We'll introduce ourselves in a moment.
But first, let’s talk about you.
We are going to make a few guesses about you:
- You don't have much time, but you are passionate about kids and technology.
- You want to help kids take control of media devices, not the other way around.
- You want be up-to-date on the latest ways to keep kids engaged with media creation.
- You’re different, unconventional. Maybe even a little rebellious.
If any of this sounds like you, then welcome!
You’ve found a great community of animated storytellers, technology literacy folk, and fun-having weavers of wonder.
Like us, you want to haul off with a Ball Peen hammer and ping your dent in th universe.
For kids today, what we adults call "technology" is actually infrastructure. They weren't around to witness the entire suite of Hollywood film-making tools migrate to a smartphone.
Social media, video creation, sharing pictures, and other on-demand media have always been around to a 10 year old. They are like roads, plumbing, and telephone poles. Infrastructure.
This opens two questions:
- How can we make smarter decisions about teaching kids this stuff?
- How can we align our learning environments with projects and tools kids love to use?
Animating Kids is about answering these questions.
Now, time to meet the instigators...
Our father was raised by reading consultants in the K-3 literacy publishing market.
As a young man he was doing layout, design and illustration for basal reading programs and structured tutoring supplements when the world was first hooked-on-phonics, and then on whole language or lap reading. From drill and kill to fuzzy spelling and back, dad had seen everything there was to see on the literacy front.
Mom is an artist, a poet, and our set designer.
A short year after they met, they moved to New York to strike it big in the print media business. It was 1992, the year Columbus landed in the new world and a few years before the first browser.
He did creative work in advertising, software development, print publishing and technology.
Around the campfire, we love to hear stories from the roaring 1990's when apps were called applications, and Interactive CDROMs were packaged in large boxes and sold in buildings, on shelves, like breakfast cereal!
A few years after the internet "fad" hit, dad started his own media company.
If it moved and was on a screen, dad's company did that.
Motion design, animation, special effects, and presentations screens for mega-corporations, TV screens, Movies screens, Mobile screens, and even Time-square screens.
He also taught technology to anybody who would have him.
He invented an animation program for schools, software to teach little kids how to use computers, and taught disabled people how to retool with technology.
We were his guinea pigs. We were taught stop motion, editing, cinematography, photoshop, and all manner of production apps as early as kindergarten.
"Editing is just like when your teacher mixes up all the pictures and has you put them back in order to tell the story! Now grab the mouse and cut that video together for your class animation!" he would say.
We weren't rich, but we had access to all his tech. It was fun! And he totally expected that a child could do most of it.
With his first boy turning 10, dad created a 4th Grade stop-motion animation curriculum for kids at a local film center. We were guinea pigs for that too. More on that later.
"A few bloggers have larger audiences than cable TV shows and they didn't have to go through the greenlighting process." dad raged.
Audiences were migrating to Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and iTunes like an exultation of larks and where they would land - nobody knew.
Then the iPhone, the iPad and apps.
Media equipment that cost as much as a house in the 1990s now fit in a pocket.
Dad couldn't sleep at night. He'd had a front row seat to the whole communications revolution, working with one foot in traditional media and one in social-media.
Enter Iron Chef. (we are going somewhere with this, hang in there)
Even though Iron Chef was a hit in Japan beginning in 1993, it was a surprise cult favorite in the United States when picked up by the Food Network in 1999.
It was on late at night, and Mom and Dad would howl with laughter at it's terrible dubbing, and over-the-top operatic production values Wikipedia calls, "a campy charm that evoked English-dubbed Chinese kung fu movies of the 1970s."
Whatever the attraction, Iron Chef was a fixture in our house.
Spatulatta.com was a favorite too.
Two sisters teaching kids how to cook with something like 350 video demonstrations. Shot in their own kitchen, and fun.
You may already see where we are going with this. But two other amazing events happened around this time that changed everything.
A media client of dad's had just authored a large picture book with his kids. We thought it would be fun to show them how to do a stop-motion animated trailer for their picture book.
So we did a movie trailer for the book with cut-paper animation and sent a link to the authors, We showed them how to do their own animated book trailers - by kids for kids.
The author, Craig Hatkoff, called back and ordered almost a dozen more animations.
Over the first few months of 2007 we animated nine or ten segments from the book!
It was the final order that changed everything. Their next book was about Knut the Bear,
They wanted us to do a preview trailer, to be premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival that April!
Holy Quantum frames-per-second Batman!
Premiering at one of the biggest film festival in the world? No pressure! Fortunately, we weren't part of the program, our animation was. We were invited to sit in the green room and watch.
We did the animation, and showed up opening night. We found the intern tasked with guiding us to the green-room.
Only that didn't happen.
The intern made a mistake and sent us down the Red Carpet.
Mom, Dad and three young animators strode in after (name dropping alert) Robert DeNiro, Christopher Walken, Jimmy Fallon, Bon Jovi, Martin Scorsese, and a host of other luminaries and took our seats at the premiere!
