Films, Long Talks:
Animated Short Films in English Classes
What? Why? How?
definitions, please see Understanding Animation pp. 10-11 or ¡m°Êµe¹q¼v±´¯Á¡npp.
animated shorts in English classes? Because
One traditional definition of animation is:
"a film made by hand, frame-by-frame, providing an illusion of movement
which has not been directly recorded in the conventional geographic sense"
10) This definition, as Wells points out, does not include
animations made with recent technologies (e.g. computer animation).
The frequently quoted definition by Norman
McClaren: "Animation is not the art of drawing that move, but rather the
art of movements that are drawn. What happens between
each frame is more important than what happens on each frame" (qtd.
The crucial element of animation, for me,
is that it shows human efforts to animate, or to make inanimate things
move. These human-made movements strech our imagination and make
the impossible possible.
Animation, in the broadest sense of the word,
can refer the whole art of moving pictures. However, what makes it
different from movies is its relative simplicity in its use of media, its
content and/or the ideas it conveys. Simplicity in plot
plus cute figures attract children (as well as adults) to animation (or
cartoon). This simplicity does not prevent some animations
for children from being visually stimulating, wildly imaginative or
self-consciously creative. For instance, the body can be
stretched, compressed and distorted in endless ways in the wild chase between
Tom and Jerry in the namesake animation series (¿ß®»¦Ñ¹«);
Donald Duck (ð¦ÑÀn) can also be shown in
the process of being drawn or talking to his creator; with the help of
computer technology, recent Disney cartoons keep producing new and visually
stunning effects (e.g. the dance-hall scene in Beauty and the Beast,
musical scenes in most of them).
Although I like watching non-violent cartoons
with my daughter, for pedagogical reasons my focus here is on the animations
for adults (or both adults and children). To use Wells' distinction,
I choose more "experimental" animations than "orthodox" one (p. 36).
Because of the limitation of my knowledge,
most animations I choose here are Canadian and produced by National
Film Board of Canada. But I will hope to expand and include more
animated shorts made in other countries.
they are short and with a singlular or
limited number of themes, so they can be shown and then discussed in
one class period;
they are funny, visually entertaining,
a lot of them are without words, so
more accessible for tesol students.
* By no means
do I imply that all the animated shorts are easy and entertaining!
starting with easier or funny ones will make
students like them as they do to the more traditional animations (e.g.
Disney cartoons). Gradual introduction of the more and more experimental
animations with a variety of topics will interest them to
talk more and, finally, appreciate and analyze the art of animation.
Analysis of its form and content will serve as good and vivid demonstration
of literary criticism.
So far I have used animations
Conversation and Composition classes (e.g. Fall,
1988 and Spring
1999), and Literary Criticism class (e.g. Fall
1999). Occasionally, I used it in more advanced literary courses
such as: Canadian Literature and Film (Fall
1999) and Postmodern Theory and Text (Fall
The following are general descriptions
of the methods I used:
Plot Description --
the animations are with or without words, it's always good for students
to summarize the story together (one after another). You will be
amazed by their attention to details, but then lack of understanding of
Those without words --
and relatively easy: Getting
and Lisa; Paradise;
more abstract or difficult: The
Sand Castle and Mindscape
Plot/Dialogue re-creation by
role-play, or playing the video mute --
Play the video with words mute, and
have one student re-tell the whole story, or more students take different
roles (of characters and narrator). To do this well, it is necessary
to viewing the video more than once and do a bit of rehearsal. Sometimes,
we can pause at a certain frame to make students feel free to create more
dialogue and differ from the original story.
Discussion of theme and related
social issues (see the
list of themes)
Imagination Running Wild: Oral or Written
Description of Color, Sound and Shape (see the
easier ones: Zea
the more artistic combination of sounds
and colors: Begone
Dull Care; Street Musique.
II. Literary Criticism
As I said above, a close analysis of the form and content of a more
artistic animation can serve as a good demonstration of how to analyze
a story new critically.
III. Courses on Canadian Literature and Culture (see
for the most representative ones)
Great Day! Urban Steal
, as well as the others from Nice Girls ... Films by and about
Structuralism The Long Enchantment
Postmodernism 1. animations
which are self-reflexive:Animando;
2. Another Great Day!