Sunday, 30 November 2014

Electric Elkboy (continued some more...)

It was understandable for Chester to be concerned about his masters optimistic views on transport, especially due to the absolute lack of any. They needed to get to London, and yet without the knowledge of their whereabouts it would prove to be an interesting point to raise. Chester rolled forward inquisitively, 'may I press you for a solution sir?' 

The Elkboy turned handsomely around and smiled. 'My dear Chester. I have indeed resolved our little pickle, which was, admittedly, something I should have thought of much earlier. You may want to stand, or erm, roll back a tadge my friend.'

Chester bleeped and followed the order. He was used to these elaborate schemes that the Elkboy concocted, becoming continuously intrigued and entertained. And with the Elkboy currently attempting a handstand, it looked like this would be a good one. 

Sure enough, in a vertical manoeuvre, the Electric Elkboy had lifted his body up from the ground with his feet in the air. Certainly an unorthodox posture for a superhero, but he proceeded nonetheless. With eyes tightly closed, he concentrated all his power toward the lightening bolt upon his brow. The dusty terrain surrounding them trembled and shook, groaning with anticipation as the lightning bolt began to glow brighter. Then the Elkboy opened his eyes and looked to the horizon, raising his voice and bellowed into the expanse before him, 'POLAR BEASTS OF THE NORTH I CHOOSE YOU!' A beam of light shot out from the lightning bolt and penetrated the ground beneath him. For a moment there was a pang of utter silence... and then a sonic boom of awesomeness swept across the land. The Elkboy closed his eyes once more, bent his elbows and flipped himself into the air to finally land on his two feet. Most elegantly done, thought the author of this chapter. 

With the silence returned, the two heroes stood side by side as the dust settled. Chester, still full of unanswered questions, bleeped as scrupulously close to a sigh as robotically possible. 'Worry not, my young padawan,' the Elkboy crooned. 'Remember what Treebeard said to the Hobbits; 'don't be hasty'. And we all know what happened after that, don't we?
   'We do sir?'
The Elkboy nodded, 'of course. The trees only bloody won Chester! And carrying the Hobbits at the same time! Now that is TREE-mendous!' 
   'Sir, I am always supportive of your... puns, but your love of the Halflings leaf has clearly slowed your mind.'
   'Points for the quote, points deducted for sounding so negative. I have summoned a little bit of nature to come and carry us to London. Now, they may not be trees, but they sure as hell get the job done!'
   'Very good sir, I never doubted you for a second. Wonderful.' 

As soon as Chester settled down to wait he felt the ground tremble once more. The dust returned but far upon the horizon, where a trail of cloud grew larger and closer towards them. The vibrations felt more like a stampede than an earthquake; it was alive, moving, and hoofs could soon be heard. Then out of the dust cloud bore the head of a proud beast, antlers spurring through the mist, leading a herd of at least twenty more of these magnificent creatures. They were elk, of course. And the Electric Elkboy had called to them from across the globe, for that was the power that he held within his lightning bolt of truth. 

