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Cartoons, comics and animation – tools of evangelization

by | May 29, 2012 | Evangelization

The folks at Internet evangelism Day offer some perspectives on the use of cartoon and comics in evangelization and point to resources and training. “Why are they so important? I suggest because:

    • Visual is memorable and understandable: “The soul never thinks without a picture.” – Aristotle
    • Visual story is often the best way to communicate anything – that’s why Jesus always used it for evangelism to outsiders, painting pictures with words.

“Many people are not comfortable with reading or learning through text. Oral communication cultures have always liked visual stories, and our digital communication culture is increasingly visual-story based.

    • In many cultures, eg Japan, cartoons and animations are used for adult fiction rather than for children’s stories (eg. Toy Story) that adults can also enjoy.
  • Single frame cartoons are a great way to make humor visible, and humor is a biblical way to communicate and smuggle truth into people’s hearts. See our page on humor with two free e-books about humor and the gospel.

Training

There will be a School of Cartooning and Animation for Missions starting 1 July, 2011, in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The application deadline is May 31, so if you plan to take the school, it’s good to start the application process early. These are vital skills for evangelism and discipleship. More details: Banner ad Check also Comix35 offering regular shorter training sessions around the world, plus other links and resources. They will be doing manga/anime workshops at the Reaching Japanese for Christ conference this week, and at the bilingual Comics Event 7-10 April, Lac-Brome, Quebec: details from Martine: martineb [at] evqmedia [dot] com They produce a comic book for Francophone Africa (by Africans, for Africans) in partnership with Publications pour la Jeunesse Africaine (PJA) and ‘Jouv’Afrique; and are launching The Christian Manga-ka Contest – it’s open to all Japanese who are amateur Christian manga creators.

Try it yourself

There are various ways to create short animated video clips to post on YouTube and Facebook etc. Great project for the creatives in a youth group, for instance. Stop-motion or time-lapse is easy with many cameras, and fun to do. Clay-mation (example: Wallace and Grommit), is time-consuming but rewarding. You can also use services such as Stickfigure animatorPivot Stickfigure or Stykz for stick figures, or WebAnimatoror FluxTime to build other short animations. Think ‘story’, ‘question-starting’, ‘humor’, ‘dialogue’, not ‘preaching’, ‘presentation’ and ‘altar call’.

Examples

The Manga Bible uses the Japanese manga style to communicate the Bible, a hugely significant initiative. (It’s also available in English.) Short animations (and other video clips) have huge potential as conversation starters, posted on YouTube, blogs or downloaded into mobile phones for face-to-face discussion. Alma, a prize-winning animation by Rodrigo Blaas, is hugely compelling. And chilling. A visual metaphor of entrapment. A real discussion starter – it would be useful to show, for example, to a youth group. Or as a embedded clip within a website, asking questions. There is so much to see and analyze within it, with spiritual parallels and warnings. ‘Alma’ means ‘soul’ in Spanish. Check the excellent video resources from Global Short Film Network. These take the same approach – thought-provoking, question-starting video shorts.

Anime

The anime style of cartoon animation is very popular in Japan and throughout Asia. Essentially, it is animation drawn in the manga style. In the West, it is probably best known through the wonderful films from Studio Ghibli – here’s a trailer compilation of their full-length films:

Finding parallels

By transporting us to a magical world that is not quite our normal reality, perhaps animations have a special opportunity to engage with our hearts and express spiritual truths, even unintentionally. Here’s last year’s mainstream movie release The Illusionist, by master animator Sylvain Chomet. (Don’t confuse with the 2006 movie of the same name.) Painfully beautiful, and quintessentially French (though set mainly in Edinburgh), it expresses the French melancholy (la tristesse) of lost opportunities, isolation and pain. There are various spiritual parallels to be drawn from the story, which can be used in reviews, blogs, Facebook, or face-to-face.Hollywood Jesus offers some lessons from the film. To me, one parallel is the short-sightedness of taking up faith as a teen, only to lay it down again when ‘something better’ comes along. Another is that lost opportunities and isolation can be healed in Jesus. You will doubtless perceive more. Further extracts are available in a longer trailer containing interview with Chomet; check also the (French language) official site (the film is available in both English and French though in fact there is very little dialogue). In Europe, The Illusionist 2010 has now been released on DVD. North America will have to wait (though pre-order is possible) as movie theater release was later, in December.

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