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Move Over, Schoolhouse Rock: The Short Film Series 'We The Economy' Launches Today

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Series co-creator Morgan Spurlock's "Cave-o-nomics" offers econ 101, of sorts.

Many people who grew up watching the Schoolhouse Rock series on TV or catching the videos on YouTube years later, can probably still recall a lesson or two learned from the short, educational stories set to music. (We still believe that 3 is a magic number.) Today a new short film series We the Economy: 20 Short Films You Can’t Afford to Miss launches, hoping to have that same Schoolhouse Rock effect on audiences.

Developed by Paul G. Allen’s (yes, Microsoft’s co-founder) Vulcan Productions and Morgan Spurlock’s Cinelan, the films run the spectrum of styles and genres, from comedy and drama to animation and musicals, each created around a particular question to educate, or at least spark interest, on the workings of the American economy.

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The list of directors creating these films includes Spurlock, Catherine Hardwicke, Jessica Yu, Adrian Grenier, Bob Balaban, Adam Mckay, Lee Hirsch, Albert Hughes and many more. Equally as impressive are the actors recruited for these shorts: Mo Collins, Patton Oswalt, Adam Goldberg, Lili Taylor, Isaiah Washington and Werner Herzog, among others.

A panel of academics, journalists and historians identified 20 topics for directors to address in each of these 5 to 8 minute films. Yu, an Oscar-winner for the documentary short "Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O'Brien" (and director of Ping Pong Playa) directed the animated “Taxation Nation.” It’s a direct riff on the Schoolhouse Rock formula—think “Conjunction Junction” meets “I’m Just a Bill”—to answer the question, “Why is our tax system so complicated?” McKay’s film “The Unbelievably Sweet Alpacas” is also an animated short, with the alpacas—who look like these lil ponies we know and sound an awful lot like Maya Rudolph and Amy Poehler—taking on the issue of growing inequality.

Other directors offer a more straightforward and serious tone for their prompts. Jehane Noujaim’s (The Square) responds to the question, “What do human rights have to do with the economy?” in "Supply Chain Reaction." (Watch it to see the mud pits where your smartphone’s life begins.) Additional educational resources are offered with each of the films if viewers become particularly engaged and interested in the topic.

So if you slept through econ class, are even mildly curious about how our economy works or just want to see well-crafted short films, then check out We the Economy. All the films are now online [practically everywhere].

We the Economy trailer from We The Economy on Vimeo.