Walt Disney’s Laugh-O-gram Studio: Past, Present & Future

See the presentation that Ron Green, Executive Director of digiSTORY KC, offered to students, faculty and board members of the Johnson County Community College on May 3, 2018.  It tells the story of Walt Disney’s early animation business efforts in Kansas City and his move to California due to the bankruptsy of his Laugh-O-gram Studio.  Ron also describes the digital media industry in Kansas City and today’s opportunities for growth in that industry.  He describes plans for renovating the Laugh-O-gram building by its owning non-profit organization, Thank You Walt Disney.  This video can be viewed at https://youtu.be/CGJF1LRnjuc.  The length of the presentation is 54 minutes and 15 seconds followed by 6 minutes of Q&A.

Video courtesy of Bob Epps, Johnson County Community College

Workshops for Girl Scouts

digiSTORY KC offers three workshop opportunities for Girl Scouts through their Community Partners program.  digiSTORY KC program information is available for scout leaders at this “You Schedule It” website: https://www.gsksmo.org/en/events-repository/2050/digiStory_YSI.html

Girl Scout troops bring their girls to our digiSTORY Academy to participate in these workshops.  Most sessions are 1.5 to 2 hours in length.  All of the equipment and supplies needed for the workshop activities are provided by digiSTORY KC.  All of the workshops relate to story development or the multimedia production of stories.  Here is a summary of the three workshops currently available from digiSTORY KC through the Girl Scout’s Community Partners program:


How do you create a story “from scratch?” This workshop helps girls understand the key elements needed for a good story and provides prompts to help them form their stories. We show digiSTORY KC’s story model using Lion King as an example of how good stories are constructed. We also show a few entertaining clips from classic movies that illustrate how those key story requirements have worked effectively. Girls will also work in small teams to create a “storyboard” – a 6-8 frame outline of a story concept they create.

Length: 1.5 hours   Cost: $15.00 per girl.  Recommended for Brownies (Grades 2-3), Juniors (Grades 4-5)


This session helps girls understand how all forms of animation and video are made up of individual images shown in a sequence that makes them appear to move.

The workshop provides hands-on learning about how animation works. Concepts include “key framing,”  “frame rates” and how the “persistence of vision” makes still images appear to move to the viewer.  In this session each girl will construct a simple “thaumatrope,” and a “flipbook” that simulates animation. The girls will view examples of animation at different frame rates and see how animators place images together to create animations. They will also have a brief hands-on experience using ZU3D software and LEGO® characters to piece together a short animated action sequence.  Length: 2.0 hours   Cost: $15.00 per girl.  Recommended for Brownies (Grades 2-3), Juniors (Grades 4-5)


What is it like to be part of a multimedia studio team? Find out in digiSTORY KC’s Multimedia Lab Experience. This two-hour workshop provides the opportunity to select a job role and collaborate with teammates to add the multimedia and text elements for a Claymation production. Select from these job roles and learn about that career in multimedia as you fulfill the project requirements for that position: Director, Actor, Film & Video Editor, Multimedia Animator, Sound Engineering Technician, and Producer. Participants build skills in collaboration as they complete their specific roles for the multimedia team.  Length: 2.0 hours   Cost: $15.00 per girl.  Recommended for Brownies (Grades 2-3), Juniors (Grades 4-5), Cadettes (Grades 6-8)


We have two versions of our Multimedia Lab Experience, a 2-hour version and a 4-hour version: the Multimedia Collaboration Project.  The difference between them is that the 2-hour version leaves out the camera work of shooting each frame to create the animation, while the 4-hour version allows teams enough time to do the camera shooting of each animation frame.  The two-hour version has each team working on the same Claymation story, while the 4-hour version has each team working on one or two scenes from a longer script using LEGO® figures.  Each team in the 4-hour LEGO® version contributes to an overall seven-scene group production.  Length: 4.0 hours   Cost: $25.00 per girl.  Recommended for Juniors (Grades 4-5), Cadettes (Grades 6-8)

digiSTORY KC is committed to providing opportunities for girls to experience STEM activities.  We are pleased to be working with the Girl Scouts of NE Kansas and NW Missouri on their Community Partners program.



This video was filmed and produced by Jessica Albina, a senior in Avila University’s Visual Communications program.  Jessica served as a summer intern and supported our summer workshops.  Jessica is a talented digital storyteller with creative ideas and an eye for great camera shots.  Jessica was a great partner during our summer workshops.  She was great at working with children and brought great mentoring and guidance to our summer workshop program.  Thanks, Jessica for your great work this summer.  I hope you will enjoy learning about digiSTORY KC as you view Jessica’s video.

