How to Screen Your Dragon

popcorn vikingVikings and Dragon Riders! Don your horned helmets, grab your shields, and get ready for the ultimate How To Train Your Dragon theater experience, complete with real reptiles!

blue-tongued skinkAfter watching How to Train Your Dragon with my kids, I was delighted to learn that the movie was based on the book series by Cressida Cowell. When the Princeton Garden Theater (our local, non-profit movie theater) gamely agreed to a book-to-film outreach collaboration, How to Train Your Dragon was the first on my list.

Our program had three parts. Viking activities in the lobby, a live reptile show, and then the film itself. We’ll start with the lobby activities first. There were tables for making helmets and shields, a replica of a Viking game, and a local artist making custom sketches of the movie’s characters.

Viking helmets were a must, and we needed something quick and easy-to-assemble. Here’s the gang, sporting some seriously awesome headgear.

the gangYou’ll need:

  • A long strip of silver poster board (approximately 2.5″ x 24.5″)
  • A short strip of silver poster board (approximately 2.5″ x 14″)
  • White poster board for your Viking “horns”
  • Stapler
  • Metallic dot stickers (optional)

First, circle the long strip of silver poster board around your head (we purchased our poster board online from Blick Art Materials). Staple it. This is your hatband. Next, staple the short strip of poster board to the front and back of the hatband. Tab and staple a pair of white poster board horns to the sides of the hatband (here’s our horn template if you’d like it). Decorate the hatband with (optional) metallic dot stickers.

viking helmet stepsIt never hurts to thrown in a little history, so we included informational table signs at all the hands-on activity tables. Here’s the table sign for helmets. Next up…shields!

shields

You’ll need:

  • 1 silver poster board circle (approximately 5″ in diameter)
  • 1 circle of corrugated cardboard (approximately 14″ in diameter)
  • 2 strips of poster board (approximately 2.25″ x 11″)
  • 2 brass tacks
  • Metallic markers
  • Hole punch
  • Stapler

Since we needed a slew of shields, we used cake circles and – believe it or not – the silver foil circles that fit onto take-out containers. Both were purchased at a local restaurant supply outlet. But you can cut a shield from any corrugated cardboard box, and the silver circle from silver poster board.

Hot glue a 5″ silver circle onto the center of a 14″ brown cardboard circle. Push the prongs of 2 brass tacks through the cardboard shield (one on each side of the silver circle). Decorate the shield with metallic markers.

viking shield stepsNext, loop 2 strips of poster board loosely around your forearm. Stapled them closed. Punch a hole in each loop, then thread the prongs of a brass tack through each hole. The back of your shield will now look like this:

back of shieldDone! And here’s the shield table sign. By the way, did you know that metal knob in the center of a shield is called a “boss?” I did not know that.

girl with shieldNot far from the helmet and shield tables was the very talented Keenu Hale, a local artist who is the master of quick cartoon sketches. The kids kept him very busy drawing their favorite Dragon characters (they got to take the sketches home too)!

keenu hale

Here’s a set I posted on our Instagram. Keenu drew these in minutes. Wow.

hiccup and astridThe final activity table was a replica of a Viking game. It was WAY popular. Marissa found it in Hands On America Volume 1: Art Activities About Viking, Woodland Indians, and Early Colonists by Yvonne Y. Merrill (Kits Publishing, 2001). It’s a snap to put together.

viking game being played

You’ll need:

  • 1 white bandanna
  • Fabric or permanent markers
  • Air dry clay

Use markers to draw the game board below on a white bandanna (I bought ours at Michaels Craft Store). The runes are optional, of course. Our runes spell out the names of the different types of dragons. Can you spot “Night Fury?”

game boardThe game pieces are little birds (about 2″ long), made with air dry clay.

game piecesTo play the game, toss the clay birds onto the game board.

You get 1 point if a bird lands upright anywhere on the board
You get 2 points if a bird lands in a circle
You get 3 points if a bird lands upright in a circle

Here’s the game table sign, should you need it. We offered winners 2 prize choices. The first choice was a plastic gemstone. Each gemstone was worth 1 point. Win 6 points, and you got to select 6 gemstones! We provided 3″ x 4.5″ cotton drawstring bags to hold your riches (I bought my bags from Nashville Wraps).

bag of gemstonesThe other prize was a chance to win a cardboard Toothless standee (purchased on Amazon for $30). Kids automatically got a chance to win when they first entered the theater, but at the Viking game table, 1 point equaled 1 extra chance to win. So 3 points equaled 3 more chances to win. The kids really liked that!

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Image courtesy of the Princeton Garden Theater

In addition to the hands-on activities, there was a reptile exhibit and live show by Enzo from The Lizard Guys. Enzo brought a terrific array of critters, and shared an astounding amount of knowledge with the kids and their parents.

reptiles

Here’s Marissa bonding with a blue-tongued skink. Soon, she will be a mighty Dragon Rider of Berk!

marissa pets the skinkFinally, it was time for the film. Having only seen it on my laptop, I can say I was completely blown away watching it on the big screen. The flying! The fire! The CLOUDS!

how to screen your dragon

I’d like to express my extreme gratitude to the Princeton Garden Theater for collaborating with us on this program. They were up for anything, and didn’t bat an eye when I asked if we could take over the lobby with multiple craft projects and bring in live reptiles. In fact, their response was a very enthusiastic “YES!” Thanks so much guys!

viking enjoying popcorn

Misako Rocks!

misako rocks Manga fans, sharpen your pencils! We were delighted to host Misako Takashima (popularly known as Misako Rocks!) at an intensive drawing workshop for 10-14 year-olds. Check out our interview with Misako at the end of the post!

