Animating imaginary worlds kit index

Animating Imaginary Worlds: A Digital-Meets-Handmade Animation Workshop Kit

Lynn Tomlinson
Towson University

Diane Kuthy
Towson University

About this Kit

A Digital-Meets-Handmade Animation Workshop Kit

Students who might classify themselves as technology-averse use cell phones daily: they are immersed in technologies as users, but don't see themselves as content-creators. In January 2015, Lynn Tomlinson and Diane Kuthy led a workshop where Baltimore-area teachers learned to use a stop-motion mobile app combined with hand-made cut-paper images to create animation on the theme of "Imaginary Worlds." In the spring, teachers took these processes back to their own classrooms, creating short films with their students and showing them in a collective screening celebration in May. In leading this project, part of Towson University's "Big Read" of Ursula LeGuin's The Wizard of Earthsea, Tomlinson and Kuthy developed curricula for both practical and thematic approaches to using animation as an engaging educational practice. Using accessible technologies creatively for classroom projects, students become more digitally literate and see themselves as actively engaged in creation and critical analysis.


The process used in these handmade-meets-digital animation workshops is inspired in part by the work done in the 1960's and early 1970s at Yvonne Andersen's Yellow Ball Workshop, and her book Make Your Own Animated Movies: Yellow Ball Workshop Film Techniques. The Yellow Ball Workshop in Massachusetts was a place where children of all ages were encouraged to make their stories come to life through animation, and empowered them to use super 8 and 16 mm cameras, light-meters, and sound equipment, to create their own animated films from start to finish. This radical idea that children could use media technology on their own with minimal adult intervention, and that their stories and productions have aesthetic value, was part of a social movement to put media-making processes in the hands of youth. Andersen's book explains processes for creating cut out animation to be animated under-the-camera on a copy stand, which is one of the simplest and least tedious animation methods.

In the early 2000's, when Lynn Tomlinson had the opportunity to work with students in a mixed-age k-12 school classroom, she looked back to Andersen's work and decided that cut-outs were the best process for short-duration animation workshops. In order to add visual interest and create a unified look to the animation, she asked the students to first texture the stiff paper before cutting out the characters, and showed illustrator Eric Carle's work as inspiration. Then the students created characters, animated them work under the camera on a copy stand, and recorded voices and sound for the sound track. She has led many workshops using variations on this technique. In 2013 she and Diane Kuthy began teaching teachers these processes. They have promoted a collaborative approach, where small teams of 2-4 workshop participants work on a segment of an animation on a theme. Some themes have included a dog park, a circus, and in the most recent project, "Imaginary Worlds," In this most recent workshop (2014-2015), participants used an animation apps on mobile devices to record and sequence frames and export as .mov files, shared online. The portability and accessibility of this digital technology allows new levels of access to animation production and distribution processes. In addition to online distribution, a public screening component is an important part of the process, allowing the students to feel rewarded for their hard work by seeing audiences respond to their creation. In the spring of 2015, the students and their teachers who participated in the Imaginary Worlds workshop celebrated at the Creative Alliance in Baltimore, with a screening of 50 minutes of animation produced all across the region in schools and community art centers.


  1. research and group discussion of thematic ideas for the film
  2. texture card-stock and stiff paper and let dry
  3. plan the action and storyboard, noting time that different actions should take
  4. cut out characters and create hinged puppets
  5. create backgrounds
  6. animate under the camera on a copy stand
  7. export
  8. edit and add sound
  9. compile and edit into one longer piece
  10. distribute online
  11. screening celebration

Animating imaginary worlds kit index