Why Stop-Motion Animation?

Our most popular workshop at digiSTORY KC is stop-motion animation. We offer the course in three formats:
• Stop-Motion Animation
• Claymation
• LEGO Show Time
Stop-motion animation is a form of animation that uses objects rather than drawings to bring life to characters. Stop-motion animators use a wide range of materials to create their characters: clay (Claymation), LEGOs, cut paper, 3 dimensional puppets, fruit, toys—you name it. Any object that can appear to come to life by adding movement and expression can become the material of a skillful animator.

Stop-motion animation is our entry-level course at digiSTORY KC for kids who want to learn more about multimedia production. One reason for this is that students can experience the “Wow” factor of multimedia early in their workshop experience. Using our stop-motion animation software, students capture progressive movements of the objects one photo at a time. Within minutes of starting this process they get to see the cumulative effect of their movements and expressions: their characters are coming to life before their eyes. Not much later in the process they are recording voiceovers and dialog and are adding sound effects and music into their productions. In fact all of the key multimedia elements of standard video editing software programs are part of their stop-motion animation project: working with timelines, audio editing, image editing, chroma-key background replacement, adding titles, credits, etc.

Our students learn the full range of multimedia production in an easy-to-learn and easy-to-use program that doesn’t require exceptional drawing skills or experience in photography and audio technology. They get to complete a full story and enjoy the satisfaction of sharing their creation with others on our YouTube Channel. This experience helps kids become aware of even greater opportunities in multimedia production and helps guide them to other areas for exploration in media.

Our stop-motion animation workshops are offered in two scheduling formats:
• 6-hour after-school workshops during the school year, and
• 16-hour formats during the summer.
The after-school version typically meets one day of the week for four weeks from 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. The summer workshop meets for four consecutive days (Monday – Thursday) for 4 hours each day. The summer version is ideal because the students have ample time to create their stories and complete all of the many multimedia tasks to finish their productions. The depth of instruction time is more limited for the after-school format because teams need to use more of the available time to work on their productions. Still, teams create fun and rewarding animations that make them want to come back for more.

As students gain experience with stop-motion, they begin to add levels of sophistication that greatly enrich their stories. They add more sophisticated movements and facial and body expressions. They develop better stories and they add more graphic interest to their scenes through the use of design tools and green screen technology.

Once a student has experienced a successful stop-motion animation production, they have a solid background for exploring drawn animation or video production.

Here’s an overview of what is included in our standard stop-motion animation workshop experience:

Session 1: Participants learn about animation and how it works. They create a flip book and a thaumatrope to see how static pictures appear to move in animation and video. They learn about frames and frame rates for animation and video. They learn digiSTORY KC’s story model and work with teammates to create an original story. They create a storyboard and script for that story. They learn how animators use animatics to plan for voiceovers and other multimedia to pace the image requirements for the story.

Session 2: Teams learn production techniques and ideas for various stop-motion formats (e.g. Claymation, LEGO® figures, etc.). They complete their work adding voiceovers to their production piece. Teams learn about chroma key technology and start planning and preparing backgrounds and props for their production sets. Teams learn about the three phases of the production process, and they learn about careers in digital media. Team members choose from those job roles and begin their camera production work. Teams also learn about the importance of movement and expression for their characters.

Session 3: Teams spend this entire session producing their multimedia story. They are taking photos and adding them to their video timeline. They are adding sound effects, music tracks and special design effects. They are photographing actions against constructed backgrounds, or they are adding backgrounds using chroma key (green screen) technology.

Session 4: Teams complete the filming stage of their production and begin adding all remaining post-production elements: titles, credits, music sound tracks, special effects, etc. When their production is finished, they post the piece to the digiSTORY KC YouTube Channel. Teams end the session by sharing their production pieces with the rest of the teams and discussing their work on the project.

Stop-motion animation workshops are offered throughout the year. View our Events Calendar to see what workshops will be offered soon at digiSTORY KC.

Summer Workshops Are Underway!

