FableFive: William Levin, Creative Consultant with FableVision Learning

From the studio to the classroom, William Levin loves animation. As a creative consultant with FableVision Learning, William brings his wealth of experience to the students in New York City’s District 75 as he guides them through making their stories move in Animation-ish. For this month’s FableFive we connected with William to share a bit about his work with D75 and beyond. 

1)  You have quite a resume; can you share a bit about your work in media? Maybe a fun story? 

Over the years, I’ve found myself creating animated shorts for some interesting clients, with diverse audiences ranging from Sesame Street to The New York Times. I love developing characters and telling stories, which is a challenge to accomplish within the few minutes my cartoons usually lasts.

A few years ago, as a big fan of the Battlestar Galactica reboot series on the SyFy Channel, I contacted prolific series composer Bear McCreary to ask if I could interview him for a new cartoon pilot I was pitching called "He Shoots, He Scores."  

Surprisingly, not only did McCreary respond to my inquiry and agree to participate, but he generously composed an original score for the cartoon! Soon after, McCreary won a Primetime Emmy. Coincidence?

2)  What is the role of animation in the classroom?

Animation can be used as a versatile tool in the classroom. Besides artistic expression, animation also helps students understand movement (physics), calculate timing (mathematics), tell a story (language and vocabulary), work as a team and develop computer skills. In some cases, animation can be therapeutic, especially for students who have difficulty with traditional educational methods.

3)  Rumor has it you’ve been working with students in D75 and the Microsoft Store, can you share a bit about this partnership and what you’ve been doing?

Since 2013, I have had the privilege of visiting D75 schools to teach special education teachers and students how to animate with computers. This year, FableVision Learning was fortunate to partner with Microsoft to bring the program to their flagship 5th Avenue Microsoft Store in the heart of midtown Manhattan. Twice a month, up to 24 students are bussed in from schools in NYC for a morning of learning FableVision’s Animation-ish software. The store provides the students with fantastic Surface Pro 4 tablets and digital styluses, and I present on a ceiling-to-floor display in the private third floor workshop venue. All the while, we are surrounded by cool sci-fi decor that creates an atmosphere of being onboard a spaceship. Virtual reality demo stations and glowing computer panels provide an inspiring backdrop for creative learning!

4)  What has been one “aha” moment this year working with students and Animation-ish? 

Many teachers have warned me about particular students—or entire classrooms—apologizing in advance for the disruption they are sure to cause during our animation class. In the four years I’ve been working with D75, not once has there ever been an issue of misbehaving students. In fact, many times those students about whom I received the strongest warnings turn out to be the most talented and ambitious artists. I’ve learned that if you put a new creative tool in the hands of a child, you will always be pleasantly surprised with the results.

5)  Can you give some tips/advice for aspiring animators? 

My most fulfilling work has always resulted from reaching out directly to someone and asking if they’d like an animation. If I send an email to 50 people, I might hear back from 5. And of those 5, one will take me up on the offer to produce an animation. Repeat this process as many times as it takes to make a living.