The Sphinx that Traveled Around the World

In the latest school Pulse blog, we sit down with rising 6th grader, Matteo Storm to discuss his stop-motion animation film, “The Sphinx that Traveled Around the World.” Matteo shares how he learned about stop-motion animation, the inspiration for his first movie, the meticulous planning in creating a stop-motion film, and how he made learning more engaging and fun for his classmates by bringing a modern twist to the study of Egyptian history and culture. Be sure to watch Matteo’s stop-motion animation movie at the end of the article.
How did you first learn about stop-motion animation?

“Ms. Wendy Wyka (with our weather unit) in fourth grade. She did a project with us (the students had to pick a hurricane, tornado, lightning, etc...) with stop-motion animation. So, it kind of stuck.”

What are some of the parts you had to plan out?

“Each scene, you had to plan out, each movement. It kind of takes a while but you have to make this big pamphlet...a big book with a bunch of different scenes in it. When you’re filming inside you have to have all of the lights off and you have to have one light because if not the lights will flicker, so you have to get everything all right.”

What are some of the technical aspects of creating a stop-motion animation film?

“You have to have a very sturdy camera. That was another problem I had, and you have to keep it in one place. You have to mark where it was because sometimes when I was filming my camera would kind of move a bit and I’d be putting it here and then it would move over here so you kind of get different angles from time to time. But if you really want to make a good movie you have to have something that makes the camera sturdy and still, so that it stays where it is. I used a few bricks (to keep it sturdy). I was using an iPad so I made a thing (a tripod with the bricks) where you could put the iPad on and make it sturdy.”

Can you elaborate on this particular project? Why did you choose a Sphinx to go into the Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology?

“I started this project on the Sphinx because they found it in the 1800’s and they are doing a new project where they are going to build a new gallery and raise the roof. The gallery looks like a temple and they are going to take it (the Sphinx) and bring it upstairs to a new gallery. I was there during this time because my Dad had to go to a board meeting (Matteo’s father, Matthew Storm, is a member of the museum’s Director’s Council and the Loren Eiseley Society) and I saw the Sphinx while I was there. It’s amazing because it’s the biggest outside of Egypt.”

What made you connect this experience with learning at school?

“I studied a lot of Egyptian history and I know it’s very interesting because they were one of the first civilizations. In Europe, there were the Greeks and the Romans and the Carthaginians but the Europeans were mostly barbaric so it was like a new point in time-- a new period.”

“I love reading history books. It’s my favorite type of book to read, history is my favorite subject. There’s this book I got from the Penn Museum called, “The Sphinx That Traveled to Philadelphia” and I read it and they found the sphinx while they were looking for King Tut’s tomb.”
Did you create this movie for your class?

“I did it for my class because I don’t know a lot of people that are into history and especially not people my age. I only know historians but they’re all like 80. So I wanted to take a history book and turn (it) into something fun and something that my classmates can enjoy instead of reading a dry history book.”

What are some ideas for your next stop-motion animation project?

“I am thinking about doing one for my Maracujá project (Maracujá is Portuguese for passion fruit and is the theme for passion projects for 5th graders in Ms. Maranda Schwartz’s class). I’m creating a theatre (film is Matteo’s topic for his Maracujá) because my moment in time is when the movie All Quiet on the Western Front came out. It was the second or the first movie with color and sound and it was one of the first war movies. It used the kinetophone which was the first sound machine. And it was the first movie that you could have multiple sounds at once because before you would have to record one person’s sound and then you would have to wait a few seconds and then the other person could talk.”

“I am thinking of doing this with stop motion because I have these WWII Lego figures. I want to make the Battles of the Trenches and I’m going to put it in a cardboard box which is the screen and then I’m going to make the theater around it so it looks like they are watching a movie.”

Any other final thoughts you would like to share?

“If anyone wants to do stop-motion animation, the most important part is to plan well and not get frustrated because you have to take a lot of pictures for just one movement.”

By the way, how many pictures did you have to take for your film?

“The entire film filled up my entire storage so it’s probably, I don’t know...8000 pictures or so because for each movement you are going to have to take 300 pictures. At the end a lot of people get frustrated or mad because it’s only three minutes of the movie.”

Stop-motion animation is one of many innovative and creative resources available to all Miami Country Day students, Pre-K to 12. Please click here to watch Matteo’s full stop-motion animation film!
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