Animation Saves Lives

“Regent Animation Students Create Film That Will Help Prevent the Contraction of Intestinal Parasites”

It is not often that a cartoon saves lives. Yet, this is exactly what a team of Regent University’s animation students seek to accomplish with their most recent endeavor. A small group of students led by Regent’s animation director Peggy Southerland have been working to complete a short animation film dubbed “Worm Wars”. The film would help children in South America overcome a serious problem. This problem begins with intestinal parasites that enter the children’s bodies through open wounds on the children’s feet and underneath toenails, or even if the parasites are accidentally ingested. Once the worms find their host, they eat all of the nutrients that are meant to keep the child healthy. The children’s bellies become swollen and as a result of malnutrition they become tired and weak. If no action is taken, the child’s life is put in serious danger.

Operation Blessing, a non-profit organization founded in 1978 by M.G. “Pat” Robertson, contacted Regent to assist in creating the animated film. The intention of the film is to educate the children on parasite prevention, which includes wearing shoes when outside, washing of their hands and feet, and taking the pill if they do contract the parasite.

The film will begin by introducing the audience to the characters, a family who lives in a South American village. The children in the film enjoy playing soccer outside in the dirt and mud, but forgo shoes. One of the children becomes ill when an army of worms infiltrates the child’s body by climbing though his toenail. As the animation progresses, the child gets sicker. The worms eat what he eats and because of the lack of nutrition and energy, he cannot attend school. Finally, the child’s father brings shoes and pills home.Once the child takes the pill, the parasites die and the child’s health is restored.

The simple storyboard of the film highlights the funny, clever, and colorful style that will draw children into the animation. Third-year animation student Rachel Ellington, who is part of the “Worm Wars” team, notes the importance of using animation to reach the children. Ellington says, “Kids learn through visuals, especially cartoons. Seeing something helps you remember it.”

Peggy Southerland, who is a seasoned animation professional, is excited about the project and how it will affect the lives of the children and families in South America. She says that the project has made her “think deeply about the good that animation can do”. Southerland is passionate about using a Christian worldview to explain the battle between good and evil to children. While the film does not explicitly reference Christianity, Ms. Southerland hopes that when missionaries visit the South American countries, the children will recognize the morals and ideas they saw in the animated film.

In addition to Operation Blessing’s assistance and Regent’s instructional film, the Toms shoe company will donate shoes for the children to wear. This team effort is echoed in the work that the animation students complete. Stephen Brown, an animation student in his senior year, notes the great time he has had working on the project. He says, “I get the experience of working in a team. I’m getting the chance to potentially save the lives of kids.” Ms. Southerland provides support for his statement, saying, “Animation is not solitary; it is a team effort.”

Not only are the students working to save the lives of children, but they are gaining experience in their career field. “I learned how to animate characters and new ways to animate 2-D work,” says Thu Bui, a Regent student who is also working on the project.

Completing the “Worm Wars” project will not be an easy task. Multiple “episodes” of the film are expected to be completed, but the team is excited to continue working on the project. The fact that the project has no funding and requires months of painstaking work does not even sway the animation team. They work diligently to put their best work forward, knowing that many lives are at stake and they could have a positive impact on an innumerable amount of people.