June and July are busy months for digiSTORY KC. During this time, digiSTORY KC is offering seven stop-motion animation workshops. Two workshops are open to the general public for kids from ages of 9 – 16: June 19 – 22 and June 26 – 29. The remaining workshops are offered through key program partners:

  • Ivanhoe Neighborhood Center June 6 – 9
  • Mattie Rhodes Art Center June 12 – 15
  • Operation Breakthrough July 17 – 21
  • Urban TEC July 20 – 21
  • Girl Scouts July 24 – 27


Ron Green, Executive Director of digiSTORY KC, states that “summer workshops provide more time for kids to complete the full process required to create and publish a good stop-motion story.” The standard format for summer workshops is four days of four hours each day:

  • Day 1: Understanding Animation & story/script development
  • Day 2: Creation of an animatic and recording of dialog & voiceovers
  • Day 3: Photo capture of story actions and character movements & expressions
  • Day 4: Post-production (green screen, titles, credits) and publishing

The same workshop offered in after-school formats during the school year is greatly truncated. Typically the student has only six hours to accomplish the same amount of activity. This requires taking short cuts and unfortunate omission of instruction on important aspects of stop-motion animation production. The summer workshop format gives the student and teammates the opportunity for a more satisfying story production experience.

Maker Faire KC 2017 Was Great!

digiSTORY KC hosted an interactive booth at Kansas City’s Maker Faire held on June 24th & 25th at Union Station. The booth featured a live Claymation artist and lots of hands-on experiences for visitors.https://vimeo.com/223598537


The highlight of the exhibit was the opportunity to view artist, Jeff Daly, in action as he sculpted humorous clay characters and photographed successive changes in movement and expression in the Zu3D stop-motion animation software that we use during our workshops. Visitors could observe how these gradual changes in expression would make the character come to life as Jeff played back the frames he had captured to that point. To see the result of Jeff’s work on his bear character on day 1, click here. Jeff also created cute rabbit and bear characters and displayed them in their component pieces so that children could experience the process of creating appealing clay characters. Jeff worked as a humor writer and artist for over forty years at Hallmark Cards. He is a regular contributor to digiSTORY KC programs.


Kids could also create paper animation toys that illustrate how single images combine to create the illusion of movement. They could cut out and form a thaumatrope—a paper disk with a picture of a yellow monster on one side and a cage on the opposite side. When they attach a string to each side and spin the thaumatrope, the monster appears to be inside the cage. They could also create a simple flipbook. When the pages are flipped rapidly, the images combine to simulate movement.


Kids could also experience 3D virtual reality by viewing popular 3D VR apps through a Google Cardboard viewer.


Kids and grownups alike enjoyed digiSTORY’s green screen experience. They could pose against a green screen and superimpose a background that showed them in various interesting scenes. For example, couples could appear to be onstage at Dancing With the Stars, kids could appear to be getting a “Salvy splash” or they could appear next to a large pile of cash.


Many kids and their families visited the booth and expressed interest in learning more about digiSTORY KC and its programs. Many signed up to be added to our mailing lists so that they could be notified of upcoming classes and workshops. If you would like to be added to that list, please contact Ron Green at rgreen@digistory.org

School’s Out — Now What!?!

School’s Out!  Enroll your child now for one of our Summer Stop-Motion Animation Workshops.

June 19 – 22 1:00 – 5:00


June 26 – 29  8:30 – 12:30

Make Your Claymation Masterpiece!

Claymation is an entertaining form of animation popularized by such favorites as Gumby, Wallace and Gromit and Robot Chicken. Claymation is a fun form of stop-motion animation that kids love to create. The characters are easy to form and move. Plus, you don’t need illustration talent to create successful Claymation stories. In this workshop kids from 9 – 16 will learn basics in photography, character expression, audio capture and video editing. Participants in this hands-on workshop will work closely with one or two collaborative partners to develop a short, stop-motion Claymation story.

This workshop is recommended for kids who are 9 – 16 years of age.

The cost for all four sessions is $35.00 (plus Eventbrite fees).  Here’s the full Claymation workshop program:

Monday, March 6th: 4:30 – 6:00 p.m.

  • Making Pictures Move: Participants will be able to explain how “key framing” establishes the illusion of movement. The student will construct a simple flipbook and be able to explain how animation is affected by different frame rates. Participants will also use digiSTORY KC’s story development model to create a storyboard.

Tuesday, March 7th: 4:30 – 6:00 p.m.

  • Stop-Motion Tools: Students will be able to use Zu3D animation software to create their Claymation story. Students will work with teammates to record and add voiceovers and sound effects to their video timeline. They will then be able to use a webcam and simple lighting with a laptop to capture their Claymation images to match the audio timeline.

