From masks, to totems, to pixilated avatars, people throughout history have invoked characters to explore the world that surrounds them. From a table covered with dolls, puppets, action figures and stuffed animals, students chose one character with whom they identified. Their assignment was to invent supernatural powers for this toy and re-create them digitally. Students began by answering comprehensive questions to flesh out that character’s persona, which encouraged them to “explore the space between the characters and themselves.” Pairs of students turned their answers into narratives and story boarded their scenes. They were taught by UCLA Design/Media Arts interns to use Flash animation in order to breathe life into their digital selves.
The students created a "crew" of archetypal characters: CJ, a man who transforms into a low-rider; Thomas Thorn, defender of the poor; Zacarias de la Rocha, a rock guerilla freedom fighter; and Aurora, a mermaid who brings peace by finding the “eye of the sea.” Student Lisa Burgos commented that “At first, it seemed funny, but it really brought out our creative side. It was surreal because I now had the power to give a toy the characteristics I wanted.”
In addition to accompanying students to after-school sessions, teachers attended their own workshops, designed to integrate the “Investigation of Character” in a curriculum for social studies, language arts, and theatre.
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