Animating the Stuarts

As we launch our ‘Stuarts in Seven Minutes’ animated film, it’s worth pausing to ask a few questions. Please have a look at the film and tell us what you think. And, to give you some background, here’s the ‘why’, ‘how’ and ‘what next’, from the Stuarts Online team.

Why?

As we spoke with teachers while we were building Stuarts Online, one request was almost universal. Teachers wanted a quick and engaging vehicle to use in the classroom to introduce the Stuart era to their students. It’s a crucial period – historically pivotal to any narrative of the British nation – but it’s also undeniably complicated and intellectually demanding.

The need, as we understood it, was for something between Simon Schama and Horrible Histories. It needed to be short, sharp, driven by facts yet engaging and attention-seizing. The teachers didn’t necessarily say animation, but that’s the medium that seemed to us perfectly suited to the task.

How?

Firstly, how to boil down 111 years of British history into a few hundred words of script? That was our first challenge. And yet, while any expert will notice things we haven’t been able to include, we were happily surprised by just how strong a framework for the study of this period we could give. Captions and speech-bubbles also help to enrich the experience.

Secondly, how was it going to look? Fortunately for any student of this period, it was a great age for the printed image. So we decided to work with the existing imagery and iconography of the Stuarts, using today’s animation technology to add a little bit of life. So we have, for instance, the iconic image of the execution of Charles I in 1649, albeit more dynamic than ever before. (Look out for the gushes of blood!) And we get to see the Duke of Buckingham showing off those elegant legs that – we’re told – so appealed to James I.

And thirdly, our friends at Historyworks, who produced the film, managed to convince the wonderful David Mitchell to do the narration. Thank you!

What next?

We’re keen to maintain Stuarts Online as a living, dynamic site. We would love it to become a site where teachers and students exchange questions and ideas. So please do respond to our blogs and stay in touch with us on Twitter @stuartsonline.

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