misako's workThe workshop primarily focused on character development, as well as a little history on Japanese culture and manga. After a hilarious PowerPoint presentation about growing up in Japan and coming to America, Misako jumped right in to the art. Wielding a variety of markers, she demonstrated how to structure faces and make mouths, eyes, and even hair expressive.

easelsThe kids were loaded up with paper and pencils so they could sketch along with Misako.

kids working 2My favorite part, however, was when Misako would circulate among the young artists, commenting on their work, making suggestions, and giving mini-lessons to help improve their drawings.

kids working 3Another fabulous thing about the workshop? The kids’ art! In addition to some spur-of-the-moment sketches, many of them brought their portfolios with them. Here are just a few…

manga twinsblonde braidwolvescharactersyellow houseposterguitarred girl


In addition to publishing her own work, Misako has been featured in magazines and newspapers, including Elle Girl and the New York Times. The BBC and TV Asahi featured her in a documentary about her comic book life, and her Instagram flows with photos, sketches, and artistic exuberance.

misakoWhen did you first start drawing manga, and why did it intrigue you?

I started drawing when I was 8 or 9 just like any girls copied their favorite characters. But professionally I started drawing in 2004. It was my first dream that I wanted to become a puppeteer in Broadway (to work for Lion King musical!), but I gave up on myself.
Then I noticed that Japanese pop culture (anime and manga) was getting pretty popular around that time. I thought that I had to switch my career when this was pretty trendy! That’s how I started making my story and drawing.

Describe the steps you take to draw a single page in one of your books.

First I roughly draw panels and add lines to the characters. At this time I don’t draw backgrounds. Then I start polishing each page: 1 draw with blue pencil. 2 draw with calligraphy brush. I draw background separately. Scan everything and color with Photoshop.

What’s more difficult for you…writing the story, or drawing the art?

Writing the story is more difficult for me, because English is my second language. I am still learning! My study will never stop! But I do have so many ideas, so I don’t have any problems to come up with a theme!

Name some other artists you love!
Yukari Ichijo is my favorite manga artist, Klimt, and Charles Burns, the graphic novel artist of Black Hole. Art Spiegleman, the graphic novel artist of Maus might be my No1!

What’s one of the most unusual things you’ve received from a fan?

A photo of her tattoo…she used my illustration!!! I was blown away by it.

What’s your advice for young artists who want to draw manga?

In order to make stories, I always advise them to go outside and have fun! Because those days really help them to create interesting and exciting stories. Also give yourself 1 min sketch practice. I sat on a bench in a park to draw people sit in front of me for one minute! I kept doing a lot to develop my drawing skill.

What are you working on now?

I am working on my weekly web comic: BOUNCE BACK. The theme is a school bully, racism, friendship, finding identity etc, etc. But it has a fantasy character, so it’s still entertaining! I bet readers will feel related to my characters Lilico and Paige.

Also I am working on Japanese manga comic too. I go to Japan often to be on TV and radio show to talk about my projects. Sometimes I visit schools to give a motivational speech. This is very exciting!


Artist photo courtesy of Misako Takashima. 

Walk on the Wild Side

walk on the wild sideDare to be different! Stroll down the street with your skunk. What could possibly go wrong?

We read Don’t Take Your Snake for a Stroll, written by Karin Ireland, and illustrated by David Catrow (Harcourt, 2003). What happens when you take a pig shopping, an elephant to the beach, a duck to a wedding, or a rhinoceros to a swing party? Trust me, it’s not good. This hilarious book had our story time kids in stitches. Not only are the rhymes fun and fantastic, the stupendous illustrations show you exactly what happens when you take a coyote out for a night on the town!

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9” – a large tissue box works!)
  • Construction paper
  • 1 rubber band
  • 1 paper cup
  • 1 pair of wiggle eyes (optional)
  • 4 wheels (optional – more on this below)
  • A 36″ piece of yarn or string
  • Markers for decorating
  • Scissors, tape, glue for construction
  • Hot glue

Wrap a box with your choice of construction paper, then slide a rubber band “collar” onto the box. Add legs, tail, ears, mouth, eyes, and a nose. A paper cup makes a terrific snout, should you need one (I recommend attaching it to the box with hot glue). We had pieces of self-adhesive foam on hand for noses and mouths, as well as Twizteez wire for whiskers. We made a few example critters to get the creative juices flowing…

skunkmonkeymouseoctopusBecause we intended to take our animals out on the sidewalk, we put the boxes on wheels. I used leftover plastic wheels from this Richard Scarry event, and this parade project (if you’re interested, I ordered them online from Kelvin Educational).

wheelsThread the wheels on pieces of bamboo skewer, and then thread the skewers through drinking straws taped to the bottom of the box like so:

axles and wheelsYou could also use wooden spools instead of plastic wheels. Or, if you’re planning to stay indoors, skip the wheels and just drag the box on the floor (like the dog from this post). No matter yours means of locomotion, just make sure your animal’s arms and/or legs don’t drag on the ground. Ditto for the tail. Tie a piece of yarn to the collar, and hit the sidewalks!

skunk on the street 1Sure, you might get a few curious stares…

skunk on the street 2Well, let them stare! Walk with poise and confidence. And as you’re walking, say to yourself “Me and my skunk look great. And darn it, we feel great too!”

skunk on the street 3Er. Just make sure you say it, don’t spray it.

skunk on the street 4Did you spot the mouse on a walk too? Look by the newspaper boxes!