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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