Skip to main content

Why one animator decided to use iPhones and bologna to explain shape memory alloys

By Stephanie Lo on November 1, 2012 in Interviews

Here at TED-Ed, we have been incredibly fortunate to work with talented and innovative animators from all over the world. But the TED-Ed Lesson by materials scientist, Ainissa Ramirez, marks a first for TED-Ed. The animation uses bologna — yes, the meat found in your sandwiches — doubling as atoms in a TED-Ed animation. The creative animator behind the lesson, Andy London, is a Brooklyn-based animator. He and his wife, Carolyn, are known for their 2004 short film “Backbrace,” that won Best Animation at the New York Television Festival and honorable mentions at the Ottawa International Animation Festival and the Woodstock Film Festival. 

So how did you land on using bologna as atoms in your TED-Ed Lesson? 

Well I went to a family dollar store and obsessively looked through candy — Reese’s, Smarties, Skittles, etc. Everything was too small or just didn’t work as atoms. So we went to the frozen food section of the family dollar store and found bologna. It was big enough and plain enough!

And I actually ate the bologna afterwards. Everybody got mad at me because everyone thought I’d get sick from it since it was from the dollar store…

It seems like you use a lot of different materials throughout your animations. How do you create this style?

I walk around with my iPhone, taking photos throughout the day. When I drop my son off at daycare, when I teach, when I’m walking on the street — I get texture from things like old fire alarm boxes, whatever I see. After capturing these materials, I think about setting a scene with these materials.

I really like to capture food. For example, I like to pitch people as pancakes and bagels — bread in particular is a simple enough shape and the texture is mild enough (as in, it’s not so busy) that it lends itself well to bodies, etc.

We’ve watched the TED-Ed Lesson a few times now, and we have to ask. What are the weirdest things you used in this TED-Ed Lesson — things that we may not even want to know are in there?

Well, there’s a chicken bone somewhere in the animation. And the rocket ship in the beginning of the lesson is a telephone poll that had duct tape on it.

Tags: 2012, Ainissa Ramirez, Andy London, Animation