Unboxing Animations’ secrets with the wizardry of QR and Zines

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Teaching history of any kind can sometimes draw death closer as it can get boring, so I decided to amp it up a notch, especially since it was History of Animation for students in our Diploma in Immersive Design. Rather than taking the easy route of preparing an infographic board, I challenged my students to add QR codes to their creative zines.

The creative zines that the students crafted

Throughout the semester, students explore the historical background and evolution of magic tricks into animation as it is today. As they are geared towards the line of immersive design, they were encouraged to explore the mechanics and engineering techniques of the various animation styles. Added to this, at several points they were also challenged to create some optical toys, names the zoetrope and the phenakistoscope using recycling materials. By travelling through time to some of the key moments in animation history, students were able to gain a comprehensive understanding of the evolution of traditional tools to ground-breaking computer-generated animation.

To gauge their understanding, students were tasked to conduct a case study on a feature animation film of their choice. Added to this, a 5-year cap (2019-2023) was set for students to narrow down their study into feature films to be in line with newer applications and techniques. The observation and analytical process is crucial as the students not only delve into the storytelling process but take a deeper dive into the frame-by-frame sequence. As an example, I initiated an in-class discussion using Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) and Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs (2019). Both animated films are categorized as 3D however, the animating techniques and the symbolic elements used were completely different making each unique to its audiences.

Example analysis in basic

Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

Source: Summer of the Arts

Animation Technique: Hybridized stop-motion, where Laika Studios (America) created their own puppets using recycled mechanized parts.

Observations: Strong representation of good versus evil through the application of light and shadows. Protagonist characters have brighter hues while the antagonist have darker hues this is an exception for the beetle character.

Symbolisms: One, idea of loss represented in Kubo’s missing eye. Two, the shamisen with two strings refers to the two influential persons in his life – his parents. Three, the third string that comes towards the end represents Kubo himself.

Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs (2019)

Source: IMDb

Animation Technique: 3D computer animation techniques and produced by Locus Creative Studios (S. Korea)

Observations: Revised Hans Christian Fairytales – Red Shoes is a hybrid of Cinderella (the shoes) and Snow White (damsel in distress chased by the Evil Queen); and, the Dwarfs takes inspiration from Shrek.

Symbolisms: The entire feature film focuses on the breaking the idealistic views of what beauty should be. One, the red shoes represents the idea of inner beauty being revealed yet on another hand, reveals an unrealistic view as the wearer looks slimmer when wearing the shoes. Two, the dwarves who are really princes under a curse symbolizes the society judgement based on appearances.

Through the process of gathering information and deconstructing the animation techniques and symbolisms within an animated film, students were able to closely examine and analyze the impact of visual storytelling and identify the strengths and weaknesses of their selected films. This was encouraged to be conducted individually and each presented in an academic essay format (fostering the idea of conducting a research, and referencing to strengthen ideas and concepts). From here, they will gather their reports and initiate a group discussion while comparing which will be best presented into a visual format. Additionally, they get to explore the layout and composition to effectively disseminate the information using the key elements and characteristics of their chosen animated films.

Student presenting with his team their findings on Tom & Jerry the Film

The zines acted as an interactive medium. Therefore, high caution is needed in planning the layout and composition using the design principles, especially the use of hierarchy in design. Adding on to supplement their findings, students were encouraged to explore the possibility of embedded AR triggers and/QR to provide readers with behind-the-scenes content or Easter Eggs that they had uncovered through their analysis and observations. By utilizing the use of QR codes, students were able to discover other means of sharing presenting research and for the readers, enriching their understanding on the shared feature animation film.

In conclusion, through various activities such as case study analysis, observational analysis, and zine designing, students have gained valuable insights into the field of immersive design. This journey has not only inspired them but also equipped them with the necessary tools and knowledge to excel in this exciting discipline. Overall, history of animation has served as a solid foundation for their future endeavors in the immersive design industry.

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