Sunday, November 11, 2001

It’s not just any old art project, but the product of a summer’s fun.

Participants in the Capital Children’s Museum’s summer filmmaking camps were invited to roll up their sleeves and learn about animation and claymation. During the six-week courses, children as young as 7 built sets, made clay pieces, wrote dialogue, created storyboards, developed characters, and discussed lighting techniques and camera angles.

Their efforts culminated in the production of about 50 films that museum patrons can enjoy. Each film is 20 seconds to 45 seconds long. “Planet of the Bovines,” for example, features a spotted cow doubling as a newscaster in a show competing with commercials. In “Dogs’ Night Out,” the owner goes out, leaving the canine companion alone in the house. Dogs come over to play in a scene reminiscent of the painting of dogs playing poker.

At a recent screening, most of the films got a chuckle; all received long, loud applause it is amazing, after all, that these films were made by children.

Amy Dykstra, 11, of Centreville, a clay animator on “Dogs’ Night Out,” said she was “kind of excited and kind of scared” as she waited for the projector to begin rolling. Someday, she says, she hopes to string together all she has learned to build a future in entertainment or the arts.

“I really like arts and crafts and am pretty good at painting,” she says. “We all sat down at a table and brainstormed ideas for our film. I like animation and I want to be able to make it at home. I don’t know what kind of career I want, but it will be something to do with the arts.”

Little sister Annie, 8, an animator, says she has always liked to draw “since I was, like, maybe 5.” She, too, hopes to parlay her skills into a career in painting and drawing. Her contribution is a film about superheroes, adding that the best part about superheroes is they always save the day.

The animation program is “a really great medium for anyone who is interested in being a writer or an artist because animation gives you all the elements of those,” says Mimi Pham, communications director for the Capital Children’s Museum.

Patrons will enjoy viewing the films because “some of the best and most creative ideas I have ever seen come from kids. They’re surprisingly thoughtful and funny.” she says.

“When you tell them [this work] has been done by other kids they can’t believe it,” Ms. Pham says. “Also, just watching them can give kids an idea of what they’re capable of doing who knew that kids are capable of and allowed do something like this?”

Indeed, the arts are fundamentally important to children because they “tap into areas that other curriculums don’t,” says Ned MacFadden, one of the summer workshop instructors. During the academic year, Mr. MacFadden teaches media literacy at a Montgomery County middle school.

“The arts allow kids to be creative, innovative and practice problem-solving,” he says. The summer workshops give children an introduction into how animation works “by bringing something to life,” he says.

He calls the creations inspirational.

“They show something concrete the idea that children can go through all the stages to completion and then have a product. It shows they have confronted a problem and solved it. It also shows the creativity within the community that we have and that everyone has the potential to be successful. It gives the sense of fulfillment and accomplishment and hopefully will instill in them that they can succeed in life in general.”

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