Career and Technical Education Center

CTE Students Bring Children’s Book to Life Using 2D Animation

Apr 14, 2015

Little BearLittle Bear is off to see the world and student animators from the Frisco ISD Career and Technical Education Center are helping him do it in two dimensions.

A young boy named Little Bear is the main character in the children’s book Little Bear’s Journey, written by Walter Wooden, father of Independence High School Counselor Jason Wooden. The book, created to inspire students’ love of geography, describes Little Bear’s journey to bring sunshine back to the world.

A team of 13 students, along with CTE instructor Stacy Walker, is taking Little Bear off the flat page of the book and into animated form.

This is the first year animation students at the CTE Center have had an advanced 2D class, where they work exclusively in two dimensions. 2D, the traditional animation used for years by the Walt Disney team and other well-known animators, involves characters moving on a static background.

Walker was in the process of creating the advanced 2D curriculum when she was approached by Jason Wooden about animating his father’s book. Walter Wooden is a former high school counselor and biology teacher. He and his wife loved traveling and writing the book Little Bear’s Journey had been a lifelong dream. Then Wooden had a stroke and he and his wife were unable to pursue marketing the book. Though it is available on Amazon, they have boxes of the book in their garage.

“My mother said that she was going to sell them, but I knew she did not have the time to be able to invest in promoting and selling the books,” Jason Wooden said. “I felt bad knowing that my father’s hard work would just be sitting there going to waste. I started brainstorming to try and figure out what I could do with the books instead of them just sitting there. The idea of working with the animation students at the CTE Center crossed my mind and I just started thinking of the ways it could benefit them.”

The Wooden family met with the CTE 2D animation class and Walker in February. It was a chance for the students to work with the creator of the book, discuss copyright procedures and receive direction and permission for changes that were necessary to take the written book to a narrated, animated project.

“He gave them free rein in drawing,” Walker said. “Our students asked how close to the book characters they had to stay and he told them they could do what they wanted.”

Four weeks later, the Wooden family came back and was amazed to see that the project was already well underway. In some cases, students had not even waited for Walker to tell them what to do. They could see the direction they needed to take.

Wakeland High School senior Matt Finegan took it upon himself to rewrite the book and brought it to share with the class early on. The original book does not have much dialogue. Finegan read the story and improvised dialogue and changed various interactions in the book so that the story would match the animation – without losing the original story’s message.

As the students began drawing, Frisco High School senior Isaac Oldham took on the task of drawing Little Bear, while other students have been assigned animals or other human characters. All are responsible for their portion of the background.

In the book, Little Bear is a Native American child from North Dakota. He heads out on his adventures carrying a bag of stardust. As the students discussed the storyboard, it became clear that Little Bear was traveling west on his journey, prompting students to have to change the orientation of their artwork.

Because Walter Wooden gave permission to the students to have artistic control over the animation of Little Bear, the character and animals in the book will look somewhat different in 2D. Little Bear, for instance, looks to be a little older in animation, compared to the book’s character, which was drawn by a professional illustrator. Oldham said that his biggest challenge in drawing the main character is “making him in my style but staying true to the book’s Little Bear.”

Art Director Nicole Solis, a junior at Heritage High School, created an art guide with color palette guidelines, photos of famous world sites and animals mentioned in the book, and a compass for all the 2D animators to refer to as they create their pages.

“This was another case of this being her idea,” Walker said. “She did the guide outside of class and brought it in to share. It has been a great help.”

The students have worked on the process at every level, from the story rewrite and storyboards made up of drawings and notes on tiny sheets of paper, to recording narration and animal voices, and drawing the scenes and characters using Adobe Flash. Oldham explained that the voices must be laid down before the animators can do the lip-syncing process.

The work is truly student-led, with Wakeland junior Bailey Crider as Director, Solis as Art Director, Finegan as Sound Director and Oldham as the Assistant Director. The entire class is involved in some stage of the project. One student draws in the background. A student or director then leaves a place holder sketch for the animals or characters. Finally the assigned artist draws his or her interpretation of the animal in the scene in animated form.

“My family was truly amazed to see the talent and progress that the students were making,” Jason Wooden said. “It is an unexplainable feeling to see the Little Bear book just sit in a box, in a room for two years and now being brought to life. It is also very exciting and rewarding to know that the book has taken on a new purpose of helping Frisco ISD students in various ways.”

The plan calls for the animation of Little Bear’s Journey to be completed before the last week of school. Walker and her students are committed to sharing the finished product with the Woodens and the rest of the Frisco ISD community. The website, http://littlebearin2d.weebly.com, is documenting the students’ progress.

“We’ve never done anything like this before,” Walker said. “It is a great experience and the students are really focused and on-task.”

The project is also being covered by Frisco ISD-TV student journalists, adding yet another element to fulfill Walter Wooden‘s desire to continue to reach and connect with students long into his retirement.

It’s clear Little Bear is walking off the page and into an animated world of adventure.