Animation for social change

Hello all!!
I would like to touch basis with people who is using/or is interested using animation to communicate about social justice, social change, diversity issues, inclusion, minority issues, community development, the environment, sustainability, different cultures and related topics; and also issues associated to personal development, consciousness, spirituality (body, mind and spirit). I’m learning 3D animation (Blender), and also preparing a master degree thesis to show that modeling and animation are also powerful vehicles to communication and social change. I would like information about websites that present this kind of material.
Here are some of them:…ature_earth.htm (in Portuguese)

Thank you for your support. Hope to hear from many of you…

Welcome to Blender, Rita, and I hope you have a fruitful stay.
Thanks for the links. Very interesting stuff. Your second link was broken, I assume this is what you wanted to link to:

There is a lot to say and discuss about your topic of interest. To begin with let me just point you to this thread:
That seems to be exactly the kind of project you are interested in and it is something that was broadcast on mainstream television, so it should be an interesting case for your thesis.

Best of luck your project. Will post here if I come across anything else of interest.


I’m curious about why you chose animation. Since the principal ingredient is information (animation being only one part of the presentation of that), the rapidly expanding internet, conferencing, text-messaging and photographic capabilities if cellphone technology would seem to me to be a more logical choice.
I may be missing something and I don’t want to be negative, but animation as it applies to the spread of information is akin to empty beer cans as they apply to the spread of malaria: just an interesting adendum.


Animation is an interesting medium. Hardly anyone (who would be targetted by an anti-racist flik or whatever) would go and read through a lengthy report or care about a post in a forum. They’d just stop right there because that sort of person is too close minded about it. However, when you get into films or animations which are geared for entertainment, those people might watch. If you get them to sympathize with the protagonist and show the protaganist being antagonized by racists (or again, whatever the intended problem is) they could actually change their minds about an issue.

Most people know that Bush is against gay marriage and gays in general - but does everyone here know that D|ck Cheney is for it (name modified to avoid filter)? His daughter is gay. Without having had a gay daughter to force him to think about the issue, I really doubt he’d ever had made such a decision. Animations, movies, songs, etc. can do the same thing, although I think visuals do the job best because it works with short attention spans (short attention spans being something I’d largely attribute to racists, bigots, etc) and you can’t count on everyone having a gay daughter. If you’ve ever seen the film “Radio” or maybe “Remember the Titans” you’d get the idea.

I agree with shbaz about the power of animation as a medium of communication.

Fligh %, you are right in saying that it’s all about information and communication, but I’m sure Rita has to deal with the practical considerations of writing a masters thesis. Firstly it has to be something of personal interest to sustain the effort that needs to be put into it. Plus, I believe more focused research is always encouraged. Writing a thesis on “Communication for Social Change” might be a bit weak and general, and there are already entire organizations and events commited to the subject - not exactly an example of “significant contribution to the field of study”.

Anyway, on to the topic at hand. I think animation is specifically suited for social activism in several different ways. The first being shbaz’s point of the entertainment value of animation. This helps in making it a more acceptable medium by those who are either not interested in the issues or are narrow minded about them. The edutainment potential of animation is inherently higher than other audio-visual media, partly due to its association with entertainment in the public eye. Related to this is the fact than animation is still largely seen as a juvenile medium. This could be an advantage in social activism as it allows the communicator to target the young. Bringing about changes in thought amongst the youth is by far a more effective means of social change than trying to convince the middle aged. Starting with Star Wars, the Hollywood marketing gurus discovered the huge buying power that is in the control of children, hence the explosion of the merchandising phenomenon. I think a similar logic can quite easily be applied to social change.

When talking of animations advantages, it makes more sense to compare it to other audio-visual media rather than all forms communication in existence, as this is a more fair comparison. One advantage of animation over film or video is abstraction. A lot of what needs to be communicated for social change is often abstract. On the other hand many non-abstract topics have visual content which is simply off-putting to the average viewer, this can prove to be a major deterrent to the message being willingly received. For example, I am thinking of the grisly accident videos which are very popular as road safety education in the USA to this day, as compared to Disney’s road safety cartoons starring Goofy. I know which one I would actually sit through. Fear and disgust are not very often good educational tools.

