Seattle’s first ever Pencil’s are Drawsome festival

Tony White sent us this press release about the Drawtastic aninmation festival to be held in West Seattle, USA.


Definitely pencil this one into your diary folks! DRAWTASTIC is West Seattle’s new and exciting festival of drawing & animation.

This festival is entirely unique as it pays special homage to the ‘humble pencil’ in our modern digital world. So much focus is given to today’s new technology that the poor old pencil has become undervalued, forgotten and even dismissed. However, those who know how our modern creative industries work, realize that most foundation work invariably begins with a pencil drawing – and sometimes throughout the whole process too!

West Seattle's new and exciting festival of drawing & animation

The organizers feel its time to put the pencil back on a pedestal where it belongs! To start this process, Artists, Animators and Vendors are working side-by-side with Workshop Presenters & Top Industry Professionals to share their love of the pencil with art, illustration and animation fans everywhere. Add that to the 62 amazing animated films from around the world that they will be showing on the day and you’ll see that this amounts to a pretty incredible event that totally defines ