An all-in-one animation system used for visual storytelling and engaging STE(A)M learning


Once Upon a Time...

In early 2019, we started working with Ron Suskind and The Affinity Project making communication tools for neurodiverse people. These efforts centered around bringing people together by using shared affinities as a foundation for communication and connection.

One of the apps we launched:

Sept 2019: Lets get phsyical

We thought it would be valuable to diverge from the apps, and spend some more time in person with neurodiverse kids. A common affinity we saw amongst neuro-diverse people is Animation, so we brought animators and neuro-diverse people together to make some simple animations. In the spirit of simplicity, the animation form we landed on is top-down, paper-based stop-motion. This technique involves making paper characters, props, and scenes, and shooting frame by frame from above.

Some paper animators that we love and inspired our thinking:

Yvonne Anderson and Yellow Ball Workshop

“The Yellow Ball Workshop was a place for mainly children (although all ages were welcome) to learn about the processes of making animated films, which included using the materials to create their own films. Using the camera, synchronizing sound and picture, and animating the figures were among the skills taught at this workshop”

Read more about Yvonne Anderson and Yellow Ball ︎︎︎

Terry Gilliam

Oct. 2019– Trying it out: Bringing professional animators and kids together

Animators Tim Smyth and Emily Timm joined our team to bring art, education, and animation expertise to the project.

Tim & Emily working with Will (14) to make a Gifo in japanese about a Frog:

As we started making these short little films, we realized quickly that Yvonne was seriously onto something back in 1979! Not only is it a highly communicative art-form, the process itself forces you to slow down and use your hands to bring something to life. Simply by pushing a paper character around underneath the camera, those who do not consider themselves artistic can naturally find their creative spirit within the form.

However, this art form requires a fair amount of equipment + know-how to develop. You need to have art supplies, lights, cameras, and knowledge of animating. Bringing our equipment to different sites became tedious and impractical. Within this tediousness arose an idea: What if we put everything – the art supplies, instructions, lights, camera, into a box: an all-in-one animation machine!

Drawing by Walker

And with that, the Gif-O-Graf was born. We began by making a couple of crude mock-ups out of foam, before having the first prototype made by local woodworkers Matt Giossi and Ron Kuhn.

Tim with his early mock-up

William using the first prototype to make this Gifo:

Trial & Error

As we started using the Gif-O-Graf we started to learn what works and what doesn't, and how we could best approach the project.

To start, we used Dragonframe, the professional animation software used by most stop-motion animators. But we found that this software was overly complex and had a steep learning curve. 

Additionally, when a computer or smart-phone is incorporated into the process, it's easy to get distracted by all the other things you can do on those devices. If a kid is making a movie using their iPhone, they can easily be distracted by social media, texting, or any of the other million things they have on there.

So we decided to build our own controller. The controller allows you to preview your animation and easily take new frames.

Shawn Wallace previewing the rasberry-pi equipped controller

Learning from educators: how does it fit into how we do things?

We conducted several focus groups with a diverse set of educators: from private school technology heads to public school special ed. kindergarten teachers, and gained valuable insights on what schools and teachers are looking for.

1. Anna - “...there is a need for students to be able to express what they’ve learned in multiple ways.” 

2. David - “...we’re constantly looking for new ways to improve story telling.”

3. Nikki - “...learning the language of the education system is critical to bringing new technologies into it...”


Bringing it all together...

By making an all-in-one animation system, you are freed up creatively and energetically. For the Gif-O-Graf that singular experience consists of:

1. Animation stage: Lights + Camera

2. Controller: Frame capturing + editing

3. Guide materials: pre-cut shapes, letters, puppets, backgrounds, lessons, artist jam packs and more!

We believe that at this intersection of technology and hand-made, one can develop a highly communicative art form.


Originally, we intended to make this a business. But our goal is not to maximize profit, and never will be. We want to build an organization that values sucess through our impact. With that in mind, we have decided to file for 501(3)c status and will be seeking donations instead of investment.

We aim to put on in-house and virtual Gif-O-Courses and deploy our machines + programs at schools, libraries, and other public institutions. We will enable any school to start a Gif-O-Program by providing in depth print and digital guides, community resources, and teacher workshops.

We are focusing on bringing our programming and machines to those who can benefit from it the most while bringing manufacturing back to Pawtucket, RI. We want to sell our product for a fair price to those who can afford it, while providing those who cant our services and equipment for free. Creativity and freedom of expression should not be contained or limited because of your ethnicity, economic background, or brain type.

Now more than ever, we need  supplemental communication tools– in the classroom and beyond. As social media turns us more inward, and social distancing keeps us physically apart, now is a prime opportunity to adopt new forms of connection and communication. We believe the Gif-O-Graf can be a small part of that. 

Whats on the block:

We’ve been working hard throughout COVID-19 to maintain momentum and make strong progress. We have been fortunate to have an incredible team and studio to keep the work moving. 

- We’re working with our good friend and collaborator Rachel Blumberg on the first virtual Gif-O-Course! Rachel is a drummer, teacher, and animator, so it was the perfect harmony!! Working with 5 of her drum students, the course will look at rythm through the lens of animation. 

- With the course coming up, we are working with local CNC and Machining manufacturers to get the first 10 machines made.

- Guide materials: we’re designing and printing all the pre-cut shapes, letters, puppets, backgrounds, lessons, artist jam packs and more that will come with the system. We’re using Rachel’s class as the first lesson plan. 

- Fundraising! With the process of 501(3)c filing underway, and our coffers running too low for comfort, we’re beginning our fundraising efforts. 

Crunch the numbers ︎︎︎

Learn more about our team ︎︎︎

Some more Gifo's: 

Isabella – 16

Walker - 40

Willy - 25


Violet - 10


(401) 374 9520

22 Montgomery St. 
Pawtucket, RI 02860