Kirsten Lepore is an artist and filmmaker who works with different animation techniques, including stop-motion animation and claymation. Creating personal short films and animated segments for clients such as Yo Gabba Gabba, Whole Foods, and MTV, Lepore is known for her hand-fabricated film sets and characters made from an eclectic mix of materials including clay, food, sand and snow. Her wildly popular food-themed film, Sweet Dreams, stars a butternut squash who shows a cupcake the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. The award-winning film is remarkable in its production design, art direction, and wordless storytelling style. We visited Lepore at her Los Angeles studio to learn more about the intentions behind her food-focused film, the unusual materials she works with to create her animations, and why she loves the laborious process of stop-motion animation.
Kirsten Lepore also gave us a hands-on demonstration of her preferred techniques for creating claymation. Lepore's technical set-up is sophisticated, but the animation process is simple and can be recreated using digital cameras and editing programs like iMovie and iStopMotion. Even flipbooks are a form of animation.
A group of educators recently completed a KQED workshop, stop motion animation in the elementary classroom. Our focus was on creating stop motion animation films to demonstrate scientific concepts and transformations. While some teachers used animation to represent plant growth and weather patterns, others created videos for use in other subject areas, such as Spanish and video production classes.
Stop motion animation is an artistic activity that can be applied to many subject areas, and is a hands-on way to introduce students to how animation and films are created. It also requires a low level of technology and can be done simply using digital cameras or mobile phone cameras, and free editing software.
Check out our teachers' videos below, and send an email to ArtsEd@KQED.org to learn about future educator workshops on stop motion animation.
In the 1950s, Art Clokey created beloved claymation character Gumby and sidekick Pokey for a stop motion claymation television series that ran in the 50s and 60s. Since then, stop motion animation has made it to the big screen with movies like Wallace & Gromit and Fantastic Mr. Fox. Can this digital art form make it to the elementary classroom? The answer is an emphatic yes! Making a stop motion animation is now easier than ever. All it takes is a digital camera, simple art materials, and editing software such as iMovie or Windows Movie Maker. JellyCam by TicklyPictures.com is a free online stop motion maker that’s simple and easy to use. For the iPad, an app called myCreate by iCreate to Educate is a great starter for making stop motion animation.
One of the major reasons stop motion animation is worth trying with students is because it’s a lot of creative fun yet requires conceptual thinking. It’s “undercover learning” - students are so engaged they don’t know they’re learning. Planning the animation challenges students to visually lay out a scene frame by frame so the viewer understands the story or concept as it unfolds. Writing also becomes more meaningful since every animation starts with a script.
With stop motion, figurines, crafts, or any hands-on materials can be used to tell stories, recreate a historical event, or explain a science concept such as the life cycle of an organism or transformation of a solid to liquid to gas.
It’s a way for students to take full control of their learning and communicate a concept in an artistic way. It may not be for everyone since it takes time, patience, collaboration and hundreds of frame shots for a one-minute piece. But it may be the one multimedia project that makes a difference for the student who discovers the love for creating artistically and digitally.
Check out Pea Soup (time to get serious), one of the winning clips from Science Centre Singapore's stop motion animation competition Scinemation 2011, and see how a team of students visually expressed climate change.
Since 2009, KQED Arts Education has held workshops in stop-motion animation for both students and teachers. Inspired by Spark artist M.Dot Strange, and partnering with our friends at the Disposable Film Festival, the San Francisco Film Society, and Zeum, we’ve seen filmmakers of all ages produce their own digital animation projects. Stop-motion projects are low-tech and can be used for classroom projects focused on a range of topics.
KQED workshop participant and Rooftop Arts Coordinator Amy Blasbaugh took stop-motion into a 4th grade art classroom and tried another form of animation using celluloid film strips, thumbtacks, Sharpie markers, and an old-school projector. This camera-less technique was the perfect way to illuminate students’ interest in analog and digital film projects. As you’ll hear in Amy’s In the Classroom interview, there were a lot of “Oohs and aahs.”
Rooftop School is known for their year-long creative themes and part of their current focus is on “Illumination.”