A third and important advantage of animation as a prime mover for social change is a little more subtle. Anyone familiar with Marshall McLuhan’s famous thought, “the medium is the message” will have a head start in understanding this advantage. Animation is a different medium of communication and inherent within it are subtle changes in attitude to how human beings perceive the information presented through it. Going back to video and film, we can say that while being creative media, and not always limited to an observatory role, they are definitely passive media. Animation on the other hand has inherent in it’s structure an ‘activist’ ethic. Where television and film might be responsible for a growing passive observationism in society, animation must logically have some power to induce people to be ‘active’ and get their hand dirty in the task of the world, as did the creators of the animation. This is a very pop-corn description of this concept, but it’s a reasonable start. Animation is ‘made’ by people who put in effort, work, time and thought into what they do. Social change also involves similar effort by the individuals of society. The other side of the ‘activist’ nature of animation is the fact that it can be a personal/individual work. While film and video depend on other people/places/influences whose images must be recorded, animation can be straight from the mind and thoughts of an individual. The advent of the computer, and more specifically free and open source CG solutions like Blender make this even more relevant.

Animation has already been recognised as a medium for social change by some, but the general vision of it is still as a form of juvenile entertainment. As animation becomes more mainstream, and gets further dissociated with the word “Disney” I am sure that misconception will disappear.

Hope all this is useful Rita. I’ve peppered the text with some relevant links which should lead you to interesting starting points to exploring the topic…

“Hypertext for social change”, anyone?



Samir is right regarding the choice I made: personal interest. Animation is a medium that I have chose to learn among many great ones. This interest started while I was working in a project that used fairy tales to communicate social-environmental issues to children and youth. The bottom line here is “youth and education” what I can pursue through many different ways, but animation appeals more to me.

I’m combining this personal interest with a Social Justice in Intercultural Relations masters thesis that won’t be all about animation/communication, but will include it as a contribution to the Social Change and media communication fields.

I don’t think communication for social change, in whatever form it might take, can convince anyone. But, what it can do is to plant seeds, make people think in a different way, and more importantly, have access to the information that the traditional media is lacking to spread.

Yes, the ability to present abstractions is a very exciting thing to me as well. As we live in a world which presents itself in an (individual-interior and exterior) and (collective-interior and exterior) forms I think animation can serve as a medium to translate this “realities”. Because language most the time can’t do it.

A little background info: I have a long ways to go before being able to put my ideas into a project by my own. Just started learning Blender. What is a bite frustrating and exciting at the same time.

Take care and lets keep the dialogue going…

They’d just stop right there because that sort of person is too close minded about it.

bah. I dont read too closely into things of that nature because its BLEEDIN BORING! Not because im closed minded or whatever it is people call you when you stick to your guns.

I do think animation is a good way of getting your point across. So is film. My only gripe about either medium is that they can be pretty deceptive. Filmmaking IS the art of deception, really. Its showing what you want to show and nothing else.

But regardless of how slurred the truth can become in these mediums, they are really powerful and extremely effective in minipulating the opinions of an audience. Just ask micheal moore.

