Manotenis and Garrabasket

Collaborative Video Comics with ESL Students in Spain

A teacher and I collaborated to create videos using artwork & voice-overs from students in Madrid. Spanish justificantes helped me finish it.

I joined a tiny school in Madrid, Spain in 2018 with an English teaching organization called UCETAM and began working with an English and Art teacher named Juan Antonio Osuna. I discovered he likes working on comic book projects with his students and story comes from his creative genius. These kids are learning English and I wanted to bring my background in digital media into the mix. We immediately began to work on video projects. These videos were made by the students at Colegio Dos Parques in Madrid who provided the voices and drawings. The audio and video editing is by yours truly, Chris Girard, the English speaking and digital technology extraordinaire.

One of the projects, We Are on a Chicken Dragon, began the prior year. It is the quintessential crazy American road trip story but told from the perspective of the kids. They are riding on a half-chicken and half-dragon that’s wearing a pair of underpants from IKEA. This story is probably the most controversial for its criticism of the pervasive phenomenon in Madrid known as reggaeton.

The story goes that the second graders at Colegio Dos Parques are unhappy after a very important person from the city council tells them there there will be a reggaeton and El Puma concert on the rooftop of their school. They seek Chicken Dragon to help them to go California and convince the Red Hot Chili Peppers to play on top of their school instead. Lots of adventures happen along the way!

Watch We Are on a Chicken Dragon, 2019, on YouTube:

Another story called Story of a Caveman, began in 2017, when the kids (in third grade when the story was completed) were in first grade. It is a story about importance of friendship and the friendship that was formed between the caveman and a T-Rex. The Story of a Caveman is about a Caveman who goes on a wild adventure and befriends the T-Rex who was chasing him. They learn to help each other.

Watch The Story of a Caveman, 2019, on YouTube:

We began working on a brand new story called Manotenis. It is about a boy who discovers he has superpowers with his tennis ball hand. He discovers this after he finds a tennis ball inside the turkey during Thanksgiving. Manotenis can bounce and shoot evil villains with his tennis ball. He soon discovers that an evil villain is living in a secret lair behind the smartboard of his classroom at school. This evil villain is spying on the kids from a hidden camera inside their old fat-back television in the classroom. Can Manotenis save the day?

Watch The Shocking Stories of Manotenis (Season 1), 2019, on YouTube:

We then created a second season of Manotenis. Manotenis, the boy with a tennis ball hand, gets by with a little help from his friends. In this season, Manotenis travels to Catalonia to solve the mystery of the stolen calçots. Meanwhile, an unexpected surprise awaits him and his friends at the wild animal safari. Finally, he discovers he has a potential new friend or arch nemesis when he helps his friend get out of a very sticky situation. If Manotenis can’t save the day, can his friends?

Watch The Adventures of Manotenis and Friends (Season 2), 2020, on YouTube:

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Justificante Quilt

Justificante Fever

When I presented this project to the American Embassy in Madrid in Spring 2019, I was thinking oh man, how am I ever going to be able to get artist grants? I do worthwhile projects but I am never ever the model person to ever get grants or continue jobs.

UCETAM, this English program in Madrid run by waspy New Englanders, was at best ambivalent about what I was doing. I wasn’t doing the type of English that they ‘subtly’ pushed – getting the kids ready for the Cambridge Exams nor did I care to. And generally, the ‘work’ was a combination of tedious and a waste of time for me as reflected by my many justificantes from various medical and governmental facilities. Justificantes are Spain’s answer to a paid sick day. You get a stamped and signed form giving you a free hall pass. The school administrator, secretary or whatever she was, got tired of me and I got tired of myself for having to photograph these things.

Spare Justificante But after I went to the Dentista, Urgencia, Dermatólogo and Traumatólogo, I used this free time to work on my other projects. At the school, I usually would literally sit and stare at the class while the head of the school had me sit during her boring English classes. I already knew if I told UCETAM about how much of a big waste of my time this was, their response would be the typical “do more work on your end, talk to the teacher.”

I used the justificantes to make up for the waste of time and work with teachers and on projects that I wanted to work with. And something beautiful came out of it. Fortunately and unfortunately for the school I worked with, they double-dipped with English auxiliaries that were used as substitute teachers for the lack of teachers at the school and found an Australian woman who was over-enthusiastic about teaching. She was so enthusiastic that there was a power struggle with this head of the school’s English classes. The head of the school liked having full control over her classes but this Australian woman had a fervent desire to teach and rightfully wanted to practice. So the head of the school got what she deserved.

Anyway, I did my own thing, and it was to keep me from going insane. This is what it produced. After presenting my last justificante for the last day of school, and presenting these videos, my last word to them was, “adios!” Nobody wrote back.