So I'm looking for something for home use to make some short animation movies. I'm a heavy computer user/weathered systems admin, but this is a new area for me to use anything more than mspaint and gimp. Also, the simpler the better as I would like this to be something that I can work on with my elementary school age kids for something fun to do together and hopefully put together a minute or two long clip in an afternoon while figuring it out, with the abilty to make longer 5 minute+ clips after getting experience with it.
If possible, I would like something that is a little more versatile than copy picture into frame, create next slide and repeat like Windows movie maker, although a less annoying software of that type would be nice too. Web site styles I would like to emulate are jib-jab and newgrounds (which the slide type would work okay for if it handled layers well), as well as regular TV cartoon style where the characters move in a more fluid fashion. Integration with sound would be nice, although I would figure more or all programs in this area would include that feature.
If there is something where I can start with a picture, define regions of it as being legs, arms, head, etc. and tell it to walk across the screen from point a to point b, that would be spectacular. Being able to add glowing effects and such would also be great (think lightsabers). If possible, getting other motion effects would be cool, like a rope being thrown or a snake slithering, combat sequences, etc. although I have a feeling that I'm hoping for too much here - a suggestion of any price for this type would also be appreciated if the initial projects go well I would be happy to spend the cash on more advanced software in a few months if the kids' interest level keeps up.
I would like a fairly simple interface, but more importantly I don't want to have to tweak things a million ways to get things to work right. Freeware/opensource would be preferred, but something under US$100 is ok if it is really worth spending money on compared to freeware.
I do not want to have to modify any code directly for any reason. I need a full GUI interface. Dealing with layers is fine, and I think would be preferred. I need it to be able to save in a readily playable format, nothing weird like movie maker does.
To sum it up: free or inexpensive, slide style and/or cartoon animation style, easy child-friendly GUI interface. Will be running on Vista with plenty of system resources available.