I use this lesson plan when I have a random class period where there isn't quite enough time to start a new project or when I'm sick and have lost my voice and can't teach but don't want to take a sick day.
I saw a documentary on TV about the history of PIXAR computer animation and was so fascinated. The pace and wordage is appropriate for middle school or high school students. I wouldn't show it to elementary students as it wouldn't hold their attention. PIXAR sells a DVD of just their Short Films (which are my favorite) and the documentary is a special feature of the DVD. I was able to purchase the DVD at my local Best Buy.
For this lesson plan I begin class by having students brainstorm all the careers you could have as an artist. For the sake of competition I offer a prize to the group that can think of the most jobs. I then transition into introducing the career of being a computer animator for PIXAR. I explain to the kids that movies like Toy Story and Finding Nemo were possible because of the computer scientists and animators that developed the software that made computer animated movies possible. I explain that the documentary they are going to watch details the history of PIXAR computer animation. I show the documentary which is 23 minutes and provide the students with a worksheet I've created with fill in the blank questions that they must complete while watching the movie and turn in for a grade. This helps keep their attention and makes them responsible for the material.
For the remaining 25 minutes of class I have a whole variety of "How To Draw" worksheets that show step-by-step illustrations of how to draw the PIXAR characters that come from this book.
I let the students choose which character they want to draw and depending on the class I will give them a required number of characters they must turn in by the end of the period. I have found that students really love to do these drawing activities. At the middle school age, How to Draw books are like crack...they fight over the books and will draw anything.
If I have two class periods to fill I will play the entire PIXAR Shorts and let the kids draw while they watch the movie. We then discuss how the look of computer animation has changed over the past 30 years and compare and contrast the first animated Shorts to the most recent Shorts. This lesson plan has been very successful and the students like that it's artwork they can relate to while gaining more understanding about the process of creating animated films.
I've got 2 class periods to fill before Spring Break and I've lost my voice and can't talk. This lesson is a life savor for sure. It requires minimal talking on my part and the kids are still learning about careers in art and participating in engaging artwork.
If you would like a copy of the worksheet students complete while watching the documentary please email me.