Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Episode IV A New Project

Lets get right into it, shall we? I've been lucky enough to learn more about ball and socket armatures since working with the Twirlywoo puppets for MacKinnon and Saunders. And when I rejoined the team at Scream Street back in January, I was stationed in the puppet maintanence department, which gave me the perfect opportunity to continue learning about these armatures and begin work on my very own*. I could finally combine my soldering skills with my character design in a very raw creation that would eventually become Old Man Prickles (TBC - however, as I did not revise this choice over the subsequent months, I soon became rather fond if it). 

* if you ever get the chance to work for a different department (be it rigging, puppet maintenance or costumes etc) then it's really worth taking. Working in a studio environment, where there is a certain amount of added pressure, will be the best place to learn a new skill, even if you're a complete newb.

Scream Street was to finish in April, so I had a few months to use the workshop facilities, buy in materials and plan out the armature. Luckily, I am quite a laidback and re-usable kind of chap, so I chose a character design from my University years. This not only saved me a little time, but I'd already created a walk cycle (albeit a very crude 2D one) of which I knew would match the character of Old Man Prickles and what I wanted from this particular armature.

Tall and lanky, stooped and old. I guess as far as criteria is concerned, this was it. I already knew that building the armature was my priority where the character design could potentially change depending on the final outcome (dimensions, posture etc). Remember, this was my first attempt at making one... I could (most certainly) bugger it up!

Puppet Maintenance for Scream Street

So it began with learning more about the armatures from MacKinnon and Saunders, the legendary puppet making company who supplied the puppets for Scream Street. The dimensions I was imagining to use matched up rather well with the scale and size of the children characters; approx 300mm high, slender and elongated figures and a slightly enlarged head. The difference, however, is that I'd use this scale for a grown adult sized character, being Old Man Prickles

I drew up some blue prints, taking some inspiration from the layouts of the Scream Street armatures, and started to cut 3/5mm steel rodding to fit these dimensions. The picture below shows how important the original drawing of Old Man Prickles was, because I was constantly referring back to it. Ultimately he ended up being 10mm taller, but hey who's counting?

The beginnings of my armature

Casting the hands was relatively straight forward due to the practice of making endless replacement hands for the Scream Street puppets. They are a silicone cast, poured into a hard resin mould. The hand paddles were made from plate steel with armature wire (1mm) for the fingers. To strengthen the 'skeleton' of the hand use cotton to weave in and out of the wire fingers and wrap with tights. A blob of two-part epoxy is then dabbed on each fingertip to stop the fraying of the wire.


I won't go through the entire assembling process because it would take a mighty long time. Plus, I feel that an air of mystery always surrounds the construction of an armature so I shall honour this by distracting you with a completely unrelated video...

The armature has a rigging point, which accepts 3/16" round bar or a bullet that can then attach to extra rigging (dumbells etc). This K&S tube runs adjacent to the hips, providing access for the rig when the character does a walk cycle (for example) across screen. So far he has a pretty well balanced body, so the rigging point might only be needed for mid-air tomfoolery. I have made a silicone mould for the head sculpt I made out of super sculpey. No need to bake the sculpey for a mould, as it can be removed quite easily (depending on shape and small features such as ears) and possibly used again. 

Just to give you an idea of my rigging job, whilst on Twirlywoos, check out this photograph below where animator Timon is setting up the puppets for his next shot. The long overhead bar is home to (usually) four carriages, each with a drop-down that also has a smaller carriage on. Upon these carriages is a rigging point, allowing more bars and joints to be attached and finally reach the puppet itself. It's basically like a giant K'NEX kit (remember that?!).

Each carriage can be wound in tiny increments, allowing the animator to lift the puppet off the 'ground' for movements such as jumping, falling and dancing (where tie-downs or magnets might not quite do the job). Anyway, this is why it's always handy to fit a rigging point into any puppet armature that you make. Just in case they learn to fly.

THUS comes an end to my vague step by step guide to building an armature. I apologies that it's not too detailed, but this is stage 1 of many and I have already rambled the whiskers off a walrus. I shall continue this guide on my next blog post, where I will begin to clad the puppet and make his poseable moustache, woof!

As far as I know, this is still on Netflix. Most definitely worth a watch folks.

