PBS Kids GO! It's My Life
Smoking: AnimAction

You probably see lots of "Public Service Announcements" (also called "PSA's", which are like short commercials) on TV that help explain the dangers of smoking cigarettes. You probably watch lots of cartoons, too. But how fun would it be to put the two together?

Kids in Los Angeles get to do just that, through a program called AnimAction. AnimAction works with the city school district's Tobacco Use Prevention and Education program to give students from 33 Los Angeles middle schools the chance to learn how to make cartoons that encourage other kids not to smoke. At each school, 140 students participate in a special two-day workshop.

First, the kids learn lots of different things about cigarette smoking, like:

  • The way the tobacco industry stretches the truth to get people to buy cigarettes.
  • The way smoking is shown in film and other media.
  • What's in a cigarette.
  • How tobacco and secondhand smoke can hurt the environment.
  • Countries around the world (particularly in Asia) that force children to work in the tobacco fields, exposing them to dangerous chemicals.

Then, the kids in the workshop are divided into teams of ten. Each team has to come up with characters and a story that includes at least one of the topics they just learned about. The teams work together to create the 200 to 300 drawings that it takes to make a 30-second cartoon, filming each drawing with a special animation camera. When they're done, the team chooses one member to present their cartoon to the whole school. The team whose PSA has the clearest message is the school's winner.

Each spring, all 33 school-winner cartoons are shown at a special awards ceremony, where TV executives from Kids WB!, Fox Kids, Cartoon Network, ToonDisney, and the Disney Channel each choose a cartoon to put on the air!

Brittany, 11, was a member of the winning team at Gompers Middle School. She remembers when she was selected as her group's spokesperson. "I was the only one brave enough to say the speech in front of everyone at my school!" she laughs. Brittany decided to do the workshop because she loves to draw. While she was never interested in smoking in the first place, the experience made her feel even more strongly
about it.

For more information on AnimAction, visit www.animaction.com.

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