This mistake by the intern put us in the "okay we can die now" frame of mind.
"Do you teach other kids how to animate? Where else have you done your work? Where did you learn to do this at such a young age?" All these questions were thrown at us as we faced the paparazzi with microphones thrust in our face.
We were doing it because our parents taught us how, and because "it is fun",
But the yeast for Animation Chefs didn't rise until our dad was invited to an estate in back country Bedford, NY.
A very wealthy heiress wanted to learn stop-motion animation. She was a large donor to the Burns Film Center in New York, where Dad had designed an animation program for 4th Graders years earlier.
The estate sported a full TV-cooking-show-grade kitchen: an amphitheater for an audience, cameras, materials, overhead mirrors and studio lighting.
He was called in as the "professional". Dad's company was producing a few TV pilots at the time, and recounts the surreal shift of being in some random Gatsby-esque locale performing stop motion lessons.
Not to worry, If kids can pick it up, so can octogenarians. Dad gave an hour-long demonstration for the entire estate staff.
They were exhilarated! This animation thing was, for them, amazingly accessible. They were going to do animations about their equestrian goings-on and they now knew all they needed was imagination, a camera, a laptop and a app.
What started as a favor to a client turned out to be the clincher. He had just been in an Iron-Chef-like kitchen and demonstrated animation to an amazed live audience. This, on top of the the Tribeca experience, on top of the democratization of the media landscape, on top of other kids doing cooking videos, on top of the Iron Chef...
We could call it the Animation Chefs, and we'll dump a pot of whatever on the table and you guys will animate it. And we'll teach other kids how to do it. And we'll put it on Youtube. And we'll change the world. And we'll...
It took another year, but we rented out a space in an old barn across from our house, built a make-shift studio, bought some chefs jackets and hats, embroidered a logo, rented a video camera and some lights and a microphone. Real Andy Rooney/Judy Garland kind of stuff!
Mom was the set designer, costumer, make-up, catering and moral support. Dad was the tech guy and our dialogue coach. We all worked on ways to present. Shakespears' Globe it was not, but it was ours and nobody had to green-light it but us.
We shot 5 segments over three days. Probably 4 hours of editable video. Later, we found out that after the 2nd segment, the sound card went out intermittently. So we ended up with great footage but unusable audio for the majority of the shoot.
We shot 3 days, and had almost nothing to show.
We treated this as a dry run. Expensive, but covered by the monies made from our book author winnings.
We moved into a new house, and set up our studio in the basement. We shot our second season and nailed it! We animated Justin Bieber vs Godzilla in New York city. We animated food at a Mall food court. We animated diecast car models for a Top Gear Spoof. We animated ourselves as Ninjas flying around the yard and fighting for ice cream.
All the props came out of the "Pot-o-Problems" Iron Chefs style, our dad having loaded it up ahead of time without our knowledge.
Over the next three years we produced Animation Chefs for youtube and on our own website. We created the animations and episodes for our shows on nights, weekends, holidays and snow days. We skipped a lot of extracurricular activies like piano lesson, football and summer camps.
We reviewed apps, we welcomed new viewers, we did silly tips. We did it all. We learned to code the website, how to do advanced editing, how to do sound design,
And we did it all for free.
By reinvesting our animation earnings from 2007 and by doing an afterschool stop-motion class locally every Tuesday and Thursday for 2 years after school we were able to cover the costs of hosting, dot.com renewals, materials, cameras and lights.
Then our studio burned down.
A fire ruined everything in February 2013. Luckily nobody was hurt. An extension cord coil overheated some paper resting upon it, and poof.
We were out on our lawn at 6:00am one morning watching the fire department putting out our garage and basement studio.
It took more than a year to recover. We had insurance fortunately, but putting it all back together took a lot of time.
It was during this year that we decided to explore an idea born some local stop-motion classes we'd run
A cookbook video series of how-to animate
Animating kids started with a fight
Not between the Animation Chefs, but rather between a few of our students.
The year was 2011, we have been doing our website Animation Chefs for three years. We gave everything away for free, and the boys were looking for a way to monetize their expertise in stop motion
We decided to teach stop motion animation classes to local kids.
The gymnastic Center was down the hill from our house, and we had noticed they rented rooms two other art programs. The It seemed like a great fit, with traffic from parents and kids to help us.
After a couple weeks of online advertisement, classified ads, craigslist, and even yard signs we had nine students sign up.
Our advertising had included a promise to learn how to animate Legos, Clay, and cut paper.
On our opening day, eager parents dropped off there 9 to 12-year-old kids and left them in our creative care.
A pair of brothers immediately began to fight. We glanced at the waiting area outside of our room for the parents. The mom was gone. They were on the floor rolling around, with punch is being thrown.
The sobering reality settled in quickly. Half of these kids were here for us to babysit, and Animation was an excuse for the parents to get the kids interested enough.
