Years ago, Create International Thailand produced an evangelistic film for the Shan people of Burma, filmed mostly in Northern Thailand. The story involved a young man who loved to draw and daydream about fighting dragons with swords (the Shan are know for their prowess with the blade). This plot element afforded an opportunity to work in some short animated sections of the film that helped convey the gospel in a dynamic way.
After the film was completed, we showed it in a village using a sheet and a projector. When it began, some of the people in the audience were paying attention, while the others were distracted by conversations, children and chickens. I was amazed, however, at what happened when the first of three animated portions of the film were shown. Suddenly the audience got quiet and every eye was fixed on the screen, including the children (but not the chickens). It was wonderful to see how animation grabbed their attention.
Not for Kids Only
There was a time when cartoons and animation were considered something for kids and young adults. But in recent years, studios like Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks and Cartoon Saloon have done a lot to change that image. More adult-themed animated films are receiving nominations for Oscars, like The Breadwinner, Isle of Dogs and I Lost My Body to name a few. Even Disney has been moving more toward older audiences as is evidenced in their recent sequel to Frozen.
“Animated films can tell powerful stories while dazzling us with beauty, humor, and creativity.”
Animation is essentially “moving art.” Throughout history, artists have brought revolutionary changes to society, because art has a way of speaking not only to the mind, but to the soul. Jesus used parables, an artistic form of storytelling, to speak to the heart of the people at that time. Animated films can tell powerful stories while dazzling us with beauty, humor, and creativity.
Indigenous Art that Moves
We use animation in our projects at Create International Taiwan to reach the unreached, telling stories that engage their hearts and minds. We also incorporate their own indigenous art forms and expression so that they can relate visually to the story. We want our films to feel like someone in their own culture made the film for themselves.
This desire to use indigenous art in our animated films is part of our DNA, and it’s part of our training. Our 24-week AniMissions program trains students in every aspect of producing an animated film from start to finish using a free software application called Blender. Students don’t just learn the technical/artistic side of the process, but also the foundations for missions and cross-cultural communication strategy.
Animating isn’t for everyone, however. It requires an artistic eye, some skill with computers, and a lot of patience! If you fulfill those requirements, and are up for a challenge, please pray about joining us in Taiwan in 2021 for the next AniMissions program. Animation can be an effective tool for reaching others with the good news of Jesus.
- Dave H.