Ray Harryhausen: Master of Stopmotion


Youtube again. This time, it is a six-part documentary about Ray Harryhausen, whose work with stopmotion animation and puppets thrilled me as a kid. You probably know the work if you stumbled into dark cinemas on rainy Saturdays for a buck and caught the matinees (Clash of the Titans, Jason and the Argonauts, the Sinbad the Sailor movies, etc). Obviously, some of the effects and motion seems ancient, but that is only because technology has caught up with Ray Harryhausen’s imagination.

The rest of the documentary is found here:
Part 1 Here
Part 2 Here
Part 3 Here
Part 4 Here
Part 5 Here
Part 6 Here

I can definitely see using this documentary when we get into Stopmotion movies later this year (as part of the Longfellow Ten site).

Peace (in the motion),

“I want to make a movie, daddy”

This morning, my five year old son said: “I want to make a movie.”

Well … OK then. We grabbed the laptop, plugged in the webcam and started shooting a Knights in the Castle movie together. He moved the pieces and I clicked the mouse.

We moved the video over to Moviemaker (I took out a few of his hands) and then he narrated it.

This was all within about 20 minutes. I like how it came out. You?

I guess my point is that moviemaking can be easy and fun, even for a five year old.

Peace (in the castle),

Stopmotion Name Movies

We dug right into technology in our first days of school as I had students use Pivot Stickfigure to create short stopmotion animation movies using the letters of their first name. You should have seen the engagement and concentration, and heard the laughter. And you should have seen students reaching over to show another a trick they discovered or share their movies in progress with each other.

It seemed like a real “bonding over technology” period of time and I can already gauge who is comfortable with working on the computer, who is not, and who can meet deadlines and who will have trouble with deadlines. That was part of my learning experience.

I also began showing the movies to the other sixth grade classes (this particular project was just with my homeroom class to start the year) as  way to signal that we will be getting creative this year. And my class got raves and applause from the others. Nice.

Peace (in the motion),


The Writers’ Saga, continued

Mark Twain arrived home this week, safe and sound inside an envelope. He is part of a group of Writer figurines making their way around the country by visiting various Summer Institutes of the National Writing Project. We’ve packaged the concept as a spy story, in which The Writers have been instructed by President Obama to investigate the National Writing Project and report back. The reporting has been done at a Ning site for technology-minded folks within the NWP.
What I’ve been doing, other than overseeing The Writers’ various journeys, is creating little stopmotion movies to keep the concept fresh and to poke fun at The Writers. Yesterday, I gave Twain his own feature, arriving home in one of my son’s Pirate Ships, floating along the blue waters of one of our futon couches. Meanwhile, we still have no word on the whereabouts of Edgar Allen Poe, who seems to have disappeared in the US Mail system.
I decided to try something a little different with this movie, using ComicLife to create the dialogue on images and then mixing up images and video. It was tricky and I am not sure I kept enough time for the reading of the lines. Let me know. I can always go back and re-edit, if necessary.
If you want to see the other segments of The Writers, go: First here and then here and then here. That should bring you up to speed.


Peace (in the fun),

Bringing Kids into the World of Stopmotion

It’s been a long but productive four days of co-teaching a Claymation/Stopmotion Movie Camp for middle school students. When I think about it, they accomplished quite a bit. All 16 of the students worked on small claymation clips, learned three to four new software programs and then created (mostly through collaboration with others) a longer Claymation or Stopmotion movie.

This year, the group worked better and more creatively than past groups. It all has to do with dynamics, I suppose, but you could really get a sense of the exploration in the air. For the most part, I show them something and then get out of the way. My co-teacher, Tina, and I were tech support and allowed students to bounce ideas off us. But for the most part, they were off and running before we even said “go.”

Yesterday, we showcased the nine movies before a crowd of family and friends. I had each group or each student come up before the crowd and talk about their movie first. They did a great job and the audience was impressed by the work, as was I.

Two movies come to mind.

The first is by two boys who had a great vision, but not quite enough time to get it all done. They used wooden artistic figures more than clay, and their original story involved two little wooden guys discovering a larger wooden guy, who comes to life. As the large guy walks, his footprints would morph into claymation art. They ran out of time, but their work is still pretty cool animation:

The second was a group of three older boys. What I loved about this group was how creative and collaborative they were, and how they realized they could use a bunch of technology in their movie. So, they began with a scene from a Pivot video they made in which two stick figures push a button. Then, they used Bendaroos to create physical versions of their characters, and clay for the others. They also decided to use the digital voice component on Windows for the voice of the villain, shoving the microphone into a set of headphones. Pretty nifty.

Peace (in the movies),

PS — You can see all of the movies and more at our Summer Camp blog site.

Another Day at Claymation/Comics Camp

We had an interesting day at our Claymation and Comic Camps yesterday, as kids in the movie section worked hard on their longer claymation movies (which have to be completed today for family) and we had two visitors to our Comic Camp — Hilary Price, whose comic Rhymes with Orange runs in about 150 newspapers, and Bryant Paul Johnson, a webcomic who is now working on a historical fiction graphic novel.

First, here are two movies show some of the claymation work of a blob coming to life and also a character I created out of Bendaroos called Cal the Clayman as he visits the “sets” of the movies.

And then, here are some photos from the visits to the clay camp:

Peace (on our last day),

Sharing out: Claymation and Comics Summer Camp

We’re about half-way through with the four-day summer camps — one that focuses in claymation/stopmotion movies and the other that centers on comics and graphic novels. Both have been incredibly interesting and the middle school students (mostly boys) are very engaged in the work they are doing.

In the movie camp, they have been working on a variety of movies, but are now focused in on creating a longer Claymation Movie around the theme of a  “buddy/friend” adventure. There are some pretty fascinating stories developing, including one that begins in the world of Pivot Stickfigure and then transforms into the “real world” with stick figures made out of Bendaroos (bendable sticks).

Here are some pictures of some of the scenes coming to life:

In the comic camp, we are doing a mix of paper work and using technology tools. We worked with ComicLife yesterday and then continued to use our ToonDoo site for webcomics. ToonDoo is a huge hit with many of them, and one student is even working on a 100-part series (yes, 100 pages) that is a spy mystery of sorts. I showed him how to create an ebook in our ToonDoo space, so that the reader can follow the story in sequence. Very cool.

Here are a few pictures from yesterday as they worked on a paper comic:

And here are some comics made in camp:

Peace (in the creative world),