The Elkboy strode up to the herd and held aloft his hand. The thundering elk slowed immediately to a canter and stopped before him, their heavy breath and gentle snorting lingering in the air. The Elkboy placed his hand upon the head of the lead elk and murmured in a strange tongue that Chester had yet to hear from his master, but it was full of calm and gratitude. The Elkboy turned to Chester, 'they have travelled many miles,' he said. 'But they are strong and courageous. I have no doubt that within the hour we shall be riding for London at great speed. First we need to harness them a little, and find a cosy spot for you and I.'
   'As gallant as your beasts of burden are,' Chester queried. 'Are you sure that they know which direction to go?'
   'Of course they do Chester,' scoffed the Elkboy. 'But I'm rather surprised that with all the hi-tech malarkey I installed into your body, that you don't know which direction to go? Do you still have the Tommy-Tommy Sat-Nav function?'
   'Unfortunately, the missile attack on HQ contained a mild EMP and wiped out many of the systems. You were oblivious to this, sir, as you gallivanted off on your... kite...'
   'Do not underestimate the power of the kite Chester!' interrupted the Elkboy. 'It is fully equipped with...'
   '...So I'm afraid that some of my systems were coincidentally tampered with,' continued Chester. 'I adjusted all the power I had to my boosters so as to follow you.'
   'Very well,' said the Elkboy. 'And I am thankful that you did. We shall, however, put all our faith into these glorious steeds and their navigational skills. Now, could you spare a little power to your toboggan settings?' 
   Chester looked perplexed, even for an expressionless droid. 'My what settings?'
   'Search your network old boy, you'll find them,' said the Elkboy, full of confidence. He was busy choreographing the elk into single file and using the cable from the (temporarily unsuccessful) kite to harness them together. If only Santa could see him now, he thought. And with that thought in mind he directed Chester to the back of the herd. 
   'Chester my trusted droid,' he announced proudly. 'You are to become an imperative part of this convoy. ACTIVATE TOBOGGAN SETTINGS!'

Suddenly, Chester's wheels sprang up and folded neatly beneath him and extending in their stead appeared a pair of well carved, well varnished toboggan rungs. As the compartment doors closed, firmly locking the rungs into place, another extension lowered from the droids back. This would soon become the step for the Electric Elkboy to stand upon; for Chester had transformed in to nothing more and nothing less than a fine looking sleigh. 

'Haha!' laughed the Elkboy. 'How d'ya like them apples, Chester?!' 
   'I feel positively mutilated, sir,' the droid replied. 'Are there any other settings that I have yet to discover with an equal level of disgruntled surprise?'
   'Oh come on Chester... this is going to be bloody amazing. Now can you reach the cable and lock it into place? I need to grab my bag.' Chester did as he was told, accepting that his masters excitement was beyond negotiable.
    After some final adjustments, all was ready; the elk were stamping their hooves, the Elkboy had harnessed himself to Chester's body and the cables were taught with the eagerness of departure. All they needed was the call of the wild; that loud eccentric announcement Chester would expect his master to call out to nobody in particular. And sure enough it came...


Chester couldn't help but let his circuit board smile at his masters optimistic views on transport, especially due to the absolute style in which they would travel. And away they went.

To be continued...

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Episode VI

Freelancing is a funny business. On occasion I feel like I don't particularly belong anywhere, but then again this is precisely what it's all about, so I won't pretend to be dismayed about the matter. I have the writing tendencies of a drama queen sometimes, so ignore me. But don't! Because you need to read my blog. I do actually enjoy the free aspect of this lancing lark, especially when you get a surprise day off to write the next blog chapter. 

What I've come to realise in these last few months of my progress as a freelancer, is that there is no room for laziness. And I am so lazy! (this is subjective to the people who are not hiring me). But this is not in the work place; I love what I do and will crack on 100% in the studio environment. My problem is at home. As you may have noticed in previous blog posts, I claim it takes 'x' amount of hours or days for me to write a paragraph or the like. This is because of my homely distractions!

Here is a short list of things that cause procrastination:
  • lunch
  • planning lunch
  • rearranging my Star Wars figures
  • watching the Tribe
  • making lists
  • going into town and achieving very little from the list I just made
  • planning dinner
  • making a brew
  • tidying my room
  • writing my blog (controversial I admit, but I really should be looking for work right now!)

When it comes to those little 'home' projects i.e. sculpts, card designs, canvas painting, you can always find a place to sell them. I haven't actually considered online sales for any of my work (on for example), purely because I don't have an extensive range. I have paintings, drawings and models but not nearly enough to set up something significant. But there is a solution! 

