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Art & Music


You should definitely consider using this material to teach students about folk styles of art. The illustrations drawn for Ponnivala’s 26 episodes of animation rely on the traditional folk paintings of South India for their flat figures that are almost always seen in profile, and also for their 2D layout. This use of indigenous traditions has created a unique style by refusing to cede to the modern “3D” concept requiring a vanishing point.

Colour and Drawing Detail:

The colours selected for the animation and all of the educational materials that accompany it are one hundred percent Indian and largely traditional. The consistent use of a red sky is particularly indicative of South Indian folk art. The details in the actual imagery can be compared to folk artists’ work elsewhere in the world. Equally important is the similarity with specifically Indian miniature painting.

Puppetry and Animation:

This specific art tradition is consciously intended to reference a South Indian leather puppet show. While showing this kind of animation a teacher can discuss both the style and the movements used in 2D Asian puppetry. Both direct puppet presentations and shadow puppet traditions can be used for comparison. The same animated episodes can also provide an interesting reference point when teaching a class about digital animation techniques.


The Ponnivala animated series has extensive relevance to classes where music is taught. The sound track has utilized a variety of traditional south Indian instruments including the utakkai drum, flutes, finger symbols and a South Indian violin. The scales are south Indian as are the melodic motifs. Furthermore, there are traditional tape-recorded bardic song sequences imbedded in the story’s sound track. A visit to the Smithsonian Folkways website (http://www.folkways.si.edu/erucanampalayam-ramasami-and-olappalayam-palanisami/annanmar-katai-the-birth-of-the-queens-triplets-six-excerpts/india-world/music/album/smithsonian) will provide students with actual “pure” excepts of what this epic sounded like during its full oral performance: a 44-hour tape recording done in an Indian village back in 1965. Translations provided along with these excepts will allow a student to understand the meaning behind the songs, the dramatic character voices, and also the narrator’s descriptions.

Foley (Sound Effects):

The sound track of each animated episode is full of creative Foley effects. One fun approach in the classroom is to turn off the Foley tracks and ask the students to assess what is “lost” (something like music minus one). Then, as a follow-up, one can ask the same class to work on creating a Foley track of their own. A creative music teacher can discuss the many ways in which sounds can be “faked” with very little “in house” equipment (tin foil, dried garbonzo beans etc.). Voicing some of the characters' parts can also be played with. Teachers can request specially created “minus voice or minus Foley” sound tracks (contact us for more information on this service).

Modern Animation and Cinema Sound Scapes:

At some points the animation does use relatively modern musical sounds and techniques for maximum effect. Teachers can start a discussion by asking students to identify what is “folk,” and what is more modern and international while they listen to an except of the sound track for the story. This should engender a lively debate.