Wednesday, March 8th: 4:30 – 6:00 p.m.

  • Image Capture for Claymation: Students will be able to photograph the progressive movements of the characters and props in their story at a frame rate of at least 15 frames per second (fps).

Thursday, March 9th: 4:30 – 6:00 p.m.

  • Editing & Publishing Claymation: Students will be able to use the features of the animation software to edit images, add sound effects or voiceovers, and edit the video timeline.  Students will be able to add title frames to the beginning of their stories and crawling credits at the end of their stories.  When the Claymation production piece is final, the student will be able to publish the story to digiSTORY KC’s YouTube Channel where links can be shared with family and friends.

Workshop Fee: $35.00 (plus Eventbrite fee) covers all four sessions.  (Scholarships are available for kids from families facing financial hardship).  By registering for the Session 1: Making Pictures Move session, you will automatically be registered for all four sessions.

Students who complete the Claymation requirements will earn a Claymation badge from LRNG-KC:

LEGO Animation Fun!

What’s more fun for kids than playing with LEGO’s? — Bringing LEGO figures to life through stop-motion animation! Using LEGO’s StoryStarter program and ZU3D animation software, kids 7 – 12 years of age will work in teams of 2 or 3 to create animated videos that can be shared with friends and family. This three-session workshop will be held at the digiSTORY Academy at 3210 Michigan Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri.

Students who complete the stop-motion animation requirements will earn a LEGO Show Time badge from LRNG-KC.

This workshop consists of three 1.5 hour sessions:


Learners will explore the fundamentals of how moving pictures are created by creating a flip book. They will then work with their team to create a 6-stage storyboard comic page that features photos of their LEGO characters in action.

Here’s a summary of what students will learn in each of the three workshop sessions:

Monday, March 20th: 4:30 – 6:00 p.m.

  1. Story Creating: Learners will explore the fundamentals of how moving pictures are created by assembling a flip book. They will then work with their team to create a 6-stage storyboard comic page that features photos of their LEGO characters in action.

Tuesday, March 21st: 4:30 – 6:00 p.m.

  1. Story Producing: Learners will use a webcam and simple lighting with a laptop to capture stop-motion frames of their LEGO characters and story props.  Learner teams will use Zu3D animation software to create their full LEGO stop-motion story.

Thursday, March 23rd: 4:30 – 6:00 p.m.   (NOTE: no Wednesday session this week)

  1. Story Sharing: Learners will add features to their LEGO story that add fun for their audiences: titles, crawling credits, word balloons, sound effects and background music. They will post their completed story to digiSTORY KC’s YouTube account where their animation can be shared with family and friends.


Workshop Fee: $30.00 (plus Eventbrite fee) covers all three sessions.  (Scholarships are available for kids from families facing financial hardship).  By registering for the Session 1: Story Creating session, you will automatically be registered for all three sessions.

Blue Valley Students Produce Walt Disney Video

A recent video produced by Celina Wehr and Ethan Pate of Blue Valley Southwest High School demonstrates that the future of digital storytelling is in good hands. Celina and Ethan are students in the Broadcasting Technology and Performing Arts program at BVSW. They recently produced a short news video about Walt Disney’s life in Missouri and his work at the Laugh-O-gram Film Studio in Kansas City in 1922. You can view the video on Vimeo at this link:


Ethan Pate (left), Celina Wehr (right) shown with Steve Cortez, Instructor, Broadcasting Technology and Performing Arts program at Blue Valley Southwest High School.

Ron Green, Executive Director of digiSTORY KC, visited the BVSW broadcasting studio and production classroom recently to be interviewed for the video. What he found was a classroom full of eager students, a well-equipped soundstage and multimedia lab, and a buzz of activity as student teams worked on their projects. The available wall space was crowded to the ceiling with certificates of award for the students high-quality work.

The production studio at BVSW is well equipped and well used by the students in the Broadcasting Technology program.

Students are focused on pre-production and post-production work in their multimedia lab area.

The visit to their studio was delightful, and the result of the students’ project speaks for itself. Celina and Ethan took no short cuts in producing a quality video.  They conducted a professional quality video interview session.  They traveled to Marceline, Missouri and to the Laugh-O-gram building at 31st & Forest in Kansas City to get good images and b-roll for their piece. They also conducted research to learn about Walt’s history in our area and to find photos and animations from Walt’s time in Kansas City.

Celina and Ethan are living up to an ideal once stated by Walt Disney: ““Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.”