Facebook. It's largely full of codswallop and nincompoops. But a midst the chaos is a beacon of Minas Tirith. People are always on Facebook. Friends, family, acquaintances, pets, people you don't like, people who don't like you, people who have met you on that coach ride from Bogota to Lima and can't stop tagging you in photographs of himself standing next to a bus. My point is, it's a good database for an incredibly broad range of potential clients. Post some photos of your work up, Facebookers will like and share so that your skills will transcend to all ends of the Internet. I've managed to sell a few items for chump change, but it's still good practice for the budding freelancer. For example, the image below is of a mural I'm currently painting for my Aunty Val; hopefully she can spread the word! 

One of my odd jobs is painting murals; this one is almost finished!

Another part of freelancing is your title. What do you call yourself? What area of your chosen trade do you specialise in? The latter seems fairly obvious, but I still don't know whether to call myself a model maker, carpenter or a stop motion animator. I assume that I'm all three, yet I can do more. Tommy the multi-artist? Sir Thomas the brave? Mr Grainger the carpenter (who can also sculpt, paint, draw, cook, clean and hang out your cotton socks). I'm still in the process of deciding my freelance title because I will be designing some new business cards in the near future.

I am currently in the process of creating a sidekick for my freelancing adventures. It (none gender specific) is called portfolio and wears a cape, whereas I do not. It's all good and well having an online presence (LinkedIn etc) but I wanted a place for visuals, images, videos, not too much text and yet kept a professional level. It is advantageous to have an online portfolio full of visuals because a) that's what artists do (so what could describe our talent more than actually seeing it) and b) it's much simpler to send a link to a potential client or studio to show what you're capable of. Even now I can say click HERE and you've been transported to a rather fetching site concerning yours truly. 

I realise that my blog is full of images concerning my work... but it also contains images of random animals, holiday snaps and the ever present topic of Star Wars. So perhaps not as professional as I'd quite like. But it means that you guys get to read the real me... find out more in this months issue of Heat with an exclusive look into my wardrobe. 

Speaking of Star Wars it's getting very close to that time of year where it'll be a year until Episode VII The Force Awakens is released. And good lord am I excited. It now has a title, filming has been wrapped and the on-set photographs have kept us all ludicrously engrossed. I do believe (and hope) that there will be a Star Wars teaser trailer before Christmas this year. There must be something for us! 

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Electric Elkboy (continued...)

*much time has passed since the last chapter of Electric Elkboy; hopefully the
story will still flow regardless of this lengthy absence*

He was (still) falling...

And unfortunately for Tommy, or as his self acclaimed reputation prefers 'Electric Elboy', there was very little time left between the conscious realisation of having no parachute or inflatable banana and the ever approaching ground. But suddenly, from out of the fiercely chilling and high speed mists there was a familiar, albeit very faint, beeping sound and before the Elkboy could register such familiarity there was an almighty smack. But this slamming sensation was not of soil or grass, but of the clanking of metal. Had he fallen into some sort of recycling centre? Not he! For it was his trusted droid Chester who had caught him as he plummeted to his almost certain doom. 
     "Bravo old chap!" shouted Elkboy as he desperately grasped at the droids ungraspable domed body. They were still hundreds of feet in the air and he admittedly felt far from safe. The Elkboy yelled, struggling for air as well as grip, "now open up your bloody flaps so I can hold onto something!"
     As Chester deployed his aeronautical knowledge, allowing his brave master to finally find a foot hold, the ground drew nearer and the little droids boosters kicked in to slow them down into a perfectly smooth landing. 

The Electric Elkboy jumped off of Chester's back, panting and doubling over as his legs trembled at the sensation of solid ground again. He then proceeded to try and balance out his physical and mental state of mind. Seven minutes later he ceased his over-dramatic gasping to find that Chester had already set up camp. Now, due to the (understandably) small compartments built into the droids body, there really wasn't an awful amount of room; not for conventional camping equipment at any rate. So the Elkboy had devised a cunning array of inflatable outdoor items that, when deflated, could fit rather neatly into said compartments. It was a reoccurring worry, however, that the great Electric Elkboy favoured the inflatable approach to many of his gadgets, but they sufficed all the same. 
     "I cannot believe that I was shot at", fumed he. "Where did you sprout from anyway Chester? I thought you hated flying?"
    Chester retracted the nozzle from a fully inflated stove (complete with propane gas and saucepan set). "Well, after seeing how distraught you were after the incident with the smoothie, I simply wanted to keep a closer eye on you."
     "Ah! A stowaway then?"
   "Merely a guardian angel, sir," Chester conceded. "Besides, it is near impossible to hide upon your, erm, mode of transport."
     "Do not mock my kite Chester! I know full well the capabilities of my inventions, or indeed your feelings upon such matters. So you tailed me then?"
     "I did sir."
     "Very good. I trained you well."