I went to see the French-Swiss stop motion feature My Life as a Courgette (zucchini for those yanks) at the Home complex in Manchester. It was absolutely wonderful. It follows a very linear storyline, but the attention to emotional detail and the beautiful subtleties in its animation are what make it so great. The character design is very interesting, almost as if they were drawn by the children who star in this film, yet it works in this vibrant and quirky world because each individual has a very different backstory. The entire design and style actually reminded me of A Town Called Panic, another succesful French production, with visuals that are unique but heartwarmingly colourful.
    I would urge anybody with feelings to go and watch this film. Being an independant film it might be a little harder to track down, but lo! for it is well worth the chase. There is a very positive review from the Guardian that may help sway your mind if my meager words have not. Alas, I fear my writing is becoming unpracticed and full of nonsense. I am so glad the world of animation has taken me in to shelter amongst other nonsensical folk. 

Anyway, I can feel myself pootling along with no direction, so I shall bid you farewell and continue on my current project. It's a sculpting and model making adventure using old logs from the forest. They've dried out now, so it's time to branch out with my creative flare and varnish them. Progress shall be posted next time, you lucky buggers. CIAO!

Monday, 5 June 2017

The Average Tom Perspective

(this is all a working progress, still not finished, read with a pinch of salt)

Before I begin, I want to outline a disclaimer of sorts. Depending on how you percieve this particular blog post and what you take from it, remember that it's just me, Tommy Grainger, your friendly neighbourhood rambler. But this time, I'm hoping that my ramblings might actually stand for something.
   I have never prided myself as politically intellectual or even generally intellectual, because my knowledge either comes from hard work playing with puppets and plasticine or purely by accident. But over the past year I have been piecing together and subconsciously storing items of concern that have really rattled my cage. This is information gathered from the many outlets that we subject ourselves to in the 21st century (more than we deserve) and therefore even I cannot guarantee its validity. Enter the disclaimer; whatever I write, whether you agree or not, is based off of information that I cannot assure you is 100% correct. But this seems to be the going rate for expressing your opinion, especially recently, so you may take it with a pinch of salt.

The views I'm going to express in this post are a culmination of things that have built up over time (predominately after the Brexit result) but I guess have been dwelling in the chasms of my mind all along. I don't mean to offend anybody or wish to change your mind about these issues, but I thought it might be interesting to write down all the thoughts from an 'average joe' perspective. It would be prudent of me to try establish a moral high ground with what I discuss because I am a culprit of some of these arguments too (for example, I check my phone far more often than I should check my body for abnormalities).
   It is hard to know where to begin, and there is no order of preference with the topics I choose to write about; they each harbour their own pros and cons on different levels. So whether it's a refreshing new point of view, a load of waffle full of naivety or I simply need to get with the times, I welcome you all to The Average Tom Perspective.

In the beginning there was a bang, some trees and a river to play in. Add a ball, a stick and some of your scallywag friends and you consider yourself a king. These were the days of evermore, where growing up was a natural experience because you learned your lesson by falling off a rope swing. And we got on just fine. 

I am going to hypothesize heavily here, but along came the 1980s, where the video game console was fast becoming a mainstream phenomena and an eclipse of what the future might hold. Thus began a transition to present day that nobody could really anticipate. Sure I'm being dramatic; children still play outdoors with sticks and graze their knees on pavements, but if you imagine the acceleration of technology from the eighties (I'm using this decade as a commonground variable) over the subsequent thirty seven years to today - it's an astonishing short period of time for such development. Can we even comprehend what hi-tech gadget might be attached to our faces in another thirty seven years time?
   And I cannot act like I'm not impressed. I truly am. But has anybody stopped to think whether this might be considered unnatural? As mindblowing as our technological advances are, can it be stunting our instinctive, physical and social growth? Are we even human anymore?

I strongly feel that the machines have already won and we are now slaves to a technological strategy that has played us for the addictive, greedy fools we are. The scene in Shaun of the Dead where an alleyway of teens are zombiefied to their screens sums it up for me. Nobody walks anywhere now. Nobody looks at anything. Nobody smiles at you in the street because they're all preoccupied with replying immediately to that photograph of hummus with a kitten in it. I know we are a nation of apologists, but I draw the line when I bump into somebody because their square eyes are not looking where they're going. 

