Monday, 1 September 2014

Episode V

In the words of Samwise Gamgee, well, I'm back

Yes, and a very jovial greetings to all bloggers and bloggees. I have returned from the continent of South America with many tales from afar, all of which shall be generously condensed into a collection of photographs and 'witty' one liners. Please don't think that I am hoodwinking you folks with an abrupt album - I am only showing you a small portion because, after all, this is an animation blog. And boy do I have news on the animation front. 

But it has indeed been a long while since my last blog post, and for that I apologize. Even with the surprisingly regular access to WiFi, more so than places in Europe, (not to give South America a stereo-typically third world slap in the face, but, you know) it didn't feel quite right to write a blog when Machu Picchu was over there. So I shall use this post to get back into the swing of writing things.

Unfortunately, there were a few floaters.

This was actually a very steep
hill. A backpackers nightmare!

Getting lost on an island. I see potential for a TV series!

It's huge! Buenos Aires is pretty
big as well.  

I found these guys after being legless
the night before.

Old Lima was looking very grand. 

Cusco in Peru really shone for us.

Due to laziness, we arranged this cardboard
cut-out to be taken to the summit.

Nothing like messing about on the river.

'What do they have in there.. King Kong?'

Upon my return to the UK I knew I had very little time to set a financial stability that would keep my credit rating at good grief and not WTF?. I applied to whatever money making scheme I could find and it whittled down to three local jobs that could help me get back on my feet; a sandwich delivery boy, waiter or an ice cream man. As you may well guess, I simply must work with food if it's not art related. 

But as I finished my first shift, which comprised of Steve driving me around Coventry, teaching me how to talk (with supposed panache) to people and enlightening them in the ways of sandwich service, I received a call off Barbara from the Factory Transmedia Studios. There was work for me! This was such a lifeline, especially due to my worry that the studio may have others involved with the current projects. 

I have been working on the new production Scream Street of which I'm very excited about. The style and colours are very vibrant and I've been given some pretty cool things to make for the sets. I obviously can't reveal much (but are you surprised?!). So essentially that was the big piece of animation related news... and I can't tell you anything about it! But I shall indulge briefly on what this means for me as a freelance model maker. This may help you, or it may not; or it might begin to help you before getting suddenly distracted by


Becoming self employed is something that has always daunted me, but equally intrigued me. It may be down to Hollywood's funny, bumbling and lovable perception on the regular self employed person; they're the underdog in many cases, and yet we all want to root for them because they're so bloody nice. I always think of Roger from Disney's 101 Dalmatians and how happy he is with what he does. He has a beautiful wife (albeit a 2D character), a lovely house and a job that he adores. I wanted to be Roger! And I think that after I graduated from University, my confidence was knocked slightly because of the reality of the big wide world once you leave the bubble of education (as my tutor Laura Weston puts it). Because it is daunting and hard work, and it takes time to establish yourself as an artist. This is why I was so hesitant in becoming self employed in the first place, simply because I was afraid of failure. Failure of putting all my faith into one line of work and knowing that I'd need to earn 'x' amount to earn a living. I didn't have a backup plan; unless it was to remain in the catering industry with my bad ass crew of dinner-ladies. 

I knew from the start that this line of work wouldn't grant me riches, yet this wouldn't phase me and still hasn't done so. I'm not materialistic, at least for nothing more than the materials I need to make a model. So having this sense of utter faith and confidence in my trade, regardless of money, is quite freaking awesome. I literally had no idea when and where I would be working upon returning from my South American travels. Now some might find this endearing...others, absolutely stupid. I reckon you need to be stupid to be endearing. Enter Tommy Grainger.

Are you having trouble sticking polystyrene together? Of course you are, who isn't? Well I have a fine
solution for you. Expanding foam (found in any half decent hardware store) works a treat 
and will hold blocks of polystyrene together with incredible strength. DANGER! You must wear
gloves because this stuff is very irritable and near impossible to get off your skin. Apply with ease.

Water colour  painting of Tatooine. More fantasy-
based landscapes on the way!

