Sunday, October 31, 2010

THE SKELETON FLASHDANCE - A Halloween Homage to Disney's Original Silly Symphony Cartoon

Happy Halloween! I'm currently teaching a 10-week Computer Animation evening course to kids, tweens, and teens (ages 8-14) at Beamsville District Secondary School in the District School Board of Niagara (Ontario, Canada). This past week, I introduced my students to Adobe Flash CS4's Bone Tool. With Halloween just around the corner, I figured animating dancing skeletons would be a fun way to learn and practice this great character animation tool.

To get in the spooky spirit, we first watched Walt Disney's classic Silly Symphony cartoon from 1929, "The Skeleton Dance," which my students thoroughly enjoyed! The copy we viewed was on the Walt Disney Treasures: Silly Symphonies DVD (Disc 2). If you've never seen this famous animated short before, you can probably also find it on YouTube.

Next, I gave my class a short demonstration of Adobe Flash CS4's Bone Tool. Essentially, the Bone Tool allows you to rig a cartoon character armature so that its various joints are linked together in parent/child relationships (a.k.a. "inverse kinematics"). Or, as that famous tune goes, the knee bone's connected to the thigh bone, and the thigh bone's connected to the hip bone! If you rig your cartoon character correctly, you can move, for example, its hand up and down, and the rest of its arm will follow through the action.

Since our class only runs for 1.5 hours each week, I prepared a skeleton character in advance using a stock image that I found on the Internet. Eventually, my students will be designing their own animation characters and rigging them together as armatures using Adobe Flash CS4's Bone Tool.

The goal for this exercise was to animate a short dance sequence using the skeleton provided, as well as design an appropriate background on a separate layer. Considering we're only into our 3rd week of the course, I think the students did a Hallow-rific job! Each student's Adobe Flash CS4 project was exported as a Quicktime movie, and then edited together in Adobe Premiere CS4 ... We hope you enjoy it :)

Have a safe and happy Halloween!!

- Mike Cope

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