Friday, December 22, 2006

Wishing you an animated Christmas!

Christmas came early this year for as I was busy helping year 10 and 11 pupils at Sydney Smith School in Hull create animated backdrops for the school pantomime. As fas as I know, this is the first time a school has used large scale back projection for animation as part of a theatre production. Here are some stills from behind the scenes. The set design is by the student director. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Perfect for your Christmas stocking!

Just what you've always wanted! Yes, the photo-graphic novel "The Last Coiner" is avaibale on line and in specialist stores, and my fine features grace the pages as the nortorious John the Informant!

See Duchy Parade Films for more details.

Christmas shopping with Riffs of Rage!

Yeah, it's been ages. So much going on right now, that what with preparing for Christmas, (Ho, ho, ho) blogging has rather suffered. If you've been Christmas shopping in Newcastle, you might have seen Riffs of Rage in all its cartoon glory on entering the train station! It's playing to thousands of happy shoppers on a big screen there. Hurrah!

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Simpsons Movie

I can't wait to see this film. Check out the trailer. Fantastic as always.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Raggy Dolls

I trawled through all my really old reels a few weeks ago for the presentation I gave at the co-op young peoples film festival. On one old VHS tape I found a couple of episodes of "The Raggy Dolls" which I actually did camera work on. At 16, I blagged a couple weeks at Orchid Productions and persuaded them to let me loose doing sound breakdown and working in the camera room, on top of animation and drawing tuition from the brilliant Mark Mason. No computer lip-sync systems. And of course all the animation drawings were transferred to cells and filmed under pressure class onto 16mm film. It's so amazing how much animation production has changed and really exciting. A lot of the tedium which cost studies a lot of money is now being redirected into richer animation and more elaborate set-ups. Mark Mason redesigned the Raggy Dolls to what you see above. He taught me an incredible amount about drawing and dared me to push my skills. A real inspiration. Thanks Mark.


I'm love good film posters, so I thought it would be fun to show some posters from films I've worked on.

I got a big kick out of animating some of the show stopping effects in this opening sequence at Nexus Productions. Some of my effects appear on this poster, designed by Nexus directors, Smith & Foulkes.

A truly iconic poster from the film that got me a break into the effects animation world in London at Tandem Films. I had the time of my life learning under some of the best in the business and animating many of the effects for "Tiggers Family Tree" song sequence.

What is it with DVD airbrushed covers? Sadly, this looks better than any of the film posters I saw, which is a real shame. I saw some really great conceptual work on this film, and it was a shame that the studios involved were unable to bring that vision to the screen. I only did a few shots on this film and I'm still proud to say I nearly killed Tiny Tim with a the bucket of ice cold water!

Friday, October 27, 2006

International Animation Day

Well, it's animation day on Saturday (hurrah!) and I'll be in Hull premiering animated films made by local people for SPARC (Social Participation in Actively Rebuilding Communities) produced by Terrapin Productions for a government regeneration project.

I've been spending the last two weekends in Hull running an animation club for members of the local community, which has been amazing, and a lot of fun. Two 13 year old girls told me doing my workshops is more fun than playing computer games!!! My life is complete! The whole world has been invited to Preston Road on Saturday afternoon, which is a little nerve wracking as we still have complete a lot of work.

Preston Road is part of the New Deal for Communities (NDC) which is a key programme in the Government's National Strategy foneighborhoodod Renewal. We are using animation for initial consultation and planning, producing a series of short animated films exploring Preston Road. I'll try and get a link up to some of the films soon.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Innovative Yorkshire Folk

Duchy Parade Films project "The Last Cointer" has made BBC news. Check it out!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Co-operative Young Film Makers

I'm thrilled to be giving a talk and animation workshop at the Co-operative Young Film-makers Festival in Bradford this Friday. During 'Animated Adventures', I'll be talking about some of the films I've worked on over the years, as well as my work using animation with young people in education and community arts. It will be followed by a flipbook workshop later in the afternoon.

In case anyone is interested in coming, the seminar starts at 12.30 in the Cubby Broccoli cinema. I'm told that booking is essential!