Mmmm… “Social Change”. Are we each clutching at our own, possibly societal interpretation, or are we playing semantics? Language, paper, fire, string, tools, agriculture, math, the foundry, the IC engine, the telephone, radio, the Renaisance, gunpowder, religion, mass production, drugs, Hollywood and Elvis brought about social change. Animation is as old as flip-cards and Disney; it has just matured with the advent of computerization and now has a new set of brushes. It’s roots, however, go all the way back to language, paper, fire, math, etc.
I understand all of your points about palatability of the modern medium, and it’s a good point but only holds true for an existing social class. In America that class is a huge chunk of the population and pretty diverse. In (eg) India though we’re talking about the ‘socially elite’ few. It’s also true that in a changing society it’s exactly that elite group that drags the rest along as it changes, just as the US dragged the rest of the world into the industrial age with its mass production.
My reservations, however, are twofold: 1) This class has at it’s disposal not only animation (let’s call it one part of the modern medium), but all forms and sources of information collection and the ability to filter, process and redistribute it. And, what’s more, they also have the ability to use it to their own advantage; to turn it loose on you in other words. And 2) The nuance behind the way you (yes you) use the term ‘Social Change’ leads me to believe that what you realy mean is “modify, alter or even reverse engineer” social change.
IOW, you have these really pivotal moments in history when something profound comes along and changes society, all society, fundamentaly. But it comes with the good and the bad. And the “Social Change” you allude to is strictly limited getting rid of the stains, the social injustice, the percieved threat to the environment or the way government alienates itself from the people. The good part you don’t want to change at all.
There’s nothing wrong with this, I’ll even go so far as to say it’s commendable, but it’s not social change: it may be education, awareness, advertising, lobbying, even propaganda, but not social change.

Rita, this is just discussion, I’m not dissing you or your thesis (or hypothesis). If it sounds too heavy it’s because I don’t use smileys… I think they suck.


My 2 cents…

Fligh%, I do find you a bit harsh on Rita in your last post (regardless of smileys). Just a bit though… It’s more a matter of phrasing than content.

While I do agree with your take that it’s all about education and leveling the field & fighting injustice, I believe it to be social change. Nothing pivotal, nothing revolutionary, just an evolution – but evolution is change.
As you very well put in historical perspective, the social tapestry has changed quite a bit since the invention of writing, and every tool has contributed to it. Along the lines of what you say, the important tool is the computer rather than the animation made with it. However, animation has an important place, which will be my next point.

I’d like to add to what Samir has written, overlooking a very important fact : cost. While the audiovisual media is, without argument, the most effective in reaching the largest number, the cost of production is still high (for professional quality, anyway – if only due to the cost of actors and locations).
On the other hand, animation is indeed the creation of an individual ; but on top of that, it’s a cheap tool, with the help of free software like blender – which fits nicely with the social-activist world, which is by definition always lacking funds.

power is: in human terms, the ability to influence others.

the ability to influence other peoples thoughts and actions is power.

Animation places a tool to comunicate ideas and influence actions into the hands of the average man. maybe a good place to look, not focused on animation but rather all media,

Take back the media:

is basically what it’s all about…

Hi Fligh %, thanks for your observations. My comments follow:

I’m aware that the term “Social Change” is a tough one to use. Therefore, I consider social change everything that moves society into positive either/or negative outcomes. I believe that any attempt to make something better is worth trying; I’m just careful and do keep in my mind that misfortune may result from those efforts. And it is okay because life is a mystery – u n p r e d i c t a b l e - and society isn’t different because it is just in the middle of that.

You wrote: “I understand all of your points about palatability of the modern medium, and it’s a good point but only holds true for an existing social class.”

I agree that animation reaches a privileged portion of society, but at the same time we still living in a world where the elite is the one who makes decisions. Influencing people (specially children) with powerful and conscious communication is crucial in my view. Also, I think it is ingenuous to think that everyone related to the elite is the “bad guy”.
And you already confirmed the power that the elite have when you said:
“It’s also true that in a changing society it’s exactly that elite group that drags the rest along as it changes…”
I believe that information/education can make that “drag” healthier and less exploitative as evolution unfolds. Seeing that “drag” always as a negative thing isn’t fair.

Yes, the elite has the “ability to filter, process and redistribute it” as you described. I don’t watch Fox News, but I’m aware what is happening with the media. Whatever, I think the “filter ability” is something we cannot hide from as everyone is operating from different mental models/values systems/levels of moral development. Yes, the mainstream media can manipulate information and trap the mass, but we are talking here about animation for social change – how bad could the media really distort this topic? Are you saying isn’t it worth trying?

