While children their age are still watching cartoons on the telly, nine school students have become animation filmmakers. Saraswathy Nagarajanfinds out how

Of the nine children who trooped into the studio of Vismayas Max Animation Academy during the summer vacation, eight have begun a new school year as filmmakers with a short animation film each to their credit.

Students of various schools in the city, Sarath, Elsa, Shilpa Sivaraman, Shikha Sivaraman, Swetha Panampally, Nikhita Jayakumar and Anadhan had participated in a one-month workshop organised by Mohanlal’s Vismaya Max at their studio in Vellayambalam, which helped them understand the dynamics and aesthetics of animation. From merely watching Cartoon Network and Pogo, these children have now graduated to confident discussions on story ideas, characters, sequences and so on.

The pride on the faces of the animators and artistes who guided the children is evident. “The camp was a sudden decision. Usually we do not take classes for children although we have a number of parents who keep asking us whether we have some courses for kids,” says K.D. Shibhu, director of the Academy.

It was an advertisement in a newspaper seeking students for a course in animation that made him explore the possibility of organising a short-term camp for children during the summer break.

“There are many institutes that claim to teach animation. But not all are bona fide courses and some merely teach the children some software like Photoshop. Animation is an art and the computer is only a tool for an animator. An animator must be able to draw and visualise. Unfortunately, we in India, have still not been able to develop a visual idiom and language that is Indian. Although the Americans were and are masters in this, Japan has not only caught up with them but even made an impact with their Manga art,” he explains. So, the camp, says Shibhu, was also an attempt to help the children develop their own visual language.

The first 10 children were selected and they were guided through the various stages that go into the making of an animation film.

Different levels of talent

“There were different levels and kinds of talent. If one could draw, another could conjure up the most bizarre story lines, yet another could come up with jazzy titles and dialogues,” says Baneerjee, one of the instructors.

Deepak Raju, an animator and a former student of the Academy, says that the entire experience was an inspiration for them. “Children think out of the box. Their imagination knows no bounds and that helps us free our thoughts too. Moreover, there was no one-upmanship or ego clashes. Each of the participants was always willing to share ideas and talents,” he adds.

The concept was to guide the children from “script to screen” explains Shibhu. As a trial, they animated a minuscule story by Jishnu called ‘Bow wow.’ While the drawings and story were Jishnu’s, professionals stepped in to help with the post-production work.

“The one-minute film convinced us that we could do it and the entire camp was conducted sans any fee. It was an idea that we wanted to explore,” says Shibhu.

An idea that has resulted in eight films that cover a wide range of themes and ideas. From penguins, woodpeckers and bees to mosquitoes and alien cows, the sheer range of ideas is a peep into the boundless imagination of children.

Wide range of themes

Fourteen-year-old Nikita Jayakumar, a student of Nirmala Bhavan who plans to become “an animator or a fashion designer,” has chosen global warming as her theme. Her film, called ‘Global Warning,’ narrates the story of three penguins that are forced to leave their home in the Antarctic as their home starts melting. Beautifully drawn and conceptualised, the story line and denouement show the thought that has gone into the film.

While Shilpa Sivaraman chose to highlight the menace of mosquitoes and environmental degradation through her film ‘Mosquito Ambulance,’ Shikha Sivaraman had a short pithy message in her film. “It is: ’Don’t waste water,’” says the little filmmaker.

The only two boys in the group, Anadhan and Sarath, chose two very different themes. Sarath’s film ‘Tick Tick Tick’ narrates the story of a woodpecker and a ladybug. His articulate and colorful drawings, including long shots and close-ups of the protagonists, throw light on the shy youngster’s ability to express himself through his drawings.

On the hand, Anandhan’s film ‘The Milky Way,’ is his take on the story of Adam Eve. Again, it is his drawings that catch the eye. Elsa’s ‘Bee forestation’ on deforestation, Arjun’s ‘Scarecrow Returns’ on a scarecrow’s travails and Swetha’s ‘Every Dog has a Day’ delightfully zooms into a child’s power of observation and cheeky sense of humour.

The Academy plans to screen the films on July 11 along with four of the films on Zen stories that have been created by the staff of the Academy.