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October 26, 2000 Wily weasel explores accounting ethics



Photo of Maureen Gowing, Luis Alonso and the weasel

Maureeen Gowing, Luis Alonso, and the weasel

by Aislinn Mosher

An animated short film screened at Concordia University’s Hall Building last weekend proved to many in the audience that Concordia’s Faculty of Commerce and Administration may soon give Concordia’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema a run for its money.

Weasel World, an animated 3D video and CD-ROM produced with the latest in high-tech digital software by Concordia Accounting Professor Maureen Gowing and fourth-year Accounting student Luis L. Alonso, will be introduced in November as a new way of lecturing in Gowing’s Accounting Theory class.

“The idea for a film came to me after I read that images can actually be far more effective at conveying an idea than lecturing for an hour — or even reading up on a subject for four days,” Gowing said. “I am sure that Weasel World will provoke a far more active discussion amongst my students than any of my lectures on accounting could.”

Produced with a $5,000 grant from Concordia’s Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTLS), and an additional $5,000 subsidy from the Quebec government, Weasel World is the story of an accountant who, asked by his boss to fudge company financial statements, is forced to reflect on the impact his accounting practices have had on himself and on society.

“The aim of the film is to direct students to discuss the differences between convenient professional choices versus ethically sound ones,” Gowing said.

“Every accountant faces ethical dilemmas in his or her professional lifetime. Many people don’t realize just how ambiguous accounting can be. The whole point of accounting is to assess the value of something using very flexible and grey [as opposed to black-and-white] principles. And this can be a very difficult process, one that requires sound ethics.”

Although the film’s underlying message is serious, Weasel World also manages to deliver entertainment and fun. The film includes voice-overs by Concordia Accounting students, pig sound-effects completed by Gowing herself, and an adventure-packed story line complete with a main character who falls from the 30th floor of a skyscraper into a flatbed full of tacks. . . and survives.

“The film is kind of Scrooge meets Accounting meets A Wonderful Life,” said Alonso, a self-taught animator who completed Weasel World last June, after clocking more than 150 hours on the film’s animation with 3D Studio Max, which is a software used for films like Lost in Space.

The Faculty of Commerce purchased the computer and software specifically for the project.
“You don’t normally see this much animation of this quality on a CD-ROM,” said Alonso. “It was an incredibly challenging thing to do.”

Gowing hopes to make the CD-ROM available for wider use within the university once Weasel World is reworked to be more interactive, a project she plans to begin when more funding is secured.