Whilst working at Factory TM for the past few weeks (yes, this blog post consists of past, present and future tense due to how long it takes to write the darn thing) I bumped into one of the recently graduated Staffordshire University students, or Stafflings, as I so frequently call them. This was Rob Millard. I had already spoken to Rob (prior to this pleasant meeting) via Twitter and also when I returned to the University to perform my homemade lecture on 'life after Uni'. I hadn't actually known Rob was in the crowd but I was very honored that he was, for he is a delightful chap. We had a fine ol' chat about animation at Staffs Uni and how it had progressed from when I had attended the course to now. It was great to hear that Laura Weston and Daryl Marsh were still holding the fort and getting these young whipper-snappers to burst their university bubble in preparation for the wide world. 

I have recently watched Rob's final major project and thought it was absolutely bloody marvelous. He mentioned his music video when I met him at the studio, and how many requests he's getting to animate more music videos; and to be frank Rob... I don't blame them! And I don't even know who Frank is! Anyway, here is the video [track - Frank Turner 'We Shall Not Overcome']. You stay classy bloggers. 

Friday, 30 May 2014

Episode IV

Good day to you all. I am very rushed to get this blog post out, as I am departing for South America very soon. I have been winding down with work and the studio. I've practically ended my rein at the College, which means, alas, no more animation club for the students. But more importantly, I am free of the catering side of things (although, just wait and see... I'll most likely end up working there again!). 

So I think the Yamination Studio and all of its members have pummelled out the new Cravendale advert as much as possible, however, there is more! With Drew filming as much of the production process as possible, it was all compiled together to create a very nice 'making of' video. So take a look see above.

Getting some lovely publicity here...

For the full article please click HERE

Two new characters I've painted, for some short and
rather sarcastic adventures. 

I may have mentioned the Coca Cola advert some time ago, but only now has it been released onto the web in its full glory. The buildings on the street were originally all made out of MDF with moulded (fast cast) arches, window frames, brickwork and roof décor, but it seems as though there might be some elements of CGI texture over the top. Not that it takes away the fact that our studio built the Building, but it is a shame that there's little proof of our carpentry. I showed this advert to a dear friend of mine and he would have assumed it all to be CG if I hadn't convinced him otherwise. 

So that's two lovely (and recognisably popular) adverts under the belt for Yamination Studios and I am very proud to be a part of the team. Now, as I still haven't properly packed my bag, I suppose I'd ought to pair up my socks and stuff them into my boots. Adiós amigos. 

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Episode III

I have managed to do something rather foolish in the past fortnight. Upon one of my cycling adventures I unfortunately, perhaps due to a lapse in concentration, lost control and ended up crumpled on the tarmac before me. Now, I do get distracted on a monumental level, but I managed to instinctively focus enough to land on my left arm. Alas, it is now fractured and it took me a good twenty minutes to write this bloody paragraph!
So I don't really have an awful lot to report. I haven't been able to work and have been advised to keep my [left] arm in this sling for another two weeks at least... and to avoid using it at all for a further month. This is very frustrating.
Throughout my boredom I have managed to watch some movies that I'd not yet seen; including Tangled, Wayne's World 2, After Earth (meh), the Alan Partridge [Alpha Papa] film, Disney's Sleeping Beauty and Mary Poppins (I know, I'm a bad man for not seeing these!), World War Z, Office Space, Lawless and Mighty Ducks 3. Quite a selection hey?

And whilst I've been watching these films (as well as watching The Tribe series again - whoop!) I have been drawing and painting with my good arm. And this is still rather difficult as the natural balance you have whilst putting pencil to paper has been lost. So I've gone for my water colour and fine liner style, which takes inspiration from my favourite illustrator Quentin Blake. So really, it doesn't matter too much if it's a little abstract.
Anyway, I was walking down the canal after my hospital visit and spotted a duck and a swan swimming together. An odd friendship, yet it was very intriguing and naturally I began to sing a theme tune for these partners in crime (of which I chose not to include this on the blog). The adventures of Duck and Swan will be something I can work on whilst I rest at home. My carpentry and model making at the studios has been put on hold; much to my frustration!