The Co-operative Young-filmmakers Festival has provided young people with the opportunity to air their films on the big screen since 1966.
It runs from 13 - 14 October and, in the words of the organizers, features 100 short films, over 20 fantastic film workshops and masterclasses and everything you want to know about the film industry with advice from our friendly film experts.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Well done to "It's a Boy!"

I'm delighted to hear that the book, "It's a Boy!", has won the children's book of the year award at the UK Christian Book Awards. Congratulations to Alexa Tewkesbury and Steve Legg who worked so hard on this imaginative re-telling of the Christmas Story. It has been widely distributed to primary schools, and was prompted by Legg’s discovery that many children thought Jesus was named after a swearword. I did a small amount of work on the animated film as a storyboard artist.

Saturday, September 09, 2006


I finally had the chance to see Christian Volkmans much talked about 3D computer hybrid feature film, "Renaissance". As a fan of Blade Runner, Akira, Sin City and French graphic art, I was needless to say, eager to see this film. Sadly the film doesn't quite match the giddy heights of either film, but what it does represent is a continuing experimentation in bringing the world of graphic novels, and other sylized worlds to a cinema currently obsessed with hyper-realism.

Renaissance looks stunning in stills, with the kind of beautifully executed environments the genre demands. And in the cinema, the higly detailed set-pieces bring you into this world with breathtaking cinematography. But the animation, created using motion capture, left me much mess impressed. While non-photorealistic rendering worked wonders with environments and props, a 3D model rendered with 2D shaders can never hope to replicate the graphic style of an illustrator who uses flat lines and shapes to create aesthetic style and beauty. And just like rotoscoping made drawn animation look wooden, the same is true in motion capture for non-photorealistic rendering.

While I am excited about the possibilities opening up to animation with the aid of the computer as most people, am I the only person who thinks the characters in this film would have been better hand animated? And the tell tale 3D smoke replaced with graphical hand drawn smoke as respectful to the style of graphic art novels as the sets and characters? I'm hard pressed to think of a film more obvious for such a treatment.

High end-technology may sound more sexy than light-boxes, pencil and paper, but isn't it the end result that's the important thing? In this case, I think both would have worked together to achieve a richer film. But maybe I'm just old fashioned.

See the film French website more more about Renaissance.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Last Coiner

I've had the pleasure to be involved with what is promising to be an incredibly exciting project - The Last Coiner. Peter Kershaws production company, Duchy Parade Films are developing a graphic novel inspired by a true story of coiners, counterfeiters of gold and silver coins, that took place in Yorkshire in the late 1700's.

What makes The Last Coiner particularly exciting is not just the great story, but the exciting way it's being made availble. There's a ground breaking MySpace site highlighting the making of the film with beutiful costume designs by Charlotte Aspin. There's also an evolving website which promises an interesting way to see the evolving art of storytelling in action.

I spent a couple of days acting alongside some wonderfully accomplished actors in my first experience in film work. To create the look of a graphic novel, all sets are being drawn or created in 3D, with the acting against blue screen, which was an interesting challenge – although very similar to studio theatre which traditionally uses minimal to no scenery, which I’m much more familiar with. I play John the Informant, so I'll be keeping in character over the coming months informing you of developments on this blog!

Development of the Last Coiner screenplay has now attracted support from the UK Film Council through Screen Yorkshire and a production ready script is expected by the end of 2006. Be sure to check out the website and this short film with an interview from yours truly.

Friday, July 28, 2006


I finally got the chance to enjoy the amazing heat wave by going camping for the weekend with some friends in Scarborough. I have a ridiculously romantic notion of camping which is probably entirely myth as I haven't been camping for years. Apart from the shock of trying to sleep through outrageously loud snoring and waking up to outrageously loud bird-song, we enjoyed it so much we are making plans tocamp some more later in the summer. I may just have to get ear plugs.

Susan is a graphic designer and drew this quick sketch of me as a romantic camper, which I thought was so funny I should share it with you. Susan and Graham are a wonderful couple who have the enviable position of being able to work and live together. They just returned from their honeymoon in Italy.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Animating the Zidane way

Well, I was working at St Mary’s college last week with artists from Creative Partnerships on a scheme funded by Arts Council England. I was mainly teaching year 10 pupil’s animation for their websites. There are lots of good methods to introduce animation principles, but I couldn’t resist using the Zinedine Zidane head butt as an illustration. In fact it’s amazing when you study the motion, how many principles it shows - Newton’s laws of motion, anticipation, action and reaction, weight – all of that. It always amazes me how well students apply these principles when they are taught well. We even got a couple of Zidane animations!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

What a week!

