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Cinema of animation : « The towers’ little sparrow »
Saturday 6 December 2008
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A nature spot in suburban housing estates. To direct an animation film from its conception to its making, with film-director Paul Dopff.


- To observe one’s daily surroundings ( urban area –« suburban housing estates ») differently.
- To get the children to look at nature sensitively, by means of an original and attractive support: the animation film.
- To create a story, then a scenario, settings, characters, a song, discovering audiovisual and cinematographic techniques.


- To make various fields interact : reading/writing, artistic sense, manual deftness, concentration and observation.
- To use computer and audiovisual supports combined to plastic arts techniques : cutting, folding, sticking, creating from natural elements (feathers, leaves, bark…).


A computer, software, a TV monitor, a film camera, placed at the pupils’ disposal by a film director: Paul Dopff.

Scissors, glue, paint, paint brushes, large format paper sheets and a lot of natural elements collected by the children: various sorts of tree leaves, barks, stems, small and big feathers (turtledove’s, sparrow’s, budgerigar’s…)


A half-year divided up into several elaborating phases.

- Note-taking and observation of nature in the area. - Scenario-writing from a news item : the demolition of two high-rise blocks in the Val-Fourré area –Mantes-la Jolie - Yvelines. - Writing of the song: « Le petit moineau des tours »(“the towers’ little sparrow"). - Elaboration of the characters and the settings, initiation to the techniques of animation films. - Filmmaking : two afternoons every week for two months. - Film editing.


For this project, workgroups had to be organised and a workshop rota set up; this way, each child could take part to all the moments of the film’s conception. A small room next to the classroom was specially fit up so as to accommodate a group of pupils during the shooting sessions. This way, the material could be installed in the long run and the children could completely take possession of this “shooting set" where quietness and concentration were insisted upon.


1) At the beginning, a lot of information had to be collected in the area about plants, about the small animals which live around the school, so as to focus our story on our everyday world and above all to realise that even in a big city, nature had to have its place.

2) Then came the writing of the scenario. We were advised by Paul Dopff because we didn’t master an important technical part: we had to write a story which could be filmed – it had to be neither too long nor too complex. We decided not to create dialogues, which were difficult to integrate into the animation film, but, however, we wrote a song to make the story more easily understandable.

3) Thus we have worked on two particular types of writing: scenario and song.

4) Another important part of the work was the setting and character making. From a technical point of view, all the elements had to be flat, 2-D, on the shooting table, as the film camera was fixed above them. We had to experiment and try a lot of things in order to find the good materials and the appropriate techniques. “The towers’ little sparrows" were made out of budgerigar’s feathers, which enabled us to vary the colours so as to differentiate each character. During the film’s shooting, we had to make several sparrows as the feathers got damaged when being handled !

5) The shooting workshop is the one which took most of our time, we had to be very concentrated and precise (not to sneeze on the settings !). About one hour of shooting was necessary to obtain 10 seconds of film, knowing that the film lasts seven minutes… What was difficult was to film picture after picture, we had to cut each scene and yet to keep the continuity of each sequence.

- ) The last part was the editing, which enabled us to integrate some special effects into our film, to integrate the song and the final credits.


To complete our project, we had to show our film to the public; we were lucky to see “the towers’ little sparrow" projected onto a big screen in front of parents and a large number of other classes, thanks to the support of the Le Chaplin cinema’s team. Finally, we presented our work to Strasbourg’s animation film competition and we got the first prize from the professional jury.

Frédéric Cassin École élémentaire des Marronniers St Philibert du Peuple Maine et Loire France

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