Consortium for Media Literacy

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Who Gave SpongeBob His Square Pants?

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Aside from the celebrities who lend their voices to big budget productions by Pixar, voiceover artists are some of the least known people in Hollywood. Yet these are the very people who are so instrumental in the creation of animated characters that we all know and love, from SpongeBob to the Family Guy to Remy the Rat in Ratatouille. 

In this MediaLit Moment, students get to discover what it takes to create an animated character. 

AHA!  Somebody had to create this character before he ever came to life!  SpongeBob is the result of someone’s imagination.

CML Key Question #1:   Who created this message?

CML Core Concept #1:  All media messages are constructed

Grade Level:  3-6

Materials:  DVD player, DVD of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, or access to Tom Kenny in Central Park at 

Activities:  Ask students what they know about the making of cartoons.  How are cartoons created? Who decides what the character looks like, what he says, what he wears, where he lives, who his friends are? Who is your favorite cartoon character? Why?   

For any of the SpongeBob DVDs, play the special features which discuss Tom Kenny’s role in creating the SpongeBob character.  Make sure to include live shots of Kenny voicing the character in studio.  Or see the link above for Tom Kenny in Central Park.

Ask students questions to assess their comprehension of the feature they’ve finished watching.  Who is Tom Kenny?  What does he do?  How important is Tom Kenny’s voice to the character of SpongeBob?  What did Kenny and others do to turn SpongeBob into the character we see on the screen?     

Extended activity:  Can you draw a cartoon character? What would the voice of your character sound like? 

CML Key Question  # 1 for Producers:  What am I authoring?

Materials:  “Animatics” special features on SpongeBob DVDs.  The animatics features  re-play voice tracks from the DVD while displaying just the storyboards for the corresponding scenes.  Or  access the Inside Nicktoons Studio with SpongeBob SquarePants at   You’ll find a link there to a video of an artist drawing the characters.    


The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework.  Used with permission, © 2002-2008, Center for Media Literacy,   

Last Updated ( Monday, 06 July 2009 07:48 )

Who is renting my eyeballs?

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The Product Placement Counting Game

Product placement is an increasingly common practice whereby advertisers pay media makers to use or display their products as props in movies, television shows and video games. Here’s a “teachable moment” to help students recognize who is renting their eyeballs when they watch their favorite shows or movies.

Have students count product placements in media programs:  TV shows, videogames, social networking sites all provide great resources.    

AHA! My media is full of hidden advertisements. I’m being influenced without realizing it!  And sometimes these product placements affect how the story is being told…the advertisers are renting my eyeballs and often, I’m paying them for the privilege!

Key Question #5: Why is this message being sent?

Core Concept #5: Media messages are organized to gain profit and/or power.

Grade Level:  3 – 12

Materials: Video or DVD of a current film, videogame or television clip appropriate to your age group that contains multiple product placements, DVD/VCR player, paper or chalk board, internet access.    

Resources:  tracks product placements in the week’s number one film and includes archives from past years. 

Activity:  Have the students talk about advertising in general. What were some examples of products? Where do you see most advertisements?  How do you know if you are viewing an ad? When you see the specific name of a product being used in a TV show or movie, do you consider that an ad? Why or why not? Have you ever heard the term “product placement?” 

Show the media piece or the video clip twice. First, look at it through without stopping or commenting. Then look at it again and have students note (or call out) when they recognize a specific product being used. List all products on the board in front of the class. How many products did the students count? 

Guiding Questions for additional discussion: How can viewers know when a product is used for artistic or narrative reasons and when it is simply a paid product placement?  Who benefits from product placements and who is hurt by it?  Is it unethical if money is paid for an ad that is never identified as advertising?  Why are product placements not listed at the end of a TV show or movie? Are there times when product placements are useful or helpful?   

Have the students go online to media industry web sites to see examples and read how the industry describes product placements.

The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework.  Used with permission, © 2002-2008, Center for Media Literacy,   

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 26 May 2009 09:19 )

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