Hi. This is a flying post, as it's all so incredibly busy at the moment with so much great stuff going on. On Tuesday I started my first job with Creative Partnerships at St Mary school in Hull, taking a cartoon illustration class for the students web sites. I'm just about to get the train up to Hull to spend a week with them doing storyboarding and animation. Can't wait!On Thursday I was back at Bricknell School doing voice recording for "The very Hungry Caterpillar". The girl who recorded the French track was just five! I've got so many nice comments from people about how the Hungry Caterpillar is shaping up and I’m looking forward to delivering it tomorrow.

Saturday was an awesome day. I had my own tent at the Northalerton Youth Festival, running a flipbook workshop. We had everyone from children to adults come along and try their hand at animation. As well as everyone being able to take their flipbooks away, we managed to film most of them and build it up into a little film. The festival catered for 4000 young people and had everything from live bands, painting, music and film tents, to skateboarding, rock-climbing etc. It must be the summer! Brilliant to be part of. Big respect to CYC for organising it all. Hopefully, I'll get the chance to do some more good work with them before long.

Friday, June 30, 2006

The very bad blogger

OK, I don't want to make excuses, but I have been very busy this month with lots of projects that I really couldn't talk about until now.

Anyhow, I've just got back from Hull last night after spending a fantastic week working with the BBC and Bicknell Primary School helping year 4 pupils animate Eric Carle's wonderful book, "The Very Hungry Caterpillar", and record dialogue tracks in several languages.

It's been wonderful working with BBC learnXpress over the last year and in many ways this project feels like the result of a growing realization of how successfully we can use animation as a fun aid to learning. Being able to use such a classic piece of modern children’s literature has been, of course, amazing. We screened the first few language versions to the children yesterday and I hope to be able to give more good news and links to the creation of this project very soon, so stay tuned for developments! In the meantime, here's the official link to Eric Carle's web site, a legendy hero of mine and children everywhere.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Worlds End

I made this simple puppet for the short play Worlds End, written by Harrogate Theatres junior age writers for the Write On. I made an entire family of cacti and, best of all, actually got to be a puppeteer for a couple of them! The eyes, which bounce around, make all the difference!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Little Monsters

Expanding the "Little Monsters" franchise was a large part of my work at Splash and these sketches show the development process of a couple of the new children's books I worked on with my rough sketches on the left and the final illustrations by illustrator Joanne Byatt on the right. It was great fun developing these characters with the team we had on board.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Pixar: 20 Years of Animation

I've just come back from a London and managed to see the Pizar exhibition at the science museum. Wow! I spent two happy hours goggling at the most extraordinary animation exhibition I've ever seen in my life. The centre piece is a staggering state of the art zoetrope using strobe lighting to create the illusion of movement. It you possibly can get there, then go!

The Science museum are also hosting an animation competition to win a limited edition Toy Story image and have an absolutely superb animation tool to use on online. In fact it is one of the best pieces of software I've seen available for children!

You can have a go for free here!

If all that's not enough, then you can see interviews with Pixar production designer Ralph Eggleston here.
The exhibition is on open till the 10th June.

Animate! Exhibition in Hull

Here's one for all you Yorkshire boys and girls. An animation exhibition in one of my favorite stomping grounds from the fine people at Animate! It's at the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull. I'll have to pop over the next time I get a few minutes.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Eclectic Collective

My friend from Bournemouth, Sam Jacobs of Stilton Studios is hosting a contempory art exhibition at Brighton Marina this coming weekend. I sadly can't make it personally, but it looks fantastic.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Book links available

I've now added links to animation books at the bottom of the page. I know a lot of students and young people access this site and I thought it would add to the richness of information in addition to the links pages already available. Every one of theses books is a classic and part of my personal collection.

Write On 06

Harrogate Theatre's festival celebrating new writing starts today. It cumulates on Saturday with Gone in 60 Seconds with Harrogate Theatre and Brooklyn College, New York hosting the world’s only international play festival. You can see me in 4Play, Worlds End and Lifescape!

