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Dads for Creativity: 3 Question interview with LEGO ANIMATOR, Alex Kobbs (Stop-Motion Lego Movies)

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Being a Dad comes with a genuine excuse to buy and play Legos, and I can’t wait to turn this into a moviemaking venture with my boys. Alex Kobbs is an animator and filmmaker, who has racked up millions (and I mean MILLIONS) of hits on YouTube for his stop motion Lego movies. Now it’s unlikely that the average parent will achieve the awesomeness of Alex’s work, which include an array of old-school filmmaking and practical effects, but with mobile devices like the iPhone and specific stop-motion apps available – there’s not really much stopping us having a go, and as Alex points out – we’ll likely engage a variety of creative thinking skills along the way.

How did you get into making videos with Lego?

Lego bricks have always seemed to be a part of my life (thanks to my parents) as I was attracted to the Trains, Space, and Pirate themes that reflected my natural childhood interests. I started animating Brickfilms when I was 12 years old after receiving the Lego Stephen Spielberg Movie Maker Set for my birthday. 

This was a simple system that I could experiment with and learn the fundamentals of animation. At about the same time, Lego® started manufacturing their Star Wars branded line, and I was immediately hooked.

Where do your story ideas come from and how might parents generate ideas with their kids?

I think parents should go with whatever feels natural to both them and their child concerning story creation. As a kid, I loved to make things up in a spontaneous manner, and I’m not sure that structuring the stories in a storyboard-type way with my parents would have worked. Structure was already abundantly prevalent in school, and I used my animations and Lego bricks to escape that. 

I have always had a vivid imagination, and had been acting out my own stories way before I had a digital camera. I can remember one particular instance when I created a story with my Lego bricks over the course of a 3 day period. I remember feeling very disappointed at the end of my imagined adventure because I could never re-tell or share the miniature drama I had brought to life on my bedroom floor. That realization led to my desire to capture the story to enjoy later, and filmmaking is the natural extension of that.

What advice can you offer parents who are looking to make Lego videos with their kids?

The first piece of advice I have for parents trying to create brickfilms with their kids is to allow them to experiment and fail. It’s so easy for us as adults to immediately see what the “right” or “correct” way to do something is because our brains have already developed and we’re drawing on a lifetime of experience. No one wants to see a child founder so our natural instinct is to help them…almost to the point of doing it for them. This may be helpful with other tasks like a golf swing, but creativity is somewhat random and needs room to be spontaneous. Simply forcing or telling the child how to accomplish a task doesn’t allow them to figure out all the nuances associated with that task. This inevitably leads to the “let me do it” line so often repeated by young children…

I think the best way to go about brickfilming with children is to animate along side them at first. So, the parent could animate their own car or character, while the child does their own thing in the same shot. The child will often try to imitate the parent instead of being told what to do. At the end, the comparison is often a sharp contrast and the child will want to replicate and surpass the parent’s efforts. Allowing the child to play “director” also puts them in a position of power and boosts their confidence.

Luckily, due to the democratization of the new technology, there is almost no downside to allowing a child to make as many films as they want!

Alex’s stop motion work can be found on his YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/kooberz. And a tour of the studio that all Dads will want can be seen in the short documentary below.

Alex had a lot more advice to offer in his interview – check out the full interview here.

If you liked this article, check out another DadsforCreativity 3 Question Interview with award winning educator Jonathan Nalder or see ‘Interactive Storytelling with Legos‘. 


 

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Using Lego to make your story come alive (Lego Story Starter Kit)

Can we all agree that Lego is the greatest toy on the planet? It’s so great that you are still cool playing it as an adult (at least that’s what I tell myself). A colleague of mine has an office full of Lego characters and I’m filled with envy each time I go there for a meeting. I think it’s fair to say that I’ve enjoyed using Lucas to revisit my childhood toys, and I’m always looking for ways to integrate Lego into our play and learning. This weekend I used Lego to introduce my eldest to some of the things we often associate with the United Kingdom (I want him to know about Daddy’s homeland). I started by putting together a map of the country, and then using my collection of figures to create historical characters that I integrated into my story as we traveled through time, and started a really cool story about the country I call home.

Spot any characters you know? King Richard the Lion Heart, Robin Hood, Big Ben, and don't forget the coal miner!
Spot any characters you know? King Richard the Lion Heart, Robin Hood, Big Ben, and don’t forget the coal miner!

After completing our Lego session I had a better appreciation of how powerful this type of activity could be in the cultivation of storytelling skills. It’s certainly different than free play, where children interact with the toy outside of the guidance of an adult, and needs to be guided by an adult. Lego has an amazing collection of resources to expand this type of activity and help cultivate creative thinking, as well as literacy skills. I will certainly be making the investment in a story starter pack (though you might be able to work with the collections you already have) and plan on experimenting with my youngest on how we can bring classics like ‘The Three Billy Goats Gruff’ and ‘The Three Little Pigs’ to life off the page. The focus will be identifying the beginning, middle, and end of the story and ways these parts can be changed to effect the outcome. If you’re intrigued start by checking out the Lego Story Starter Kit.

FREE FILM for parents and educators

We believe the first stage in counteracting the imbalance of creativity verses content, starts at home. Help us share the word on Facebook and Twitter.

Anyone who shares or contributes content* will receive a FREE download to Creativity in Education: Exploring the Imbalance.

Unfortunately, we’re not super sophisticated (or perhaps lack creativity) so in order for us to know that you’ve shared content we need you to tweet to @dads4creativity or share from ourFacebook page. We’ll follow up with details via a private message.

*Contributing content includes comments on existing articles.

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