You said that to” use the term ‘Social Change’ leads me to believe that what you really mean is “modify, alter or even reverse engineer” social change”. Yes, I meant exactly that. Every step people take towards making the world a better place, will affect social change in positive/negative ways (in micro-meso-macro scales). It doesn’t matter if I want that happening or not because change happens incessantly all around of us.

You said: “the “Social Change” you allude to is strictly limited getting rid of the stains, the social injustice, the perceived threat to the environment or the way government alienates itself from the people”
I’m sure there are limitations regarding my writings - as well as language barriers because English isn’t my primarily language, but I don’t see this specific limitation you are commenting here. I focused on the transformational side of Social Change because the world is already crowded with the other half. The counter balance for my words is the reader’s awareness of what is happening everyday in the world. The stains that I unfortunately cannot “get rid” alone. The stains that, in one level, are perfectly expressions of consciousness, but in this physical and limited world – it sucks! What a paradox we face…

You wrote: “I’ll even go so far as to say it’s commendable, but it’s not social change: it may be education, awareness, advertising, lobbying, even propaganda, but not social change.”
I’m not attached to the term “Social Change”. I’m comfortable calling it whatever touches people’s heart for what is going on in the world and catalyze action in a positive way. We can spend time discussing if it is or isn’t social change – what is interesting from an ideological point of view - or we can look towards the roots of the problems as well as inside of ourselves, and use our talents to heal the world a little bit everyday. Lets not missing the point here.

Thank you very much for keeping the dialogue going…

It’s no use “informing” the opressed, the homeless, the uneducated, the unemployed, the poor, about their situation. They allready know it, but they can’t do anything to change it. At least not without a bloody revolution…

But revolutions don’t allways have the desired effects. Communism, started with the best of intentions…

It is exactly that “elite class” that should be aimed at…

The “elite”, can make a difference. That is, if you can change their way of thinking ofcourse… I believe everything else has failed, so it’s worth trying…

First we take Berlin, then we change Manhattan…

That’s true for most of the cases…

But being a professional liar and manipulator, such as I am, I can tell you for one:
The bad thing is, that you can’t hold truth forever… Sometimes you make a mistake and it slips through your fingers… Then all your lies are turned against you…

Rita PM’ed me the post above and I replied to her there before I saw it here so she can post it here if she wants to.

It’s no use “informing” the opressed, the homeless, the uneducated, the unemployed, the poor, about their situation. They allready know it, but they can’t do anything to change it.

Those are exactly the people you want to reach so that they can hold the “elite” accountable. That has been the thrust of my input so far. However, I know that it doesn’t work that way because the elite are propagandists. In the field of ecology lots of good work is used by good corporations to polish their image and justify their plunder. What they don’t tell you is that it concerns less than 1% of their opperations, most of that to twist the truth. Good work can highlight the moonbeams and they’ll use it against you to make stains (global warming research), or it can highlight the stains and they’ll turn it against you and have you believe it’s moonbeams (powerplants).


This replay was sent to me by Fligh 100% who autorized me to post it here.

Hi Rita, and thanks for the note.


Thank you very much for keeping the dialogue going…

and that was my sole (maybe soul) motivation. Only by pointing to one side of the coin can I motivate others to describe the other side. And when I said “you (yes you)” I meant the reader, not only you, Rita.

I spent eight years at university (5 for my initial degree and 3 more for subsequent degrees as ecology wasn’t offered as a degree subject in those days). Including those eight years I spent 27 years working as an ecologist; put my heart and soul into it thinking that what I was doing would, in some small way, improve the world. How sadly mistaken I was!

In brief, because I don’t want to delve too deeply into it, the “better” (relative, I know) the work one does the better the opportunities. But with those opportunities are promotions that take the promoted out of the field and into the office and then the boardroom; closer and closer to political appointments and further away from the places useful work can be done.