I sat in a pub in Stratford with my fiance Lucy, sipping some fine ales, when a family of five entered and sat across from us. Almost immediately the three children (without saying a word) unpocketed their iphones and were engaged in their own agendas, whether it be messaging, playing games or streaming the next keyboard cat. I watched the parents for a moment, both sat in an accepting silence with their drinks, and felt an immense pang of sadness. 
   Now, this is dangerously close to becoming nosey neighbour material so I didn't want to judge. I also fear that this blog might become misconstrude as the ravings of some mad man. I don't know this family? Who am I to even comment? My point is, the scenario looked a very depressing (yet realistic) portrayal of modern day.

I am not dismissing the use of phones or pads because they are bloody useful; especially in this day and age. Within a heartbeat I can open up my Google Maps application and know exactly where I am and where I need to go. My Mum is still, to this day,  flabberghasted with Google Streetview. So I completely advocate technology and it's capabilities but I think the moral of the story is (and I promise you that I won't summarise like this for every topic) that there is a time and a place.
   Phone technology is truly a revolution in how we cope with daily life. Whether it's online shopping, online banking, sending important files via the almighty cloud (in seconds) or facetiming people on the other side of the world, you have to admit how impressive it has become. But how easy do we want our lives to be? If everything can be commanded by a touch of a screen then where do we physically stand in this world? And I mean that in the most literally sense possible; I mean, you can control your entire house from the comfort of your sofa.

Side note:- 
I have just realised that throughout my ramblings about being in front of a screen all day, I have done a good two hour stint on my laptop in my local coffee shop. And it's a gorgeous day. I want that ball and stick to play with!

Is it appropriate for children to be using such technology from the age of (and I heard this recently) two? Two years old. Good grief that doesn't sit well with me.

But to address the point, the reason why I feel so strongly over the matter is that 

It's not the experiences you gain that are true to yourselves - it becomes 1984 where everyone is learning from the same screen. Drones.

The Brexit issue, voting, a divided country. Migration seems to be a type of scapegoat.. it angers me how people are using this as an excuse to coin the term 'make Britain great again'
WE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN A NATION BUILT UP ON IMMIGRATION. Are people too ignorant and stupid to recognise this? Even the people I speak to, who are feel that immigration is an issue, don't realise that the companies they work for are only successful because of the valued input from foreign employees. This is undisputed fact. I've looked up several large UK companies and read that much of their development and success is down to engineers, technicians, researchers from all over Europe and the world. WTF?!

Seriously, what is wrong with people?! I actually hate people.

Government - political leaders who constantly lie and change their minds - Theresa May

The Daily Mail - this newspaper (amongst others) outright offends me and is scum

Immigration - it's not an issue, GB is built up on immigration.

Social Media, articles on Facebook, headlines giving false news (or easily misconstrued at a glance). Too much information at our fingertips
'Social media is a better slave than a master' meaning that if you're in control of it, then it can be useful. But if you are constantly reacting to every notification, then you become the slave.
Just because you have the opportunity to say something online... does it necessarily mean that you should?
We are becoming so involved with our phones that we check them every 5 minutes. Even I am a culprit and I admit that I check my emails or Facebook far more often than I need to. But twenty years ago, we were using landlines and sending more letters. What will happen in another twenty years. The speed of our technological consumption and how our minds are evolving into the screen is a very scary concept. It's like an episode of Black Mirror. In fact there is an episode

Peoples opinions on social media - comment sections (YouTube), status updates; do we really care or need this? People are becoming too vocal and petty. Online bullying.
This has grown increasingly with the lenient boundaries and consequences over social media and what people are allowed to be 'vocal' about. Freedom of speech is just as much a gift as it is a curse; think about all the protests, speeches, debates and marches that have shaped the course of history, whether for good or evil. However, people in the 21st century voice their opinions over petty little details that don't need addressing simply because they can and never stop to think whether they should.

