Aniboom History Finalist, Tiny Circus

Tiny Circus, from Iowa - another History Competition Finalists.

Tell me a little about yourself:

I’m from Iowa, the center of the United States, the beautiful prairie. I studied painting and printmaking in college and graduate school and then taught and worked as an artist for several years before deciding to begin a collaborative project called Tiny Circus. The seeds for this project came from elements present in my artwork – I was making small diorama sculptures and it wasn’t a big jump to begin to animate them. I was tired of working by myself and wanted to find ways making artwork for outside of museums and galleries. I called up some of my friends, and TC was born. We are a small group of artists and musicians working towards common goals.

We are relatively new to animation, but love it! What a perfect medium for storytelling, making, experimentation!

Tiny Circus is in its second year now, we are based in Iowa but travel from town to town to hold workshops with local community members to make stop-motion animations to add to our show “The Other Histories of the World”. The animations we make are fanciful histories of subjects like rain, or popcorn, or gloves. The animations are then projected in public spaces from our mobile projection unit, a shortened 1965 Airstream travel trailer. It’s a roving spectacle meant to show that anyone is capable of making art – and that art is about communication and imagination. You can see photographs of all this in action on our blog, click through from

Why did you decided to participate in The History Channel Competition?

Our main project, making animated “histories” seemed like a great fit with the History Channel competition! In addition, it allowed us to work on a focused project with our small group of core members.

What did you like about the competition?

Normally our animations arise from a group brainstorming session where anything is possible. We even choose our subjects at random! This competition, however, gave us an assignment to work with – a place to begin. It was great fun listening to the speeches and talking though various scenarios for our entry. Our history animations often have a clever twist at some point in the story, and the teeter-totter idea in our competition entry is similar – the viewer first sees a scenario where many folks are making money for one person, seemingly sustainable, but at a certain point the viewer gets a surprising new perspective and sees that this is all happening on a fulcrum, and that things are heading for a crash…

How did it feel to become a Finalist?

It’s really exciting to be chosen from such a large group of great entries, a great vote of confidence in our project. We are looking forward to making a finished version of our animation. We operate on a shoestring budget, and the prize money will fund more workshops.

Who are some of your influences?

We are interested in making animations that can communicate with anyone. The artist Alexander Calder had a circus in a suitcase that he used to take around and act out – not quite animation but a similar kind of storytelling. Jan Svankmajer, Hiyao Miyazaki. The internet makes it possible to see everything, animations and artwork made by “unknown” folks, these are often the best!

What kind of technique do you like to use?

We work with stop-motion animation almost exclusively, in many different forms. Stop-motion has a short learning curve and we can create an animation with complete beginners in just a few hours. One great thing about animating as a process - people don’t seem to have preconceptions about what animations “should” look like – they can just jump in and start making. .

What’s next for you?

I’m working on making more travel trailer projection units over the winter, continuing with workshops, and preparing for our next big summer session. We are excited to be headed to the Citizen Jane Film Festival in Columbia, Missouri next month, a film festival that celebrates women in film. Tiny Circus will continue to grow, I hope, and spread the joy of animating.

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