GROWING PAINS: 25 8-Year-Olds Makes An Animated Field Trip

When my 8-year-old son's teacher asked me last week to help her take Yegor's class on an excursion, I had to agree. Too often in the past I was unable to participate in the usual parent activities, such as cleaning the classroom or shopping for textbooks.

But I was horrified by the prospect of maintaining control over 25 kids, all scurrying around a metro station dangerously close to the platform edge. Besides, in the dusty halls of some biological, zoological or technical museum, where schoolchildren often go on field trips, the gloomy old ladies would probably demand that the kids stand still, be quiet and not touch the valuable exhibits.

I was all set for a tedious lecture on the principles of the steam engine, when I learned the class was scheduled to visit an animated film studio. That calmed me down a bit. Not that it seemed to matter to Yegor; the main thing for him was that he wouldn't have lessons that day.

On our way to the studio, the kids ran up to kiosks to check out new videos, buy a Coke or look at Spiderman stickers. But thanks to the teacher's confidence and energy we finally delivered them, with no casualties, to a 19th-century building on Leningradsky Prospekt.

There we had a chance to relax. The children listened to the lecture, fascinated, and not only were they allowed to touch everything they saw, but they were also encouraged to move the figures, look into the camera lenses and fiddle with the lighting.

In discussing the history of animation, a studio employee showed us the first film in which illustrators managed to make inanimate objects move: Beds, wardrobes and suitcases entered a hotel, went up the staircase and took their places in a room. The lecturer asked the children how they thought the film was shot.

I was surprised when Yegor - who usually prefers to look out the window or examine his school bag during formal lessons - volunteered an answer: "A man moved the objects slightly, then left the close-up and shot the objects, then again moved them, left and shot, then moved ... ." Actually, he's had some practice; last summer, we shot a small animated film with a video camera, complete with battling Lego knights and a firing catapult.

The highlight of the excursion came when the children were given some clay, shown what buttons to push on a computer connected to a camera, and asked to shoot their own animated film. After they made their figures, the children had to take over 100 shots to shoot a 7-second film.

The trip home was much more quiet and peaceful than the one to the studio, with the children busily discussing their impressions.

Yegor, proud of his bravery in answering the lecturer's questions, was clearly impressed by the field trip. Now he says he wants to be an animator when he grows up. Before that, he wanted to be Agent 007.