Photographing EVERYTHING - food, ourselves (invokes vanity and more online stalking - snapchat)

Public forums, Facebook groups for a local community - people posting photographs about 'problems' that do not concern them whatsoever and then complaining about them

Each day we get told something different e.g. 'doing this will keep you healthier than that' 'eat this because it prolongs life' 'this will 43% more likely give you cancer' - fuck off! Life has always been simple enough to know what to eat and how much exercise you need for a healthy balanced life style, this was before the internet and all this bloody research. People follow the media so much these days that they will suddenly change their routine if it means they can (theoretically) avoid being fat etc

What I am truly afraid of (and you can consider this a prediction) is the pure aggression, seen on both sides of the political argument, continuing to escalate until it becomes a part of us. And when I say 'argument' I mean to cover all bases here, whether it's a referendum, general or local election or even a routine debate. To put things into perspective, Brexit and the 2017 general election (May vs Corbyn) are prime examples and I will use these to support my point.  

In the aftermath of the general election, where a hung Parliament was reached (I'm writing this the day after voting, so we're far from a strong and stable answer), it was considered to be yet another messy campaign very similar to Brexit. Nobody knows what's going to happen, the nation is torn in two and the media are revelling. 

Thus begins my fear. The media. Newspaper tabloids, broadsheets, advertisements, social media; anything that we experience on a daily basis where some sort of news headline is given. I can't believe it has taken me this long to notice the absolute poison that courses through the writing in various articles across the UK. 
    It would be naive of me to think that this is a new thing. Newspapers have always backed their chosen party, or their chosen benefactor, and written in favour of them. That's why we have different sources, right? 

But shouldn't they still be relatively partial? 

I feel that the 'headline' alone has done far more damage to the public eye than any words from a backtracking and corrupt politician. Especially in this modern society, where information is seconds away, a headline can be the difference between a lovely morning and wanting to throttle somebody. These aggressive headlines filters down through various outlets to the reader who would normally skim them (because we don't like to read things thoroughly, do we?!) and make up their own conclusion in a matter of seconds before reaching the next article. This is just the way things are, heck, even I'm accountable for such a lazy approach to finding out the daily qualms. 
    The media will exploit this. Fake news, abrupt and 

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Episode III

If you are looking for an explanation then, alas, I cannot give you one. Where have you been Thomas? The truth is I'm a lazy git. It takes an enormous amount of energy and discipline for me to sit down and write a load of rambling malarkey. But ramble I must. The deal is this; you suffer the amateur hour that will be my unpracticed writing [typing] and I will buy everyone who likes my blog post something nice (and cheap).

There you go; that's my long awaited re-introduction into blogging and it relies heavily on bribary. 

Over seven months have dwindled away since my last entry, whereupon many significant and bothersome events have come to pass. Don't worry friend! I shan't be divulging into anything politial or socioeconomic because, to be quite frank, I barely know the meaning of those words. Besides, that's not exactly what this blog was originaly about; opinions of the real world...who wants those? When you can happily remain in the quintessentially [fucked up] world of animation. I was actually talking to my old tutor Laura Weston at the Manchester Animation Festival about my blogging and where it all began. As much as I'd like to take credit, it was infact part of a course module entitled Futures, where self promotion was the name of the game also. Anyway, lets talk animation folks. ANIMATION.  

The Manchester Animation Festival (MAF) is very young, only turning two this November, but it is attracting people from all across the nation. This year had an additional attraction, being Aardman's 40th anniversary celebration, where Peter Lord and David Sproxton came to recieve their Fellowship Award. Little fun fact for you... the trophy was actually made by model makers at MacKinnon and Saunders.

The Art of Aardman is their new book and I was lucky enough to get it signed! The book is a visual diary; a compilation of storyboards, designs and set photographs covering everything from Morph to Pirates! Unfortunately, the festival (as wonderful as it is) takes place during the week, so it's tricky to attend everything. I only managed to see one programme, which was a series of animated films from around the world. One film, Fox and the Whale, stuck out for me with stunning visuals and very charming characters.


I would definitely suggest that you look out for this spectacular film when it is released. I am rather gutted that I only watched a handful of animation, especially as it seems to have taken a back seat in my busy little life. I haven't sat back and enjoyed a series of short animated films in bloody ages, let alone do anything myself. But wait... I still have an ace up my sleeve because I have successfully reinstalled Dragonframe once again

After wasting valuable time animating my ugmo* face, I did finally get around to practicing the art of stop motion. Regrettably I have lost my ball and socket armature given to me from University (I may have griped before about this) so, naturally, I used my Star Wars models. It was the simplest of set-ups (a table and two pot plants) but it was literally just to get the ball rolling and remember all the bloody buttons. So, bearing that in mind, the video below is one of five snippets that I did animate and export as an MP4 file - they haven't even been properly edited!

