The Animation Generation team, whose stop-motion animation project aimed to bring Estonian-American children's connections to their families' homeland to life, reached the final city on their itinerary during the first week of June, giving a guest lecture on Estonian animation at the University of Washington before holding the final workshop of their tour in Seattle.
The Scandinavian Studies department at the University of Washington (UW) is one of only two places in the United States that the Estonian language can be studied at the graduate level, and the sight of Estonian books in the stacks at the huge, cathedral-like library was charming and familiar after a month away.
Associate Professor Guntis Šmidchens, head of the university's Baltic Studies program, welcomed the Animation Generation team to give a guest lecture on the history of Estonian animation with open arms. Students from the Estonian 103 language class, the Latvian 103 and 203 classes as well as the Estonian and Latvian language instructors all attended the presentation and eagerly participated in the question-and-answer session that followed.
“Estonian animators are in the vanguard of animation worldwide,” commented Šmidchens after the lecture, “And it is a privilege to host these specialists and have the opportunity to ask [them] questions.” The associate professor urged the team to come back again as well as to consider delivering a series of lectures, also including other universities with an interest in animation, Eastern Europe and the Baltics.
Just two days after the university visit, it was time for the final children’s animation workshop, this time held at the Swedish Club on Dexter Avenue, with a view overlooking the water. Founded in Seattle in 1892, the Swedish Club of Seattle has a membership consisting of not only Scandinavians, but people of many other cultural backgrounds as well. “We held Estonian dance and choir practices at the Swedish Club, so we [Estonians] joined as members too,” explained local Estonian Merike Kaeo. “It was just the right thing to do.”
The last workshop focused on the upcoming jaanipäev, or St. John’s Day, Estonians’ Midsummer holiday — the six Estonian-American children participating in the workshop drew characters swinging and jumping over the Midsummer bonfire. They also created a pixilation illusion that they were sliding back and forth around the room as the floor tilted.
“As an Estonian community member and parent, I’m really glad that there is something that the kids can get excited about that’s Estonian,” Caroli Leiman told the animation team. “It’s wonderful to have them find a connection, and it’s not passive like a movie. They’re directly involved; they can relate to it.”
The mother of two boys who participated in the Seattle workshop, Leiman also works at UW’s Department of Scandinavian Studies. “My boys were showing all their friends what they’d made,” she continued. “It was great to see them have something Estonian to show their friends.”
With the last workshop of their Estonian-American animation tour complete, the Animation Generation team headed north across the Canadian border for a day in Vancouver, British Columbia, before flying on to Alaska on June 6, where they would spend the final days of their US trip.
The Animation Generation team will be releasing the animations created by Estonian-American children as well as providing more information upon their return to Estonia on June 20. In the meantime, more photos and details can be seen on the Animation Generation Facebook page.
Editor: Editor: Aili Sarapik