I've had the good fortune of introducing animation to over 15,000 kids under the age of 12.
Together we've created more raw animated footage than all the Pixar movies combined.
Before we shoot a single frame, I insist we gain a healthy respect for perception.
Often I'll begin with an exercise like this:
"Close your eyes and gently press your fingers on your eyelids. Wiggle your fingers around and tell me what you see," I invite.
"I see yellow flashes!"
"Wait a minute," I interrupt. "You can see colors with your eyes closed?"
"What's up with that?" "I thought we needed light coming into our eyes to see color?" I say faux-astonished.
This catches them off guard.
"Maybe some light is getting through?" a young wonderer almost always responds.
"But your fingers AND your eyelids are in the way!" I retort.
"This isn't as weird as it seems," I continue. "By show of hands, who had a dream last night?"
All hands go up.
"Who dreamed in color?"
All hands stay up.
"So last night you all saw colors with your eyes closed."
"By show of hands, who thought their dream seemed kind of like a movie?"
Hands go up higher.
"How weird is that!? You see color movies as you lay UNCONSCIOUS with your eyes shut?" I exclaim with surprise.
Giggles and nods.
"It seems your eyes and your mind are wired together in mysterious ways."
"Speaking of 'seeing' movies, when we go to a movie theater, where is the movie located?" I taunt.
"On the screen!" they all shout.
"Then what is that little window up on the back wall?" I say, drilling down.
"The projector window! Duh!" they mock.
"So does the projector contain the real movie?" I press again, drilling deeper.
"So if we open the projector, inside we'll find 'the real movie', correct?" I ask.
Giggles and head-shakes in the negative.
"No! It's a computer with wires, light bulbs and computer chips." someone corrects.
"Computer code tells the light bulbs to send the real movie to the screen!" suggests another.
"Right!" they agree, amazingly cognizant of machine code.
"So no pictures, no film, no little versions of the Avengers running around inside the projector? Just enough 1's and 0's of machine code to send 'the real movie' to the screen. Right?"
"Yes!" the kids agree.
Now the fun begins.
"But!" I challenge. "This 'real movie' the projector 'projects' on the screen is only a strobe of pictures formatted in a mosaic of 4,000 by 2,000 pixels, at 24 pictures per second. If nothing is moving on the screen, where is the 'real movie' happening?"
Hesitantly, a young mind eventually offers, "In our brains?"
In mock astonishment I say, "So you are saying 'the real movie'is not in the projector or on that giant screen in front of you?"
"But it looks like it is in front of us on the screen, not happening in our minds!" one mystified mind calls from the back.
"Yes, no, maybe so?" I ask the perplexed. "It sure looks like it is up there on the screen."
"How can this be?" is writ large on their faces.
"Mirages look like they are way further away than a movie screen, but they are only an illusion happening in your mind." I remind them.
I connect the dots.
"You already told me you see movies in your head when you dream! Is it possible movies are assembled in your head, just like in your dreams?"
It sinks in.
"What if you could invent a dream and have it play in somebody else's head?" I ask.
"Cool!" say the young perceivers.
"You could even invent a nightmare," I taunt mischievously. "Insert it right into their brains, using technology, and make them have a nightmare you invented, while they are awake!"
They laugh at the thought.
"Sounds like a superpower, doesn't it?" I hint.
"In a way, we've reverse-engineered dreams using math, science, engineering and technology, and have invented a way to project them into peoples brains," I announce. "If you are interested, I'm here to train you in this superpower!"
"Yes!" the chorus sings.
This technology is called movies," I say with a smile. "In fact, the first people to see movies described them as "dreams on a wall"!
"Hollywood has been inserting dreams into brains for 150 years. They are good at it. With Animating Kids! we've broken the process down into a step-by-step system of simple recipes anybody can do. By the time we're finished, you will have this superpower!" I promise.
Some weeks later, they walk the red carpet at a screening and witness their constructed "dreams" come alive in the minds of an audience!
They also have the knowledge and skills...er...superpowers(!) to repeat this process at will on any smart device.
Here at Animating Kids, we believe making movies is one of the most potent ways to inoculate the upcoming generation against passively accepting visual messages from screens.
We've demystified the filmmaking process with easy-to-do stop motion storytelling formulas; with access to a few apps, the entire Hollywood filmmaking tool-set is at your disposal.
Our complete media production curriculum, with 150 pre-planned lessons and over 5 hrs of video training, can be had here.
A Taste of Animation - an eBook sampler from Animating Kids is also a great way to get started if you are not ready for a subscription.
It is our dream to reach at least 1 million kids with this kind of education before they leave the early grades.
Help us change the world one dream at a time!