If you refuse promotion and stay in the field then those who do take promotion end up taking your work, filtering it the political cogs and leaving you wishing that you had never published it. They (for example the oil companies) use your (filtered) work to justify plundering endangered habitats. And the money donated by millions of people duped into thinking that they are supporting environmentaly sound research ends up being spent on flying these “environmentalists” to and from exotic places to attend conferences and publicity stunts to keep up the farce and keep the donors thinking that their money is going to useful causes.

I realize that your work will not be in the same arena and will not deal with the same politics, but I’d love to talk to you in 20 years! Good luck.


I’m saying the same thing as you do, but with different words and perhaps from a different point of view…

If there’s something that history teaches us, is that the mass is very easily manipulated… They won’t hold the “elite” accountable for the very same reason you’re describing here: The “elite” are too damned good propagandists and they know how to use “information” (no matter what the medium is) against you…

You’re wrong about one thing though (at least in my opinion)…

Their aim is not to missinform you about the situation. You know how the situation is, you see it with your own eyes and your eyes can not fool you…

Their aim is to make you believe that you’re all alone in your fight (whatever this is), that the rest of the world has stopped to care… After you decided to take that “blue pill” of promotion, have you considered to ask for help when things weren’t turning the way you thought they would??? And if not, why??? Could it be because you thought that others wouldn’t care, or even be very reluctant to help you, out of fear???

If you choose to use your “weapon” (animation, internet, press whatever), for the purpose of just informing the mass about the situation, you’ll fail…

The purpose should be to inform the “elite”, that people still care… There’s a chance that they’ll be forced one day to sit down and listen…

Twenty years is just a rain drop thrown into the ocean of time… Rita alone is not going to make a difference, not even in a 1000 years, but her work may influence others with much more strength and determination to change things…


David Brin is a science fiction author. One of his books is called ‘Otherness’ and it explores how we view those/that which is different from us. The book also contains essays on the subject which is what I refer you to. He proposes that books and other media (like Disney movies) do affect attitudes. He particulary cites how environmentalism and (at least) North Americans view animals differently due to the anthropomorphism that occurs in such movies. (ie. whales, bears even tigers & lions are cute/noble/worthy of our consideration…) He supports your belief that messages can shape society.

I’d also like to suggest that you read these thoughts by Timothy Albee the sole author of Kaze: Ghost Warrior (an animation).
He purposely used animals to establish his animation to get his message across. By using animals he could archetype the ideals he wanted to communicate. He compares this to the alternative of using human characters, which he believes would be too obvious and therefore cause people to tune out to his story.


I’m seriously not trying to start a mega flame war here.

That said, it seems the discussion is one of brainwashing methods for the “good” of humanity. I’m not against social change per say or effective communication. But as I have read the most recent post I realized that social engineering is more the ontopic discussion. If the implications are true then it stands to reason that Fligh% is correct. Those with the most powerful imagery and communcation tools get to brainwash the best and therefore rule.

cough Edward L. Bernays

Joseph Goebbels :o

Once again, I appreciate the role that annimation has as a vehicle for information dissemination, and I can understand the attraction it has, and the ability too, to get the message across. Things, shapes, beings, worlds and how these behave and interact with and on one another can be created from scratch with little regard for reality. Litteraly speaking, thoughts and ideas can be created and shared and built upon in realtime technicolor. Yes, I see the potential, I realize the possibilities, but though the tools are new the medium is old, and though it’s an excellent medium for sharing thoughts and ideas and “making the message”, the social change potential has already happened (Hollywood and Disney) and is already being used by the elite to indoctrinate the masses.
Since Hollywood the major vehicles of social change have been aerospace, computers and the internet. At the risk of becoming repetitive the new frontier for social change is cellphone applications. I don’t know about the rest of the country, but here in the DC area two things that are being advertised that strike me as relevant are emergency alerts being broadcast as text messages and satelite images of traffic situations in realtime. That kind of application is going to change the way society thinks and behaves (though I see the 1984 potential inherent in this tech). It was also my original point but I must admit I’m also just chatting along because it’s an interesting subject.