HM 270 - Topics in Humanities: Animation that Matters: Video Production, Social & Environmental Justice  




In this course, students will create short original animated videos that address critical environmental issues of particular concern to them, for example, GMO seeds or  wind power.  Part of the course will be devoted to viewing and discussing historically important examples of issue oriented animation by well known artists with a view to learning what makes animation so effective at addressing issues. The other part of the course will consist of hands-on video production using a variety of mediums ranging from drawing,  to clay, to animating household objects,  cut-out pictures,  toys, or objects from nature.


ANIMATION THAT MATTERS: Video Production, Social, and Environmental Justice 

(Summer 2011)

Instructor: Meredith Holch


In general, half of each class will be devoted to screening and discussing examples of noteworthy  animation that makes a statement. Discussion will revolve around  the visual and creative techniques

that make the animation effective at conveying a message, or making a point. The second half of each class will focus on the students’ projects, learning animation techniques, workshopping  environmental

theme ideas, and critiquing each other’s progress. Students are encouraged to use a positive critical approach toward one another’s work.


Early in the session, there will be simple animation technique assignments to familiarize the students with  the nuts and bolts of stop-motion animation. Later assignments will consist of

keeping on track with the phases of animation leading up to a completed project. For example,

Idea Pitch, Treatment, Set/characters, Scenes-in-Progress, Sound/Music, Rough Edit.

All Assignments are due on time, completed or not. NO INCOMPLETES WILL BE GRANTED.


Attendance is crucial. You will be expected to come to class and to arrive on time. If you are sick and cannot attend class, please notify me by e-mail.


1) Attendance and participation in class discussions.

2) Participation in in-class hands-on workshop exercises.

3) Quality of completed  animation exercises and final projects. Effectiveness, execution, creative approach, form  and concept will all be considered.


In addition to the summary of course work below, each class will also include

screenings and discussions of a variety of animation artists.

Class 1   Introduction

July 8     Personal introductions, overview of course. Screenings of  various animation

                techniques.  Norman McClaren, Jan Svankmajer.  Discussion.  Workshop:

                Introduction to Stop Motion Animation.  Student Tech Equipment needs assessment.

            Assignment: Reading:  pp. 2-6, 12-17.

                           Animation: Come up with two environmental issues for possible

                                                            themes. Be prepared to present them to class.

Class 2   Developing Ideas

July 12   The life and works  of William Kentridge, South African animation artist. Screenings:

            the works of William Kentridge, plus the documentary: Anything is Possible.

            Share ideas for Environmental  Animation themes.

                 Workshop: Understanding Stop Motion Software

                 Assignment: Reading: pp.50-58, 59-64.  Also, begin to research your topic.

                                    Animation: Choose an everyday object such as pennies or

                                        flowers. Make them travel across set, shooting on one’s, on two’s,         

                                        on three’s, on four’s.

Class 3   Political Puppetry

July15     Effective contemporary  political puppetry. Screenings: Bread & Puppet Theater,

                 Great Small Works, (NYC).  Telling stories without words.

                 Workshop: Creating characters, sets, backdrops.

                 Assignment: Reading: pp.150-161. Continue to research your topic.

                                    Animation: Choose an everyday object such as pennies or              

                                        flowers.  Show them develop a conflict, then show the conflict

                                        resolve.  Be creative!

Class 4    Animating Objects  

July 19     The works of Jan Svankmajer, the Czech Republic. Screenings: Animation by Svankmajer

                  Workshop: Storyboarding.

                                       Reading: 75-80.

                                       Assignment: Shoot first 30 seconds of animation of your topic.

Class 5     Lighting  for Animation

July22      Examination of how light is used in animation. Screenings: The Brothers Quai.

                  Workshop: Lighting experiments. Share and critique first 30 seconds of animation.

                  Assignment: Shoot 30 more seconds of animation for your project.

Class 6      Sound for Animation

July 26      Examination of how sound is used in animation. Music, sound effects, folies,  

                   dialogue. Screenings: Examples of effective use of sound.

                   Workshop: Share and critique  work-in-progress . Continue to work on project.

               Assignment: Shoot 30 more seconds of animation for your project.

Class 7     Stop-Motion Animators in the US today.

July 29     The state of stop-motion animation today. Screenings: Janie Geiser, Laura Heit, etc.

              Workshop: Share and critique  work-in-progress . Continue to work on project.

               Assignment: Shoot 30 more seconds of animation for your project.

Class 8      Human Rights Film Festivals

August 2   Introduction to International Human Rights Film Festivals. Screenings: Animation

                   from film festivals. Discussion of animation with meaningful content, and animation

                   soley for entertainment purposes.

                  Workshop: Non-linear computer editing.

                  Assignment: Rough Edit of your project.

Class 9     Documation

August 5   Animation versus Documentarie s in terms of content and impact. Screening:

                   Documentaries with animation. Animation that considers itself Documentary.

              Workshop: Share and critique work-in-progress. Continue to work on project.

                  Assignment: Add sound to your project.

Class 10     Wrap

August 9    View and discuss final Projects

                    Review and Wrap-up Summer Session 2