Friday, April 28, 2006

Bill Peet

Here's a great site about legendary story artist, illustrator and children's author, Bill Peet.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

RTS/Screen Yorkshire careers event

Animation censorship

Here's an absolutely fascinating article about censorship in golden-age Hollywood animation. I've giving this article from the letterbox and widescreen advocacy page a rant alert but it's well worth a read.

There are plenty of articles about "Tom and Jerry" and "Song of the South", but I never knew that the pastoral symphony in "Fantasia" was cropped and digitally manipulated to remove black centaurs in typically racist caricatures from the time. I understand why Disney feels the need to remove these for a family audience today, but as a piece of cinema history it is a shame it's not available to see in another version. However some of these clips are available. Click on the still to see a clip of the black centaur polishing the white centaurs hooves. I find it a disturbing scene but I'm not sure that means we should blot out the past. As the author says, if we do not learn from the past, we are condemned to repeat it.


I've just discovered this website from French ex-Disney animator Raul Garcia. If you've had fun animating and are wondering how you to make it that bit better, this site has some good tips and tutorials from an animation master. It's also has art galleries featuring drawings and cel paintings from classic animation history.

It is a shame that some of the lessons, like the man getting up from the chair, suffer from some classic mistakes (like twinning) when Raul Garcia knows much better. Nevertheless, it's still a very good site. I've added the site to my links.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Louis Labeck

I managed to find some time over Easter to knuckle down and do some character design work for what's probably going to be my next short film about a mime artist. The inspiration came from a brilliant 1 minute theatre play by Jack Goodstein which I saw at the 'Write On' 05 writing festival between Harrogate Theatre and Brooklyn College, New York. I think I like the (top) design, but please do comment. After all, that's the joy of blogging, right!
The sketch above was one my fist drawings. I like the rhythm and flowing lines but I've tried to achieve a more cartoony sense of caricature, particularly in the face.
I like the head in this concept (left) but I decided that definite bones, instead of 1920's rubber-hose arms, would make for clear poses. I've also settled for more minimal clothing which I think emotes a more impressionistic design. And I wouldn't want to get bogged down in all that CGI cloth!

Much more on this film over the next few weeks and months.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Live Music at Harrogate Theatre

My friend Mark, of Pumpleton Sonic Landscaping fame, has sent me this message. His work has contributed to the variety and vibrancy of the arts at Harrogate Theatre and is well worth supporting, wherever you live.

Hey up everyone. As you may or may not know we've been stopped putting music nights on at Harrogate Theatre. Please show your support by signing this petition to get live music back in the Theatre's programminge, and please pass it on to as many people as possible. This is as much about supporting grassroots live music as it is about our specific cause.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

It's a small world after all!

I've just got an email from an old friend from animation college at Bournemouth. Andy Grisdale, who now works as an animator at Blur Studios in LA, saw my blog and got in touch. Fantastic!

The last time I saw Andy was in London when I was working on "The Tigger Movie". It was the opening weekend of Star Wars Episode 1 and everyone was hoping it might be good. Tickets sold out in Leicester Square for the show, so I went to idle some time away, get an ice cream and sat under a tree in one of London's parks - and bumped into Andy and some other friends by complete chance! Weirder still, they just happened to have a spare ticket for the very Star Wars performance I wanted to see. Crazy! We had such great day it took another viewing of the film to decide it actually wasn't very good!

Andy has a fantastic website and blog with some brilliant short films. Well worth a look.

Monday, April 03, 2006

John Paul II remembered

I was listening to the news yesterday about the 1st year commemorating the death of Pope John Paul II.

I was in Lithuania last year when he died so and I've found these photographs.

It was extraordinary and really very moving to be in Lithuania at such an important moment for so many people in the country. It was at that moment that Lithuania stopped being merely a place of cultural interest and actually became something incredibly powerful and tangible. It's one thing to do the tourist thing but it's quite another be caught up and be part of a national experience. Some of the images I will never forget.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Vernic in Warrington!

There seems to be no stopping Vernic. The latest tour date is at the Warrington Film Festival, taking place on the 7th/8th April 2006. For more information, check out the the festival website.