It may sound like common sense, but the more skills you aquire from experiences and projects, the more employable you become. I am in no position to preach about what you should or shouldn't do to your presence in the animation world, especially as I'm constantly 'almost' out of a job. It's not a stable industry, I must admit, but if you have a wide spectrum of skills that you can offer, then the same studio could ultimately employ you for a different role. I found myself working in the rigging and puppet maintenance department for the childrens show Twirlywoos and I haven't had any real experience beforehand (I hope nobody from management reads that!). 

There is a new series of the Twirlywoos this upcoming week (28th) on the CBeebies channel, 9:30 each morning. I only started work half way through production so I don't think the first batch of episodes will credit me, but fingers crossed it won't be long until you see me! 

There is a very interesting documentary on Netflix called A Grand Night In: The Story of Aardman and it's rather good. I must admit I've only watched about twenty minutes of the hour long programme but by the time you've read this I'm counting on finishing it. This chronology of Aardman's 40 years highlights everything from the original 'Aardman' superhero, Morph and Creature Comforts to the feature films of Chicken Run (my favourite), Flushed Away and Pirates! Not to mention Wallace and Gromit who have, with good reason, become British treasures. 

I'm sculpting again! Albeit a somewhat forced frame of creative mind, it's still something that I'd wanted to get back into for bloody ages. Above is my work desk. It's not messy; just an organised jumble or something along those lines. Sure, Matt has the tidier desk but I can still remember where my tools are. It's the working man's desk! Am I trying too hard to justify this?
   I'm sure Hey Arnold! wouldn't mind a messy desk. He can't see it just yet because I haven't sculpted his eyes, but I'll eventually get there folks. This was just a basic wire armature, drilled and glued into a block of wood using two-part epoxy, then gradually built up with Newplast. I'm hoping to get this little guy done before Christmas but the world is full of distractions. My latest one was a Star Wars Lego AT-ST from the Rogue One range, though it was worth every brick. Speaking of Rogue One... ROGUE ONE! It's out in little over two and a half weeks and with midnight tickets booked, the countdown has never been more exciting! Although I do think that I've seen too many trailers (the International one has even more footage) so I'm going to have to wait. But, as Yoda once said, the boy has no patience. That boy became a Jedi Master.

And finally... here is a beautifully eerie animated film recommended by fellow colleague Stephanie Bolduc (check out her website). Enjoy!

* you recognise the word eh? Lisa Simpson

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Episode II

I had only heard little nuggets concerning Anomolisa but it had all been reletively positive. Animators at work had mentioned it and there were online rumblings of an adult based stop motion film on the horizon. There was also a Channel 4 interview conducted by Krishnan Guru-Murthy, where directors and producers (of Anomolisa) Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson described as best they could the logistics behind such a production. I think Krishnan Guru-Murthy wanted to try a different angle, perhaps relating to tax breaks, but it resulted in a very awkward coversation over politics and their thoughts on Trump. It might have been considered a wasted opportunity to plug the film, but behold! A fairly sizeable clip was shown and it looked absolutely bloody marvellous.

And so did the rest of the film. A jolly ol' group of us let our hair down last Friday night to watch Anomolisa at Manchester's Home cinema complex (it's lovely and shiney there) and thoroughly enjoyed it. Although the narrative was rather creepy (main character Michael Stone suffers from fregoli syndrome, goes a little loopy and seduces a drunken dame unbeknownst to his bloomin' wife) the animation itself was truly mindblowing. It was intense, but mainly set in a hotel (ha... do you get it... eh?!). 

A favourite moment of mine was when main character Michael has a bit of a mental episode, loses his mind and tries to reconcile in front of the bathroom mirror. As he lifts his hands to his face, gripping his cheeks (as if trying to grip back reality), he begins to pull off his mouth piece. The replaceable mouth piece of the 'ball and socket' puppet that represents Michael. I mean, sheesh, what a way to show his disconnect to whatever universe he is in. Clever girl.

This was a super sculpey model I made for Lucy; Adventure Time toothbrush holder!

