Monday, September 14, 2015

The Making of Pups of Liberty by Bert and Jennifer Klein

Pups of Liberty: The Boston Tea-Bone Party is now in thousands of classrooms, and has become a hit with students and teachers. It's the first teaching unit in the Pups of Liberty series, featuring four (that's the current plan, anyway!) animated films that will tell the story of the American Revolution using animals to represent real-life historical figures. The second unit, The Dog-claration of Independence, is also now available!

Characters like "Bonejamin Franklin" and "Spaniel Adams" introduce kids to the Founding Fathers in a new and fun way. Even though the Pups of Liberty films use a clever spin to attract young people, they always maintain historical accuracy and make it clear in the supplemental materials how the animated characters correspond to the real men and women of history. Future episodes will include: The Ruffolutionary War and Fetching a New Nation (featuring George Woofington). (Working titles - titles may change!) We believe this approach will enable young people to embrace history, and that the characters will  have a lasting impact.

Our goal is to help kids truly understand the ideals and principles of freedom upon which our nation was founded. When a young person sees in our film how the taxes imposed by the cats affect our main character Anne and her business, they can relate to her disappointment and empathize with her frustration that the dogs have no representation. If viewers can relate on an emotional level with our characters, they can begin to understand how these issues could make people angry enough to start a revolution.

When we began the Pups of Liberty series, we wanted to make films like the ones we loved back in school. The teacher would pull out the rickety 16mm film projector and show a movie as a change of pace from the usual routine. The best ones were the animated educational films that were produced by Walt Disney in the 1950s and '60s. They were so well done that they were being shown for decades after they'd been made. A big favorite was Donald Duck in Mathmagic Land,which managed to teach the Pythagorean Theorem with amazing clarity. These films taught in ways that made students want to watch, and so they learned. As filmmakers and parents, we believe that making education fun also makes it more effective.

The animation in Pups of Liberty uses both digital and hand-drawn techniques. We begin with thorough research, staying as close to the source of the historical facts as possible. After we write the script, we design the characters and the draw the "storyboards," which are single-drawing representations of what is happening in each shot. To determine the look of each scene we paint "color keys" and draw a "layout" for each shot prior to animation. Each

second of film requires up to 24 drawings for the characters to come to life and every detail is hand drawn. The highest quality of animation requires specially trained artists to create a character that lives and breathes and convinces the viewer it is real. To use an old phrase, an animator is "an actor with a pencil" - and through thousands of beautiful drawings we give our characters expression and feelings, which resonate with our audience. After the animation is done, it receives a "clean up" line, is then scanned digitally, and colored and composited together with a painted background. Sound mixing and an original music score create the final product.

Another fun aspect of Pups of Liberty is the way we make our historical figures easy to remember - Spaniel Adams in place of Samuel Adams is catchy and will stick in a viewer's mind for years (Just try to forget Paul Ruffere or George Woofington!).

As artists, we have a passion to practice our craft every day, but being able to tell great stories with worthwhile messages makes it even more exciting and rewarding. The lessons learned from history don't have to be exclusively for grownups; kids can understand and apply ideals, principles, and values to their young lives, too. We hope that Pups of Liberty can teach young pups some new tricks!

Pups of Liberty: The Dog-claration of Independence is available for purchase, educators can select it as their Free Annual Video, or anyone can watch it via streaming.

We also have a Pups of Liberty Activity and Coloring Book on sale until the end of September. Click here to purchase.

Take a glimpse behind the scenes of the creation of Pups of Liberty: The Dog-claration of Independence. Meet some of the animation team and learn how the bring the Pups to life in the video below.