Great spotted Woodpecker


For some bizarre reason, this
bird remains on it's side.
What a tit!

As you can see, I got a little carried away with the theme of British birds. When I was younger I used to copy them from bird books and write a little fact file next to them - like Top Trumps - but no one at school seemed too fussed about a wren (with +5 agility) versus a magpie (with +3 panache). Oh well. I shall stick to painting them instead. They might possibly end up on the front of a card and wishing somebody a 'Happy Bird-day' (ha!).
I still remain hopeful that one of you beautiful people might be interested in purchasing ol' Wolverine here?
I am incredibly excited about the flurry of news concerning the upcoming Star Wars episode VII, where the bulk of the cast has been announced. Follow this link HERE for the lowdown. What was most surprising about this was the timing of the announcement. It was speculated that the cast would be revealed on 'Star Wars Day' this coming Sunday (May 4th - I'm sure you can work it out!) so with this news a little early, one might hope that something a little juicier may be released instead. Some suggest it could be the title of the episode or even perhaps a brief synopsis of the new saga.
Either way I am a changed man. I believe that when I first began talking about the upcoming Star Wars films on my blog I was very sceptical. Well, a year has passed and I have quashed any negative thoughts I once had. Obviously there are still worries that may arise, but for now I am content.
Phwooar look at that awesome Star Destroyer and that awesome dark Jedi forcing it down. Awesome!
The only thing I am unhappy about (so far) will be the absence of the 20th Century Fox fanfare music that blares out before a long time ago... But my plan is to take my headphones and play it just before the film begins. Good lord I'm a cunning one hey?

Monday, 31 March 2014

Episode Cravendale

Good evening guys and girls. So this is the new Cravendale advert that the Yamination team helped make, of which I was honoured to be a part of. Our involvement was the construction of the house interior (Barry's room and the kitchen), the house exterior (with the water-wheel attached on the side), the bridge and the post box.
This was our first project as a team that has hit the television, and I think the learning curve has been tremendous. Even though Barry rushes through the house, zipping past our hard work, you can still pause and see the detail (regardless of it not being in focus). We are incredibly proud of this and hopefully is will be a springboard for Yamination Studios and future projects.
A few little facts about this advert;
  • that is real milk in the lake and flowing underneath the bridge.
  • Barry is actually a puppet on strings on the close ups
  • I used to have a hair cut just like Barry's new one at the end
  • my favourite biscuit is a chocolate hobnob
  • I'm a Scorpio
  • I like bobble hats, frosty mornings and road trips

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Episode II

It's a little strange for the people of my generation to witness the rebooting of our childhood cartoons for a modern time. In a way, much of the nostalgia can be lost because of how our beloved characters are now portrayed (simply to attract a different audience) in not only the animation style, but within the storyline and aesthetics also. I bring this topic up because of the recent, and upcoming, surge of movies that are based on some of the most beloved cartoon shows from the sixties right up through to the nineties. We've already seen the likes of Scooby Doo and Thunderbirds become live-action films, but because of the reoccurring success of many 'fully' CGI animated films over the last decade studios are not afraid to remain within this creative medium (hmmm but Top Cat flopped?!).
So one of the favoured trends has been to take the cartoon character and place him or her in a live action film as a CGI protagonist. This has been done with Yogi Bear, the Smurfs, Garfield and the aforementioned Scooby Doo. And in all honesty they usually do stink. Now, whether this is down to the script or narrative is not my concern; I personally think it's because of two other factors.

Firstly, these characters were created for various generations who loved them more because television was a child's only technological interaction (aside from video games). The generations of modern day children have popped out into a world of 'I-everything's', whether it's a pad, pod or going for a bloody Wii. Facebook is what children run home to now, not cartoon characters. And so secondly these films with classic 'old school' characters don't seem to have the same nostalgic effect and perhaps aren't as popular. Which is why upcoming films such as Paddington Bear may not do so well (and reasons why Garfield and Yogi flopped). I have no idea why the Smurfs were so successful. Perhaps it was down to the extreme culture adjustment that the narrative took; the little blue critters wound up careering through New York singing pop music and smurfing up my fond memories of mushroom houses. Although, Hank Azaria nailed it as Gargamel.

