Skip to main content

From Pangaea to pop-up: Behind the scenes of a TED-Ed Lesson

By Biljana Labovic on February 4, 2014 in News + Updates


If you watched The Pangaea Pop-Up, you might have noticed the new and neat style for TED-Ed: an animated lesson that includes a physical pop-up book! For this lesson, TED-Ed animators teamed up with paper engineer and illustrator Yevgeniya Yeretskaya in an intricate and collaborative process. Check out a behind-the-scenes look at how this complicated lesson came together.


These are a few preliminary sketches of the book spreads, where the possibilities for the movement and shapes are explored.  Even though the concepts are rough, this is the stage where decisions are made on what the spread would look like when fully opened and how to convey the necessary information within. These sketches are based both on the text of the lesson and on the reference images provided.



This is an image showing the preliminary color design and a reference image indicating continental and oceanic crust, including notes for animation.



This is a preliminary design style frame, exploring the shapes and colors for the last spread in the book.



This is a side view of a white paper mock-up for the book spread, showing a cross section of Earth’s layers from its core to the crust. This rough pop-up is the next step after the initial sketch. The angle shows how the layers of paper are suspended and projected forward.



This is a refined version of a white paper mock-up for a book spread. At this stage, all the elements, their shapes and placements are finalized before proceeding to color. This spread also shows the water shapes placement with acetate pieces and explores adding clouds as movable elements.



This is another rough mock-up showing the elements for the book’s final spread. Most of the pop-up at this stage is still being refined and adjusted. It is a dimensional, sculptural sketch where paper shapes are blocked in and then cut into or added to, in order to create details.


A quick demo of a white paper dummy for the book. Putting together a short video like this helps get a sense of movement and flow of pop-ups from page to page. It also shows a few spreads at different stages of development.


This is a video of the rough mock-up for the divergent plate movement mechanism. One pull tab moves the Earth plates apart, while the other pull tab shows that there is a volcanic activity when this action takes place.



This photo shows a color paper rendering of a hill with the Hollywood sign, which is to pop up on the last spread of the book. In order to have all the letters in Hollywood spaced and arranged properly, a stencil is used for their placement. The letters are lifted on foam, so that they would appear free-floating and cast shadows for an added effect.



This is a color mock-up of the book spread in progress. It is a stage before the the final adjustments are made and extra details and elements  (like water transparency) are added in.



These were the very first book spreads and its elements that were put together in color.


In this screen capture video, we see  animator Lisa Labracio demonstrate how the movement of each spread will be animated on the set. This is a good point for anticipating any shooting problems, such as rigging, framing, camera angle, etc.

Watch The Pangaea Pop-Up to see how all these steps came together.