Creating Children's Story Animations Using Inkscape and Animatron

I'm a big fan of the Inkscape vector graphics program, which is a no-cost equivalent of Adobe Illustrator and runs on all major computer platforms (Linux, Macintosh, and Windows). Back in 2007, I created a short promotional video showing the range of graphics that people can make using Inkscape.

Inkscape, when paired with Animatron (a freemium HTML5 online animation tool), can be used for creating narrated, animated children's stories. These tools might also be used to create multimedia motion graphics stories for libraries, nonprofits, foundations, government agencies, and more.

Building Skills with Free Multimedia Tools

Kids helping with animation

Consider this thought experiment: Suppose an unemployed person receives a donated computer and decides to install Inkscape for free. After doing that, the person could learn to use Inkscape from the countless blog tutorials and screencasts on the web.  (For example, some of the best Inkscape tutorial screencasts in the world can be found on this website. I'm also fond of this blog.)

Suppose further that this unemployed person took a free training about Animatron at the local public library.  So the computer would be free, the operating system would be free (Linux), Inkscape would be free, the Inkscape online trainings would be free, and then the Animatron.com training would also be free. 

A person could work his or way up to having some digital skills that could boost her or his chance at employability. And if people in a community had a regular "show and tell" event for Inkscape and Animatron, that would also propel this self-training forward.

I wrote more about this idea in the post, Can Inkscape Reduce the Number of Incarcerated People?

Animatron + Inkscape = Bringing Stories to Life

I enjoy writing children's stories as a hobby and didn't think too much about it until one day, in the year 2000, when I was sitting at my desk in the Arlington Public Schools in Virginia, I received the following one-sentence email: "Our school in India loves your children's stories and we've printed them all out in braille."

A few months after receiving that email, I received an email from Kim Rice, a talented technology educator in Oklahoma City. Kim said, "Here is a narrated animation I created from one of your children's stories — The Great Ping Pong Ball Experiment. I created this to show the teachers in my school district one possible use of Adobe Flash."

When I saw how pretty and engaging this animation was, I couldn't help but wonder if someday there might be free software tools that anyone could use to animate and narrate any children's story.

Well, today we're very close to having all those tools assembled for that kind of creative work to happen. When I recently found out about the Animatron website, I quickly saw how well it would work for creating animated, narrated children's stories using graphics created in Inkscape. I tracked down a professional animator in Wisconsin, Taylor Jansen, and asked her if I could hire her to

  1. Illustrate one of my children's stories using Inkscape.
  2. Animate and narrate the story using Animatron.com.
  3. Create a short screencast explaining some of the process she used to import and animate Inkscape's graphics format (also called SVG – scalable vector graphics) in Animatron.com.
Taylor graciously stepped up to the challenge and produced these two excellent videos. 
 
The Story of Tommy Trimble:

The Making of the Story of Tommy Trimble:

Anyone who finds value in what Taylor Jansen was able to create to showcase Animatron's use with Inkscape vector graphics is welcome to send me a small donation via PayPal. (My email is pshapiro@his.com.) And a very hearty cheer of thanks for the good folks who created Animatron. This is a website that makes simple animations accessible to youth and adults around the world. It took no small amount of effort, smarts, and resources to create Animatron. 

Other Articles and Videos by Phil About Inkscape

Phil Shapiro works as the Public Geek at a small public library in Maryland, not far from Washington, DC. In Oct, 2015, Phil received this recognition from Opensource.com for his longtime open source advocacy.

Open Source Award

He can be reached at pshapiro@his.com and on Twitter at @philshapiro. His children's stories, freely usable reading passages, and humor writings can be found at his website.

Image: San Jose Library / CC: BY-SA 2.0

 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.