Basically, what I am saying is that I'm rather dubious about any upcoming films that are based on my childhood characters (even the upcoming Ninja Turtles movie has been heavily criticised). But I have just seen the trailer for Peanuts (Charlie Brown and Snoopy) and it's done in a CGI style that seems to be very withstanding with the comic strip and the eighties animated television series. I think it looks freakin' amazing and very promising. Here is it.

Now here is the trailer for the Paddington Bear film. I really can't be judgemental because we only catch a glimpse of our cuddly hero for a moment, and yet he doesn't look cuddly or friendly at all, let alone partial to a marmalade sandwich. All I'm seeing, at the moment, is a grizzly bear with a hat on hiding in a bag because he's shitting his pants and ruining everybody's post. You can all tell that I'm tired. I'm pretty sure that this film will prove me wrong.

And finally, I am going to show you a trailer that almost made me physically sick. I have already found it hard to cope with Fireman Sam, Postman Pat and Thomas the tank engine becoming CGI programmes, but that isn't the problem with this upcoming film. Based on Postman Pat, this story has taken a narrative tangent that I can't even explain. I have to warn you however, if you watch this... you will not be the same person afterwards. Fact. Oh god, excuse me for a minute.

I am not a happy bunny.

And now I shall continue with what my blog ought to be about... ME (hehe).

It has taken me a fair few years to download my first app. I am now the proud owner of Duolingo; Learning languages completely free, without ads or hidden charges. It's fun, easy, and scientifically proven. So I've been guaranteed some results. As you all know, I am going to be in South America this summer with Lucy, and learning Spanish was something that we felt compelled to do. But in all honesty, if I'd known that this app existed, regardless of the travelling, then I would have gotten involved ages ago.

But one app is quite enough. I have been seduced by the dark side of social media (and my adamant friends) to download 'WhatsApp'. I just can't be bothered with all these notifications about a cock in a sock (that has no reflection on what my friends talk about... or does it?). I get distracted too easily these days anyway. I shunted the back of someone's car with mine because I felt obliged to watch a bloody dog, so with an excess of apps or games on my phone I wouldn't really stand a chance at life.

The production for Pigeon Boy has begun to flow nicely with more sets, props and puppet development. Oscar has a new face and is waiting for his pigeon loft to be completed before his beloved birds can set up abode. Set in London, this tale follows young Oscar (below) and a trio of his favourite pigeons as the consequences of World War II takes its toll on their friendship. This month has been the first time that all of the Yaminators have worked on the Pigeon Boy project and it seems that we all have our roles.

'coo, what's that?'

Yossel and Andy mulling over Oscar 

I have helped Yoss with various sections of the set, including the roof for Oscar's home and the loft door. Working on the past two projects (Cravendale and that popular fizzy drink commercial) as an assistant carpenter has really helped me develop with model making on a larger scale (but still for miniature sets; large/small scale. Or smarge scale, as I so often call it). Ah look, there's Yoss working on the pigeon loft right now.

Everyone in the studio is working to their strengths and after getting incredibly positive feedback from previous work, we have assembled our skills in very much the same way the Avengers did. But we fight the tax break, not aliens. We are, however, incredibly partial to fancy dress.

So to your left you shall see the cunning silhouette of yours truly as Yoss takes some serious photographs of his set. Alas, I cannot live here, but I can sure help the young chap who can. The house is an MDF structure with fast-cast window frames made from silicon moulds and a well trimmed back garden.

The construction of the house has been done in the same way buildings have been made for other stop motion features such as Fantastic Mr Fox and Frankenweenie. And because Yoss has worked on these productions he has shown all of us the industry-standard way of building a set. Which is nice.

My tool box is brimming with delights at the moment. I'm very slowly shifting my 'collectable' nature from toys to tools, which is definitely restoring my manhood. I feel like I need a shed and a van. And a cigar. Ooo, why I have one right here!

However great the temptation may be, never ever buy safety goggles from Poundland.
Would've had better luck with a Kinder Egg.