I have written previously about 'Digital Storytelling' (here), but in this post I want to mention several excellent resources that help children to understand and experiment with film and animation as a vehicle for storytelling. Story is important! I talk about this in a series of previous posts titled 'The Power of Story' (here). Narrative is an important part of what it means to be human. Across all cultures, story seems to be a key way that people share something of who they are, how they see themselves, how they envisage the past, present and future. Story can entertain, build community, develop shared cultural understanding, maintain culture and social groups, help to shape identity, and help us to interpret the past, present and future.
A narrative is a story created in varied forms, including writing, speech, song, art and images, sculpture, video, dramatic presentation, dance, mime and so on. While the modes used can vary, what is common is that a narrative describes a sequence of events that can be works of fiction or non-fiction. Story is based on the Latin verb narrare, which means 'to recount', translate or tell. The purpose of story is so enable us to learn, know, remember or share knowledge. We often used the word 'story' to refer to the sequence of events that are the focus, but it can also be used interchangeably with 'narrative'.
Puppet Pals is available as a free app for the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad. It is essentially a simple way to create an animated movie using 'cut-out' themed characters and a variety of backdrops and scenes to create an animated 'puppet' play.
There is a free version that comes with Wild West backgrounds and actors. However, you can also purchase different themes for $US0.99 or the 'Director's Cut' in which you can access all the themes for $US2.99. These allow you to obtain a range of additional scenarios and characters based on themes such as monsters, space, pirates, arthropod armada, Christmas and so on. You can even make your backdrops and characters.
This is a very simple to use app that provides very easy storyboarding. You can record dialogue, move characters around, create some simple effects, change backdrops and settings and characters. Below is an example that my eight year old grandson produced with little instruction and next to no preparation at his second attempt using the app. While ideally, before creating the animation, the writer/producer prepares plot summaries and story ideas, Jacob made this excellent animation as a first take. He used the 'Arthropod Armada' theme from 'Director's Cut'.
Puppet Pals is a wonderful resource for supporting story telling, writing, language development, creativity, and problem solving, while at the same time introducing them to film making and animation. I could see myself using a smartboard to collaboratively develop a story with my class before introducing individuals and groups to this smart little app.
Above: 'Bob & Theodore' Written, produced and directed by Jacob aged 8 years
Movie Maker (Walker Books)
Movie Maker' was developed by Tim Grabham, Suridh Hassan, Dave Reeve and Clare Richards. It is another wonderful resource from Walker Books designed for primary school aged children (7-12 years). It is a kit that contains ideas for making movies, a handbook that shows you how armed with a simple video camera you can make movies. The handbook talks about techniques like storyboarding, production, equipment, sound and lighting, design, special effects, how to vary camera shots and so on. It also includes some very cute aids such as a binocular mask, an adjustable frame, sample story boards, character props (e.g. glasses, moustache) and even authentic theatre tickets. All it doesn't include is the popcorn.
The Klutz Book of Animation
'The Klutz Book of Animation' by John Cassidy and Nicholas Berger is another excellent aid for child film makers. The book provides step by step guidance to primary aged children to make simple animations using a video camera (as simple as a web cam) and computer and a variety of props, objects, plasticine and so on. The publishers provide a number of videos online that teach children the fundamentals of animation and film making (here). At the publisher's site you can download free instructional videos (here), free sound effects (here) and sample videos made by children (here). Below is a sample using the Klutz methodology. This is a great resource for young film makers. Steven Spielberg would have loved to have this as a child.
Other Related Posts
'Digital Storytelling' HERE