The Elkboy stepped aside to survey the area and Chester returned to the campsite, who begun inflation of a free-standing lamp. He pondered the next course of action as he stood there, legs astride, hands upon hips, gazing into the bleak wilderness before him. Soon his thoughts fled back to that ever-nagging question; who knew the location of his headquarters? That missile attack was clearly meant for him, who else would live in the camels arse of nowhere? And yet, there was another who knew of his ultimate hideout. There was someone who knew, because he had frequently invited her back (to no avail, of course) in an attempt to woo her... by baking his 'the world isn't ready for this' Pizza Pie. 
     Elkboy frowned at the thought. How dare she stand him and his Pizza Pie up. It was irrefutably a taste sensation. Then he remembered the real reason to why he should be frowning... betrayal! But no, surely not by the Emerald Minx. There had been disputes over the years, absolutely, but when they were forced to team up it was consistently a platonic means of adventure and warfare. It was them against the world (or a really bad man). He hadn't seen her for many years now, but as his thoughts strayed deeper into their relationship he began to visualise her beauty. Those gorgeous brown eyes, her incredible smile and those thighs were to die for (which, coincidentally, was one of her famous moves. It was named 'crouching tiger hidden thigh').
     "What would you propose we do now sir?" asked Chester, sidling up beside his master. 
   "What?!" blarped the Elkboy. "Propose? Me? Not until I get recognised for my outstanding cooking!"
      "I'm not sure I follow sir?"
The Elkboy stammered and shook his head. "Think nothing of it my good droid. I was merely daydream... ahem, I mean planning our next move. For move we must, because these lands are unknown to me and they are riddled with evil. I do believe, however, that we have landed on the plains of Limbo, home of the Tribe."
     Chester shifted awkwardly; a rare gesture among droids as one might think it was absurd for a machine to evoke emotional abilities via its limited mobility. But, personified as he was, Chester awkwardly shifted. "With all due respect sir, I am 100% confident that you have completely made that up."
     The Elkboy all but winked at the droid, then leaped onto a nearby rock. His sense of adventure greatly outweighed his sense of logic and reasoning. As the sun gently set over whatever desolation lay before them, a fine and handsome shadow of the Electric Elkboy stretched out to meet whatever may thwart them. "We must travel to London, Chester!"
     "Sorry sir, to London or Chester?"
     "To London! And meet with Hudson, for he will aid us with transport, supplies and information."
    "But sir," exclaimed the droid. "Without sounding prudent, do we not need those three to get to London in the first place?"
The Elkboy stroked his bearded chin and grinned. "Not necessarily."

To be continued...

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Episode (from bed)

This blog post is dedicated to all the brave souls who have succumbed to the tyranny of flu (non- gender specific). For I have become a bed ridden blancmange and therefore missed vital studio time where I have been practicing the art of silicone moulding. But we are not here to wallow in my snotty pit of carcoon, as I have been inspired to divulge into the world of stop motion after recently watching an episode of the 1984 animated series of The Wind in the Willows. This was, of course, when Cosgrove Hall was in it's prime. But despite the closure of this legendary studio, the area surrounding this part of Manchester is still teaming with animated life; a new hope to young graduates.