In local mall was close by, and we realized these poor parents needed a break from handling children who were very clearly grappling with some social emotional issues.
We were warned about this, and required a disclosure about any issues the kids might have.
No matter, let's teach them Animation!
Picture of the room. On the left side there was a table full of Legos on the right side there was a camera set up with a flat screen monitor and a laptop with stop motion software.
Our class was 55 minutes long, and the kids played with Legos for all 55 minutes.
This was a 10 session class, so we were not worried that the kids hadn't started their movies. But we were eager to teach them basic Animation concepts, so they could apply them to any thing their imaginations could think up.
That's what's great about Animation, if you can think it you can bring it to life.
The next week the same scenario repeated. They would rather play with the Legos then make a movie with them. The fighting continued.
We were in over our heads. Even though we were the worlds experts on teaching kids Animation, we had no control over our class.
As a parent, I felt for the boys. They were not having fun being babysitters. They didn't have any respect. The kids were steam rolling them. We had to try something different.
The next week I went in early and queued up a YouTube video on doing stop motion animation with Legos. I put a half circle of chairs in front of the flatscreen monitor weird hall Dan. The Legos went on the table at the office inside of the room.
Now as the kids answered they had a choice. On the left was a pile of Legos that they could start building things with. On the right was a monitor with a YouTube logo on it and chair set up like we were going to watch the YouTube video.
The kids were going over and sitting down to wait for whatever the YouTube video might be.
We showed them the video, in this case animating a car driving and drifting.
We showed the kids the video, then gave them 10 minutes to build a car and Anna made it according to what the video said.
They build cars, and Animated them. And came back to the monitor for the next lesson. The next lesson was making a Lego character walk.
We showed them the video, maybe one or two minutes of tutorial, and the kids repeated the process. They grab some characters, and made them walk. They came back to the monitor for another lesson.
We realize then and there, that even though the world authorities on stop motion animation for kids were in the room with them, this generation puts more stock in learning something from a screen.
No wonder advertisers call them screen agers. There fascination with the authorities coming off the rectangle the glowing rectangle, outweigh the authorities in the room.
This was a revelation.
We shut down the company after that series of lessons. With the goal to put our own videos together which would train the kids in all the basics of Animation, the vocabulary, the concept, the principles, the tips and tricks,. We need to be on the screens teaching in order for our lessons to be successful.
The fighting stopped. Their attention was focused. Now all we had to do was develop enough lessons to be able to run a years worth of Animation workshops with kids. We would need 50 or 60 lessons. Maybe more. If we did two lessons per hour, we might need 100. Fast forward five years. We are just finishing up 100 lesson, and meeting kids is now serving 5000 kids. The boys are on the screens, the teachers can facilitate rather than spend time learning how to animate. And we're off to the races. I'll because to brother started fighting.
On the other hand, we've taught animation in Kigali Rwanda, Doha Qatar (3 times!), at universities, film festivals, at the Bronx Zoo, Apple's flagship stores in Grand Central Terminal in New York, and in many smaller settings. We raised money for Animating Kids with crowdfunding and private donations, and have learned the hard lessons about cash flow, taxes, work process, discipline, time management and so many other things. We have learned about perseverance.
It only took 65 years to go from the Wright Brothers first flight to Neil Armstrong standing on the moon. (with a little swatch of the Wright Bros. first airplane wing is his astronaut pocket!)
I wanted to build investments that could support me 100%.
Let me be clear: I’m not a beach bum who wants to drink margaritas all day. I wanted freedom to work on purpose-driven projects, instead of relying on a paycheck for groceries and gas.
I decided to build this through real estate investing.
I saved my “day job” money and bought a house. Actually, I bought a triplex, which is a building with three units. I moved into one of the units and rented out the other two.
Thanks to this rental income, I lived “for free,” with zero out-of-pocket housing costs.
I kept saving money, reinvesting as much as possible into my fledgling real estate business.
The flywheel started spinning.
I made many mistakes, but over time, I created systems. I hired a team. I built a business that generates profits while I sleep.
After I felt confident that my team can manage these properties, I moved 2,000 miles away.
The money that flows into my bank account while I’m sleeping/traveling/hiking is enough to support myself and my partner, Will, for the rest of our lives.
I don’t live a bling-bling-BMW lifestyle. I’m not poppin’ corks at the club ’til the break of dawn, or whatever those rap lyrics say.
But I can pay the bills with passive income.
I don’t need to answer to a boss.
I don’t work in a cubicle and I never sit in rush-hour traffic. I live life exactly as I want. I’ll spend 4 hours hiking on a random Tuesday if the mood strikes. Or I’ll stay up all night writing blog posts. Or I’ll travel to Bali on a whim.
I’ve broken the shackles of paycheck-dependence.
On this website, Afford Anything, I want to show you how I did this — and help you do the same. Join 30,000+ people who get free email updates.
Welcome to an online community that’s building financial independence. I’m glad you’re here.
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