to Animate the Animators

accompanying illustration to the Observer article

(two extracts)
From the Sunday Osberver Sunday April 27, 2014 (The Agenda page 2)
Where are the Promised Jobs?
"None of them have landed jobs, not my son or any of those who completed the course with him," said the parent, an acquaintance of mine, as we spoke of the recent buzz and hype surrounding animation in Jamaica.
"I specifically enrolled him in the animation course because we were told that at completion, at graduation they would all get jobs. When everything was added up, that is the cost of the course $175,000, I must have spent well over $250,000 including cost of the tablet, lunch and everything,"
"So who told you the jobs were guaranteed?" I asked.
"It was advertised right alongside the course that graduation guaranteed a job....
From the Sunday Gleaner April 27, 2014 (UWI Mona Now page 3)
High Demand for CARIMAC's Animation Programme
....."Animate Jamaica offers these youth the chance to train in a discipline that has applications in many fields such as education, game development, media production, architecture and advertising. They also leave the programme with a range of skills and competencies that are welcome and needed, even at entry level." ....
Put the two together and you get hope and despair.  If I recall correctly when the training programme was launched there was much hype about the fact that major production companies abroad were farming out animation services worldwide, so there would be jobs galore. At the time, I thought- as usual, nobody is thinking about developing this for ourselves. That means putting in place the support needed to make animation ours, not just copies of 'elsewhere'.

The technology, by itself is only a means to an end, whether it be for education or entertainment. Somebody(ies) need to develop the material which will be used by the technology. The developers of the software use teams of writers to come up with the material which the animators animate. Doubtless we already have lots of basic material which can be used but persons need to be trained in writing scripts specifically for animation.  I don't know if any such courses are available here. (I am open to correction). So while we wait on the jobs from 'outside', perhaps if we paid some attention to this aspect, we could be getting along with developing our own material and not be so dependent on others, and create an industry with jobs for the graduates. What is going on the tablets the government is investing in for schools?  New technology - same dependence on material other people create.

Meanwhile, the three year old visitor to my house happily manipulates the all- foreign material on his Ipad - Mickey Mouse, various Disney games, Japanese superheroes – same old, same old.

P.S. I would be happy to hear that development of material is being done behind the scenes. Please let me know.