People We Know is an on-going documentary animation film project, in which animation students record and document aspects of the lives of a local community to create minute-long participatory animated documentaries.

The project was designed to investigate:

  • The effectiveness of the animated documentary in developing student discernment in identifying and creating original character designs and narratives for the animation filmmaking process.

  • The impact and benefits of the documentary filmmaking process in student engagement and involvement with local communities. The project encourages students to move away from the intrinsically introspective process of animation to a more outward focused process of documentary making. By placing real people as the starting point and centre of the study, the project was designed to allow students to get a deeper understanding of the subject of character design, and thereby create believable characters and convincing narratives. The project has included collaborations with researchers in the subject area of Community Psychology to study the impact of the project on communities and feedback from each project has informed and improved its subsequent iteration. The project can be scaled to suit any group of animation students in building and fostering relationships within their local communities, while learning how to create original work simultaneously.

  • The outputs of this project; a selection of 20 animation films and an accompanying paper that offers the context of the study, have been disseminated in international conferences such as Animafest Scanner Zagreb.



People We Know-animated documentary.jpg

People We Know - Documenting Them to Create Characters

People We Know is the collective title of a series of three projects offered during the academic years 2015-16 and 2016-17. Based on Marton and Saljö’s categories of deep and surface learning, the learning and teaching methods designed for the People We Know project were taken from a variety of fields such as Theatre, Cinema and Literature, so that students could gain an extensive and deeper understanding of character development.

Paper presented at
Animafest 2017
Visual presentation of paper

Students at Animafest Zagreb 2017

In 2017, five students accompanied the tutor to particpate in Animafest Zagreb. During their time there, they attended the Animafest Scanner conference, where their films were screened as part of the Poepl we know paper presentation. Student also visited the Zagreb School of Arts Animation programme. The visit was sponsored by the Going Global Scheme at UEL.




Students create comic books based on their real life interactions, to create charcaters. By placing people from real life as the starting point and centre of the study, it was hoped that students might be able to get a deeper understanding of the subject of character design, and thereby create believable characters and convincing narratives, that originated directly from the selected subjects.

development comics
created by students