Sunday, 25 January 2015

Episode I

So it's finally within our grasp folks; Star Wars episode VII is now on the horizon of 2015 and from what we've seen and heard, it has great potential. I mentioned a while ago about the plethora of films coming out this year, urging myself to set some money aside for the many cinema trips. Well that money has in fact gone. But on a new flat in Manchester! However, the cinemas up north seem to be falling for my permament marker smothered student card trick, expertly hiding the 2011 expiry date, which means I'm already saving money! And a £1.30 discount each time is nothing to be shunned. Although, I have been shunned once by the wise guy behind the Odeon desk in Wrexham, to which I responded, 'oh! How strange, I hadn't noticed that before.' I later commandeered a BoxTrolls cardboard cut out to balance out the injustice. 

It was really nice to see the BoxTrolls nominated for best animation of 2014. Always a victory when  a stop motion film is celebrated and does well at the box (troll) office, because you get the feeling that it's these moments of recognition that sustain the stop motion industry. There was a bit of a snub and hullabaloo within this category (or out of it, I should say) with the exclusion of The Lego Movie. Nobody seems to know the reason for this, because it certainly constitutes as an animated feature with only a small percentage of live action. Animated films need to include at least 75% animation to make it an Oscar contender and The Lego Movie absolutely falls into this category. So why isn't everything awesome? My reaction... HMMPH! Somebody else's reaction? Check out this paper baton waving chap...

So credit where credits due; the Boxtrolls was pretty good and, as I said, it puts stop motion on the map. But I'll tell you this for free (put your money away); Altrincham is the map (and now twinned with Portland, Oregon!). The animation and puppet industry is full on thriving with so many projects in the pipeline I couldn't even tell you. And I can't actually tell you!

So I'll sidestep for a moment. Below is a list of the films I plan on seeing this year, and these are only the highly anticipated ones that have been marketed years in advance; I haven't even considered other release dates. But lets put this into perspective - on average it's about £9. If I intend to see these ten films then we're looking at a lot of pocket money!
  1. Star Wars Episode VII
  2. Avengers Age of Ultron
  3. Antman
  4. Spectre (James Bond)
  5. Jurassic World
  6. The Peanuts Movie
  7. Mad Max: Fury Road
  8. Mission Impossible 5
  9. Inside Out
  10. The Hateful Eight
There are obviously many more, but these films stuck out for me personally, and as they were announced two years ago I've had chance to reforge my student card in expert fashion. I also feel that these films ought to be seen on the big screen, so I intend to not miss the majority of them. Heck, I would even boycott my own birthday party to see Episode VII. That's no lie!

I am actually looking forward to the Peanuts Movie more than most (but not Star Wars!), particularly because the animation style looks so intriguing. I know it's CG but the aesthetics are very beautiful and in keeping with the original 2D comic strip (not that it was important to do so; but it's a nice tip of the hat).

Now, the animation in my neck of the woods is a completely different kettle of fish. The stop motion production of this series is rather epic and has the same visual quality of what you'd expect to see in feature length films. The puppets are made at Mackinnon and Saunders (say no more) and the animators have delivered some tip top performances with them. Perhaps I shouldn't mention this, but at the expense of my dignity and supposed professionalism I digress. One fateful day I made a prop before Christmas that would then be fixed upon the head of a puppet, and at the time it needed to be made lickety split ready for shooting. I mish-mashed various materials together, sprayed sections and glued it all together, haphazardly I might add, and skedaddled with haste to the studio. Ah, lunch time!

Anyway, the shoot was actually delayed until the following Monday. But unbeknownst to me, this gave ample time for some superglue to seep down from the prop and onto the puppets resin head. Oh good grief! However, I was away for the following Monday and Tuesday so I had subsequently avoided the wrath of the titans and come hump day it was safe to emerge. I had never felt like such a bloody plonker. This was most certainly amateur hour for me.


There was a bit of a blast from the past recently; I was tagged in a photograph from the Strange Hill High days of which I worked on from 2013. This was from the Strange Hill magazine that is out at the moment. It generously promotes my jelly making skills, which is always a bonus in this industry!

I haven't animated for years. In fact, the last bit of animating I did was the intro to my show reel (above; which is in much need of a revamp). But I have kept up with my illustrating and painting. That was the great  thing with my stop motion course at University - it opened doors to the industry as a whole but not necessarily just the animation. I've become more of a model maker I guess, with studio experience too, but hopefully I could set up an animation studio (of sorts) in the basement of our new flat and get back in to it. It's dry, spacious and very dark - ideal for animating. Or ideal for a man-cave? I need to get my priorities right on this one. Or permission from Lucy!

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