Disney man animated over fun way to teach Jewish education

By Jennifer Lipman, June 21, 2013

As an animator for Disney, he has worked on films like Pocahontas, Mulan, and Winnie the Pooh. Now Saul Blinkoff is hoping that his cartoons will bring colour and fun to Jewish education.

Mr Blinkoff is on the advisory board of Jewish Interactive, the organisation that develops technology that can be used to teach children about Judaism. It works with nearly 30 Jewish schools in the UK.

Before joining Disney eight years ago, Mr Blinkoff studied Judaism in Israel — an experience that has occasionally influenced his movie work. While directing Winnie the Pooh, he added a mezuzah to Piglet’s front door and put a dreidel in Tigger’s bag.

He became involved with Jewish Interactive 18 months ago, while looking for a way “to excite Jewish people to embrace their Jewish identity.

“There is a shortage of great stuff out there on Jewish subjects, in terms of animation,” he said. “I want to use visual media to tell Jewish stories.”

He has developed two characters for tablet apps, and has also provided the voice-over. “Kids respond to characters, like Mickey Mouse at Disney,” he said. “I came up with personalities; one is straight-laced and one is more energetic. I chose birds because they are colourful and they can fly to the top of a succah or on to the Shabbat table.

“There are many in the Jewish world who say, ‘don’t have televisions or the internet’. I think it’s a mistake. Kids are going to get to technology anyway, so why not embrace it and use it as a powerful tool to engage the next generation?”

Last updated: 11:45am, June 21 2013