Maddie’s Travel Animation

Westward Ho!
Westward Ho!

Maddie and I made an animation for her History class! The presentation was about the westward expansion of the United States and Maddie did the all the writing, storyboard and voice-over for the project. We only had a week to build it and had a great time doing it together.

If you’ve read any other posts on this site, you already suspect that we overdid this project. If so, you’d certainly be correct and, in fact, this was probably a bit worse than usual.

Travel Title - Pasture
Raising cattle was easier than growing crops – the American burger was born

Maddie asked me one evening if we could build an animation for her History project on the westward expansion of the United States. She had a script written and a bunch of ideas. I was taking a break from the production of the Molokai Honey documentary and so it was perfect timing for a new project.

Maddie’s original idea for her TRAVEL theme was a westward moving scene with various vignettes showing the key concepts of her narrative. I outlined what was possible and what I thought we could accomplish in a small week-long project.


I had wanted to build an animation showing a effect of motion, where the foreground object move faster than the background objects as the camera moves. I threw together a quick demo of a mountain scene and was showing it off when my older daughter Hailey reminded me,

“Dad, this is supposed to be Maddie’s project. You need to let her do it.”

She was right, of course, so we reset and went back to (Maddie’s) drawing board and started from there.

Over the course of the project Maddie created the storyboard and design sketches, made all the timing and action decisions, recorded sounds effects and and, of course, she recorded the voice-over.

It was very dry in the great plains
It was very dry in the great plains

Dad did do the animation, I will admit it. Plus I helped on some of the sounds, like the lower pitch of the thunder and the male .

We wanted to make the mob of Exodusters sound like a real thundering crowd of people so Maddie and I recorded three takes of ourselves murmuring and beating on the bed in the guest room. Once we layered these recordings over one another, we had our rampaging mob.

It was a great school presentation and everyone loved it, though the teacher did suspect that Dad may have helped a bit.


Free land grants encouraged many to move west
Free land grants encouraged many to move west

After the school presentation, there were still a few things that Maddie wanted to add to the animation that we weren’t able to fit in before the original deadline. *Over the next few weeks month or two, she and I spent an hour here and there adding her final polish to make the version you’re seeing here.

These enhancements included the music, the changing sky and ground colors, the setting sun and the popping-up of the houses at the end. We both hope you enjoy it!