James Shaw IV

Animations For The Young At Heart

Amusing the neighbours (and me!)

As mentioned in the "Two Tapes" I am probably a frustrated cartoonist and, for that matter, animator. The idea that you can go wherever your imagination wants has a great appeal.

When I had an eight and seven year-old living next door there was a good excuse to do all those things that I would have loved to do as a child as they were always keen for something new. What better than to try a bit of animation?

First idea: Take a favourite story book with 'good' pictures and try a bit of 'cut and paste'.

double spread picture in a child's book
'The Book'

So "Two Little Dicky Birds" was born. The first step was to scan in the double-spread then to 'fix' the gutter shadow. This was a nice picture to use as it had two bird pictures, one with wings 'up' and one with wings 'down. That saved a lot of work.

Next step was to cut the birds out of the background then to paste them back in, frame by frame. The bird images can, of course, be flipped depending on the direction of travel.

Finally the book owner narrates the story and the frames are assembled in Windows Movie Maker, (came free with Windows),to match the soundtrack as far as possible. All of which gives us:

Lights! Camera! Action!
Our Stars of Stop-Go Animation and the Trusty Fuji FinePix 2400Zoom

To involve the children a bit more we had a couple of goes at stop-go animation using my Fuji FinePix 2400Zoom camera. While nominally being only(!) a 2.1M pixel camera it has the advantage of being able to be set back to 640 x 480 pixels (0.3M pixel), which is ideal for this purpose. All we needed was a table, a tripod and a few characters.

The trick is to keep it simple and funny. The children wanted explosions, objects flying through the air and for it to be done NOW! By keeping it simple we have a fighting chance of shooting it within their attention span and if they can see the joke building up that helps too. Even so we ended up with the camera being joggled, shots out of frame and a wee bit of "I'm not playing!". Well I had fun anyway.

First we had a go with Nail Brush Dog and a bit of Blu-Tac pretending to be every child's favourite 'naughty' thing - Poo!

I bought some pom-pom bits with the hope of making up a suitable character for animation but the supplied white PVA glue was just too slow to set and very frustrating to use. The kit came with some plastic drinking straws and with a bit of modification they became Belisha beacon poles and a magic wand. Two bits of yellow pom-pom made nice beacon heads. A metal car kit from the Pound Shop and a bit of weed control fabric provided the rest of the set. As with the first animation Windows Movie Maker  was used to put it all together..