I have had the privilege of meeting and becoming acquainted with Barry Purves, director of The Wind in the Willows, so it's quite a different experience when watching these animations again because they feel even more personal (due to my career choice). I know about the lengthy process behind the character development, from concept to puppet; I know about set construction and how to make props; I've been behind the scenes! So the experience of viewing my childhood films and TV shows is somewhat enhanced. It feels like it was all amounting to something greater, as oppose to simply watching them because I was a child.

Upon recovery I was perusing the tube of You and discovered a few little gems. It turns out that there are hours upon hours of Disney and Warner Brothers classic cartoons online... for free! I know it's frowned upon to stream or download, but when it's given to you on a silver platter then you have got a fine day of viewing ahead of you my friend. And these short episodes are exactly the 'research' us budding animators should be referring to anyway, so it's actually considered homework in my eyes.

I also watched an award winning stop motion film by Cosgrove Hall called The Fool of the World and the flying ship. Perhaps a little trigger happy on the wording there, but it was pretty awesome to see some more of the legendary animation created within their studio. In fact, I am going to dedicate this blog post not only to the sick and the poorly, but also to classic childhood animation! (particularly those who were born in the 80s, the 80s).

This is only part one of six I think... so get a playlist going!

As it usually takes me a while to write these posts, I am actually feeling much better now. I have been out of bed and frequently walking to the garden and back *smug face*. Yet I still had time to continue my journey and uncover more of these animations I watched when I was yay-high*

*made up measurement tom uses to describe his height when he was younger

So I began looking at the other stop motion shows I watched, such as Camperwick Green and Trumpton. Overly excited I became. Nostalgic and wide eyed I was. For the casual onlooker I was clearly on drugs.

And, of course, when I was introduced to Star Wars I was absolutely blown away with the animation of the Imperial Walkers (AT-AT and AT-ST), although at the time I had no knowledge of the concept of 'stop motion'. I wish that I could remember what was going through my head upon first experiencing the battle of Hoth or how the AT-ST Walkers reacted to the incoming logs that ultimately became their downfall. Such genius in animation!

And the search just got more and more thrilling...or hilarious!

You all get the gist. 80s and 90s for stop motion was really quite something. But then every decade has had revolutionary animation, dating back to the 30s and 40s with Willis O'Brien, the 50s and 60s with Ray Harryhausen and the 70s when Aardman Animations was founded. Obviously there are many more animators; honorable mentions to the Brothers Quay, Jan Svankmajer and of course Mackinnon & Saunders. I'd probably get my arms ripped out of their sockets by a wookie if I didn't mention Factory TM , the studio behind the upcoming reboot of the Clangers. Good grief and what about smaller studios like Yaminations?! We made the Cravendale advert! Yes, stop motion is certainly a niche industry, but people like us will make damn sure the next decade continues to be fully animated. Fuck yeah.

I'm actually feeling much better now and have made a full recovery (this is 3 days prior to my initial sick day). So much so, that I thought I would share a video portraying my short acting career during my University days. You see, normally I wouldn't share this. But I'm a good mood. It is called Stoke Force and I stumbled upon it again whilst I was high on Tesco brand cough medicine. Enjoy.

If you're lucky and tell me beautiful things, 
then episode two will follow.

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.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Episode I

(play me)

I am incredibly sorry for such a late post. I have neglected you once again, so for those who read this and live relatively near Birmingham; find me, and I will buy you a chocolate bar.

Although, these longer periods in between posts might be considered a good thing because it means I'm actually working.


Electric Elkboy was falling. He was plunging towards the ground at such a speed that it was nigh impossible for the reader to foresee a happy ending. It was a struggle to breath and yet, the Elkboy felt comfortably terrified. Realising that these feelings clearly ought to cancel each other out, the Elkboy simply began to plummet without emotion. This only aroused confusion and then curiosity. But by the time he realised these things he was another two thousand feet closer to his untimely death.

