Bob and Bobita
’Bob and Bobita’ (the student’s choice, not mine) was a twelve week project with a small year 8 group, (11 students) and was my principal experiment in updating and illustrating a fairy tale. I have run similar projects with students for a number of years, based on fairy tale or myth, and working with cut paper silhouette and stop frame animation. This is the first time that I have experimented this way using pixilation; using the students themselves as the models for the animation. The inspiration for the story came directly from Lotte Reiniger’s version of Hansel and Gretal, accessed directly in the classroom via a quick search on ‘Youtube’. The inspiration for rendering this version of Hansel and Gretal as a shadow play came directly from the iPhone application ‘Shadows Never Sleep’ written by Aya Karpinska, an artists who specialises in performance and digital art.

The process of updating the story was in this case done by the whole group in a discussion, the story coming out of this discussion. A brief synopsis:

Bob and Bobita are leaving for school, their mother gives them money for breakfast, which they will buy on route from a fast food store. As they are walking they see an old lady with a zimmer frame, and help her to cross the road. They enter a McDonald’s and buy a McMuffin each, and are eating these as they continue on their way to school. But a hungry tramp approaches, attracted by the smell of the Mcmuffins. He grabs them and runs off. Seeing this, the old lady takes chase, corners him in a phone box, chastises him with her zimmer frame. She retrieves the Mcmuffins and returns them to Bob and Bobita, who continue on their way to school.

The students were involved in the project in many different roles, some taking the photographs, others directing, operating the computer software to create the stop frame animation, dressing up and acting. Students also created a voice over narration of the story, a sound track, and music, although as these remained unfinished at the end of my 12 week session with this group, they have not been added to the final movie as yet. I have to admit that I prefer the results without a ‘traditional’ voiceover, which leaves thinking about other possibilities in terms of getting the story across, perhaps
as titles, as in silent movies, or as blocks of text, as in an illustrated children’s book.

The first experiments, shown in these photographs, and in the trial animation above, were created while in a temporary classroom, by suspending a large white sheet across the middle of the entire room, and lighting it brightly from behind. A small low stage was then build behind the sheet. The second version of the piece was created once we had moved into our new studios, making use of the large white screen in the drama studio, lighting this brightly, and placing a stage in front of these lights. In this second version the teaching role was taken by Rachel, Ben-Yousef, as trainee teacher from the University of the West of England, who was with us for the latter part of the term.

The students used an application called ‘icananimate’ on an Apple Macbook, connected to a video camera. I had no problems getting the students to operate the cameras and to direct the action, but initially they were very reluctant to dress up and act, until we had use of the new drama studio.