The interwebsphere went absolutely bananas last week over a trailer that depicted an upcoming animated film in a very pioneering (and extremely radical) light. Sausage Party, from the creators of Superbad and Pineapple Express (you know the crew), looks and sounds outrageous! *Ahem* and I mean that in a good outrageous way. Excuse me for a moment, but a slight tangent is in order; some words in the English vocabulary truly baffle me. The term 'outrageous' means, as a general term, very bad. But I use it all the time as a bloody positive. Am I wrong? Is vocabulary wrong? Who the hell cares?

The trailer really throws you off guard, simply because for the opening 30 seconds it really looks and feels like an animated film targeted for children. The characters are bubbly, cute and colourful. The music is happy-go-lucky. What could possibly go wrong? 

I have to admit, it does feel like a stroke of genius, but surely this type of thing has been done before? Perhaps not so decorated as a mainstream film would be, but Seth Rogan can't be the first to inject frantic swearing into cute little creatures. Big budget animated films are certainly the juggernauts of the cinematic world (mostly) and are very familiar in tone, narrative and character design. So when you watch a trailer like this, you automatically set your brain into Despicable Me, Ice Age or Wreck it Ralph mode and expect something heart warming and loveable. 

Well not with this bloody one!

Flip the bed does it jar you out of a fuzzy coma and slap you around the face with a hilarious bout of fuck yeahs! I'll be interested to see the marketing campaign and the reactions of parents because it certainly fooled me. Ha! Bloody brilliant.


I don't really have much to report in a model making retrospect, so this is a trailer heavy post I'm afraid. But what trailers! Disney have just released the second trailer for the upcoming live action take on Roald Dahl's BFG and oh boy does it deliver. I grew up with the Brian Cosgrove animated BFG from 1989, which was visually beautiful and had winning voice talents from David Jason and Amanda Root, so when Disney announced a remake for 2016 I was intrigued but not won over... until this second trailer made me feel like a child again. The voices, the tension, the big loafing strides of the BFG, his dream catcher trumpet, Giant Country; it was all there! I was wide eyed and lapping it all up. If they include snozzcumbers then it could potentially be one of my highly aniticipated films of this year. Because I'm a film critic now, you see.

Ah look! Something about props! Unfortunately I have no idea where this came from. It popped up on one of the many stop motion Facebook groups I follow, but it was in Spanish and with no links. Bah I thought, Bah! 

But my goodness look how small and cute and inventive this coffee pot is. I fully applaud anybody who can visualise in such a way, where a household item can be transformed into something completely different. It's a brilliant exercise of the mind. So if anybody knows of a website where this type of model making wisdom is shared, please let me know! It's all instinctive, of course, with small scale prop making, but it's always pretty great to see what the rest of the world is using. 

Anyway, that about wraps up this post. Here is the reason it took so long to write...


Sunday, 10 January 2016

Episode I


This is a very belated Star Wars related (accidentally rhyming with excellent timing) piece of writing. I'm not going to delve into my own review, because I'm not a film critic and I'm certainly not capable of writing anything mildy serious. Instead, I'm going to write a few words as a Star Wars fan, a cinema goer and a twenty nine year old child.

I ******* loved it. I loved the film. I love Star Wars. I bloody love you. I went to the midnight viewing, opening night, with my good friend Daniel James after an evening of blue milk (courtesy of Aunt Beru), the Christmas Special (courtesy of bad taste) and watching the loveable BB-8 patrol the room (simply a courtesy). I was very nervous; I could feel my heart pounding the closer I got to screen 7. I honestly don't think I have ever felt so excited, scared and emotionally drained in such a hypnotic way. 

I have since watched it two more times, bringing the total to thrice. And if the Odeon cinema prices were a little more fanboy friendly it could easily have been double figures. I just found it so rewatchable. There were absolutely loads of easter eggs and nods to the original trilogy; I pointed out, in a flailing fashion, Luke's training remote, a box droid, the hologram chess set, Luke's lightsaber (which actually played a vital role in the film), the Empires' mouse droid, quotes from Obi-wan and Yoda and even a trash compactor reference (eep!). Here is my conclusion in the medium of video...

