Animation Chefs: Reheated

by Megan -

Since the last time we talked to our good friends the Animation Chefs, the team has been cooking up quite a storm. Working on their sixth and seventh episodes, there has been little downtime to sit back and relax. With a busy household of four kids who all need to be in two places at the once, the production crew never really gets a break. Their crazy lives may be a little hectic, but they are enjoying every minute. Finalizing the latest season of seven episodes, which even includes a Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and Easter special, the animation chefs haven’t even gotten to the main course.

Through readily available devices like iPads and smartphones equipped with stop motion animation programs, barriers that once held enthusiastic kids back from creating have been broken down, letting the fun pour in. With these tools in tow, the Animation Chefs saw a multitude of possibilities, one being the opportunity to help nurture youth interest in multimedia. They jumped at that opportunity with two goals in mind.

“We decided to reboot Animation Chefs as a regular web show with episodes, a site where kids could come to learn to do better what they were already posting on YouTube, and have fun being part of a community of others doing the same and have some fun along the way,” the Animation Chefs said. They also started up local classes to get kids hands-on experience working with iStopMotion and iMovie.

“We hold classes at a local gymnastic center, where a spare room can be rented, and word gets out through community groups and signs at the center as well as through the small following we have online. [We] use classes to experiment with teaching different age groups different kinds of animation and use what we learned to inform our web series [followers]. That way what we teach on the series, we know already works with kids. Our ‘fanimations’ come from these sessions.”

The Animation Chefs credit iStopMotion for some of their success. They trust the company history and the simplicity of the interface. They referred to iStopMotion as their “blanket: safe, comfortable, warm and fuzzy.” Having produced about 20 movies with iStopMotion for iPad, the team has never had a crash or any problems. But what makes them like it even more is how easy it is for their students to learn and produce their own short films. The Animation Chefs can see the creative wheels turning inside their young minds when given the opportunity.

“[iStopMotion] takes full advantage of the iPad's simplicity and tactility. The light bulbs go off over [students’] heads when they get how expressive they can be with their imagination. Visual storytelling is not something they've ever been taught or planned out with a camera. They can write stories. They can speak stories. Now they can show stories. Anything they can think of is possible! Powerful stuff.”

They want to teach millions of kids how to use the innovative digital tools around them to create media, not “just vegetate in front of it passively.” By continuing to share their knowledge through the web series, kids everywhere will soon have the necessary know-how to independently create their own animated movies. But it is more than just an art to them and the kids.

“We don't even think of this as art. We think of this as the basic way kids of our generation communicate, build community, and think. We think like distributors as much as we think like filmmakers. iStopMotion has a 'post to YouTube' button as an export function. An entire generation of kids not only create visual media, but distribute it as well. We don't take drawing classes. We don't take dance. We don't paint. We are self-taught visual storytellers who publish our vision to our fans. Is that art? Is that publishing? Is it visual literacy? Is it media literacy? We don't draw these lines. We are performing, educating, and building a community.“

Looking towards the future, the Animation Chefs don’t plan on slowing down. In fact, it seems they will be turning up the heat.

“We have attracted the attention of animation industry pros who have kids. So we have a number of relationships that we are using to make our second season even more helpful and exciting than the first. We are working on a massive database of animation formulas that even a 5 year old with an iPad can understand. We will eventually have a training program so anybody with tablet computers can start their own classes and teach their own local raving animators the finer points of all the above – using our research.“

One thing is for sure: whatever the Animation Chefs manage to cook up, the rest of us will be hungry for it. Check out the Animation Chefs website or their YouTube channel to stay up to date with the latest progress and videos.