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.