I've had rather an intense December, regarding Star Wars, due to the convention I attended early on in the month and, of course, the lead up to The Force Awakens. To summarise, I have had more Star Wars toys, costumes, books, comics, badges, limited editions, signed photographs, outtings, tshirts and socks than I did when I was a child. Being twenty nine at the moment, I have the same affiliation with toys in general to the ten year old Thomas. This puts things vaguely into perspective, roughly placing my peak of intelect and maturity at the age of twenty two (second year of University and career driven) and gives me a forecast into how my life might pan out. Thus speaking, I predict that my next peak of responsible obligation will be at the ripe age of forty eight. Here, I made a graph;

Regardless of such extensive calculations, there is certainly a pattern emerging. This is exactly why I'm so lucky to be working in the animation industry; everyone has toys, mascots, models and can quote from Star Wars, Alien, Terminator, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, Back to the Future and Indiana Jones (to say but a very few). You have to be a man child to work in a place like this!

So proud

So it's 2016 now, hey? Well, shit. I have already eaten several pounds of leftover cheese and not batted a chubby eyelid on exercising. But I have thought about my productivity in a creative sense, especially when I realised that I hadn't used my SLR camera for nion a whole bloody year. So I have a list of things I either need to finish or have wanted to make for god knows how long. Here we go...

  • Stoppit & Tidyup sculpts (paint them!)
  • Bird feeder for Nan and Grandad (assemble it fool!)
  • Millenium Falcon and Tie Fighter Airfix (build, paint, admire)
  • Finn & Jake Adventure Time toothbrush stand (incredibly belated Xmas present for Lucy)
  • Helms Deep model [Warhammer scale] (what? Dream on!)
  • Illustrate and paint my own card range 
  • actually use my digital SLR camera

Ultimately, in light of a new year, one might consider an absolute new venture. And mine is the possibility of working abroad. I've already started to look at other studios in America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, some of which are rather big (*cough* LAIKA). This is nothing to do with my current work at Factory because, like Yamination Studios, it has made me the model maker I am today.

I am more than happy to stay here in Manchester, I absolutely love working at Factory, but when you hear that a fellow colleague has had job offers at both LAIKA and WETA Workshop, you can have the tendency to feel outrageously jealous. Jealous of YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE YOU LUCKY BASTARD!!! hehe *grits teeth*.

I haven't been idle. I have begun the ol' CV revamp, showreel updating and googling everything else. But with a new hope comes a phantom menace in the form of a very despairing electronic mail. It was from a chap called Nick from across the pond and from what I gather, the studio is no more...


It sounded very Hollywood; I actually imagined King Theodon's voice when reading Nick's email. But I shall quest on. If anything gives me more ambition in life, it's to keep the stop motion going. Or in true fashion of The Tribe it's to 'Keep The Dream Alive' (Have you seen The Tribe? It used to be on Channel5. It's really amazing, I have the DVD box sets of all five seasons if you want to borrow? I couldn't recommend it enough!).

Speaking of must see television, now that Scream Street has finally hit our screens, I do believe (whilst raising an eyebrow) that I am allowed (looks from left to right) to show a collection of my props and on set photographs! I do have an entire gallery, folders upon folders, but have selected a meagre handful to portray the goings on within the art department of Factory Create. You'll find out in the next blog post whether this has gotten me fired or not.

Yamination Studios. As I forementioned, this place has made me the model maker I am today, which is largely down to Drew Roper and Yossel Simpson. I firmly believe that I have kissed enough ass on this blog concerning these guys, so I'm going to hold back the praise. Sorry gentlemen! But this week was pretty huge for the studio and all those involved with Drew's animated film 'At-Issue'. It only bloody premiered on SkyArts! There is a fantastic article in the Birmingham Mail here which outlines the scale of production from start to finish. It also includes a stirling photograph of the original Yamination crew from days of old, where I am the proud owner of a new name. Tony Grainger anyone?!

There's been a fair few blog posts covering my time at Yaminations, so feel free to peruse. I remember starting out in the studio and helping Drew with the beginings of the 'street set', which is present for the majority of the film. This was back in September 2012 people; well over three years ago!

A few models of mine; and on set in Barts home.

The years have whizzed by since the start of this production, but nothing has gone to waste. From working with Drew, I have been a part of two other animated projects (advertisements for Coca Cola and Cravendale), met a huge amount of talent from within the industry and learnt a very particular set of skills that Liam Neeson would be jealous of. And for that I am eternally grateful.

So wherever I am in 2016, be it Manchester or a Galaxy, far far away... you can always find me on here! Or on Youtube doing things like this...