Saturday, December 08, 2012

Students get North East panto animated

Just before I flew to Germany I wrapped co-directing on animation on South Shields Dick Whittington at the Customs House. It was a wonderful opportunity to fulfill a theatrical passion and also work with  Ross Allen and her talented team of student animators in Sunderland, many of whom I taught earlier in the year. 

The animated scene features is a live action/animation mix, featuring two of the South Shields theatre’s  long-standing pantomime’s characters, Dame Dotty and her son Tommy, played by Customs House director Ray Spencer and local comedian Bob Stott, escaping from a ship’s trunk and being chased in comic fashion by monsters of the deep.
Ray and Bob have developed their own unique brand of comedy over the last four decades, which has audiences coming back for more, smashing record after record. Last year Aladdin brought in almost 27,000 people and this year’s show could reach new heights with more than 15,000 tickets already being snapped up.   

This year it was decided to add an extra special element on stage as it’s Bob Stott’s final performance as Dame Dotty, retiring his famous bloomers and hairpiece after almost 40 pantomimes, one of the UK’s longest running Dames!

After meetings story meetings with Ray where we trashed out the sequence, I worked closely with my co-director Ros Allen who story boarded the scene. We spent a lot of time ensuring Ray and Bob appear life size on the projected image, and the compositions were adjusted for Ray and Bob to appear to be standing on the stage.

 Ray and Bob as Tommy and Dotty filmed their scenes at the green-screen facilities at the Media Centre, Sir Tom Cowie campus at St Peter’s, using professional camera operator Alistair McKenzie and the assistance of animation students, who worked on various animated characters and prop designs.

 With a low budget we had to invent on our feet. Here's me pondering how to pull of an ambitious effect Bob and Ray riding on a swimming turtle with just a table on wheels to play with.

Making a panto dress billow in the sea currents - Ray looks on as a student in a green screen suit puts his hand under Bobs skirt to create the wave action.... possibly the most embarrassing day of said students life!

Award-winning multi-media artist Chris Lavelle removed the green screen, added backgrounds, lighting and animated thousands of bubbles. And animation students at Sunderland animated an ocean full of wonderful animated characters.

The result is making waves with audiences and critics alike - Spike Mike calling it "One of the spectacular highlights of the show".Here's some stills. Dick Whittington, sponsored by Hays Travel, is running until Sunday, January 6.
ickets start from £8 and are available from the Box Office on 0191 454 1234 or by visiting