Making Godzilla: Bringing the Arts to Pediatric Patients in Chicago

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A boy in a hospital bed talks to a man working with Godzilla action figures as they direct a stop-motion film about Godzilla together

Nicholas (right) directs teaching artist Jon Stein for Nicholas's second stop-motion film created through the Snow City Arts program in Chicago, Illinois, which provides arts instruction to hospitalized children. Photo by John Lyons

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Audio Tabs

For over 20 years, longtime NEA arts education grantee Snow City Arts has worked with some 18,000 children in hospitals throughout the Chicago area. Through the organization’s bedside arts instruction provided, these young patients—who are often too ill to attend school or socialize with peers—are given an educational outlet, an opportunity to flex their creativity, and a chance to briefly escape their medical circumstances. As Snow City teaching artist John Lyons said, “It's not about necessarily making a perfect painting or an incredible film or a really mind-blowing piece of poetry, although all of that stuff happens frequently. It's about the process of learning together, making together, discovering together.”

One of the children Lyons works with is a 15-year-old named Nicholas. With the help of Lyons, Jon Stein, and others, Nicholas has made not one, but two films about his favorite subject, Godzilla, during weekly treatments at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago (watch his first film here). But not just any kind of film; a stop-motion film, where you need to take hundreds of pictures to achieve a fairly simple motion. Using an app called iMotionPro, the three have painstakingly crafted remarkably detailed films written and directed by Nicholas. A good director knows what he wants and that holds true for the meticulous Nicholas. He knows exactly how he wants various monster roars to sound. Or, when King Ghidorah shoots a laser, he explained to his team exactly what shade of yellow it should be.

In this audio documentary, we go behind the scenes at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago to listen in on how the process works.