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For the week of December 19 - 25, 2001


Claymation comes to middle school

Express Staff Writer

Remember when Mr. Bill and Gumby suddenly made their ways onto our television screens in hilarious claymation shorts? Well, the Wood River Middle School’s creativity class, taught by Marie Barton, has picked up on the slightly subversive and silly technique.

Kaitlin Gasenica, front, Sofia Blunt and Devyn Parnes pose with some claymation figures in front of the Spiral Studio’s promotional Snail. Express photo by Dana DuGan

All fall, Barton and her fellow teacher, Steve Poklemba, worked with 40 students in the seventh and eighth grades from the GATE program. Their work resulted in seven claymation shorts that were shown at a red carpet opening night invitation only gala. The Claymation Festival was held at the Middle School last Friday. The awards from the gala will be announced at the school’s Talent Show in March.

To begin, each group was separated into two factions, a production team and a promotion team, with a floater who worked both sides of the fence. The production team, advised on technical matters by Poklemba, turned in storyboards to be approved prior to beginning the painstaking shooting process. Using a freeze frame procedure, the movements are shot in small incremental sections and then seamlessly edited on iMovie software.

Characters with such names as Long Legs Magee, Mr. Poo, Feegrish, Mildue the Monkey and Kwack were made in clay and used in each the shorts. Each one lasts between one to seven minutes.

Though time consuming, the process worked because the more the students learned about the process, from pre-production to post production, the more they wanted to accomplish, Barton said.

"It’s education the way it should be. They are making a product," Poklemba said. "It’s some thing, not just a grade, or a paper."

His students concur. "I like the crafty part, more work on some thing, not so much sitting," said seventh grader Devyn Parnes, of the Spiral Studio, who made a short entitled "Romantic Slime."

Classmate, Sofia Blunt, of the Gears Studio who made "Joe," agreed. "The final product is some thing you’ve accomplished."

The students had so much to do to be ready for The Claymation Festival that they came in on weekends and often stayed at school late into the evenings. The promotion team was responsible for the many large scale statues that decorated the main lobby and hallway of the middle school. Decorated chairs, which hung from the walls, encouraged people to attend the opening night. Posters and heads, in the style of each short, were hung on the walls as well. Three dimensional invitations were created for parents, as well as corresponding toys, which were raffled off at the festival.

Even the titles of the shorts were hashed over and had to pass muster with the teachers. The title had to be abstract, said Poklemba. They couldn’t reveal what the short was about but "kept you guessing." "Tortoise and the Hair," and "Romantic Slime" are two examples.

"You trust the kids and they’ll do good work," Poklemba said.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.