The Elkboy begrudged his faithful droid Chester as those impending words of kite flying advice fermented in the back of his mind. Temporarily forgetting his peril, he concentrated all his thoughts into an impressive frown regardless of his lack of audience. Clouds rushed by and the mountain peaks rose fast like the protruding spikes in the palace dungeon from Temple of Doom but, alas, with no Willy to save him this time.

His kite was broken. His luck running out. The question was had he packed the emergency inflatable banana-boat? Because as his great Uncle Waldorf used to say... 'I'm fed up with these bloody elk, but I always make sure I have a banana to go'.

2014 has already given me one heck of a project to work on and the feedback that our team received upon delivery was delightful. Myself, Drew and Yossel drove down to Clapham Road Studios in London to drop off the sets, which we had built and dressed up here in Birmingham, ready for the animators to do their thing. So now we play the waiting game.

The animation workshop that I've been running has taken an exciting new turn, as they're actually beginning to animate! Unfortunately I've recently bailed on them due to a studio opportunity up in Manchester (I shall divulge in a few paragraphs time) so I am willing to accept the grief from my class upon my return. They're all on their half term holiday at the moment, so I am hoping they might forget my absence and do their bloody homework.

I made a Morph for the students to use in their animation principles tests. He was a very simple wire armature covered in red plasticine and took only a couple of hours to finish. I even tweeted a picture and spurred on the club by getting Peter Lord on the scene. Of course, the students knew him as that guy who makes Wallace and Gromit (which isn't entirely true) but I was impressed that they recognised his face. I actually have a funny story to tell which involves a combination of my naïve and oblivious mind, a cocktail party at the Encounters Animation Festival and Mr Lord himself. But I shan't tell it. I'm too embarrassed. Unless somebody comments on this blog asking me specifically to embarrass myself!

So Mr Lord tweeted back with some sound advice. I'm very
star-struck right now!

I am back in Manchester working at the Factory TM Studios but not to work on the their current CBBC children's series Strange Hill High. I was actually rather oblivious (as usual) upon my return, because I perched on the outskirts of the Monday morning meeting and people were asking me what on earth are you doing here? So I stood around like a right mook until I was guided into Barbara's office where I was prepped for an upcoming reboot of a classic stop motion series. I whooped with joy! (on the inside, of course... you know, staying professional and all).

So... I'm working on the Clangers! I cannot reveal much so I guess you'll have to wait until the series is released. Stay tuned. 

This week I have been mostly finding out that by adding bicarbonate soda powder to super glue (after applying to joint) it dries instantly.

One of the major events of 2014 will be my trip to South America. Me and Lucy are jetting off in June for over two months to conquer another continent on the list. And what a list we have! Our adventure begins with a cheeky six days in Miama (it was practically on route, so a trip to Universal Studios couldn't go a miss). Then we fly to Columbia and have approximately two months to explore and journey the hundreds of beautiful miles south to Buenos Aires in Argentina.
We have no initial plan but to somehow fit salsa dancing, horse riding and thong wearing into every country we visit. Yes, you read that latter one correctly. Keep an eye out for South American blogging because me and Lucy will be reminding you as often as we possibly can that we'll be adventuring in the sun. You may read in envy.

So I'm unabashedly a comic book fan. I have stacks of old Beano's, Dandy's, Star Wars, DC, Scott Pilgrim and some random anime series. But I was never really into Marvel when I was younger, because I was too transfixed with the epic, and rather dark, Batman animated series. I have managed to watch the 90's X-men and loved it. I'm really intrigued by the back stories of all these characters blah blah. Sorry I was getting bored of writing just then. The moment had evaporated. I'm currently a little under the weather and I'm trying to ease the cogs of my aching mind. So I'm becoming grumpier the more I have to concentrate and yet writing in the present tense seems to be just fine. I'm supping a hot beverage and eating cheesecake RIGHT NOW. But this trailer made me freak out and you'd understand the reason why I wanted to play the track at the start of this blog.
I know nothing of the Guardians of the Galaxy but I think this trailer reassures us that it doesn't bloody matter. Enjoy.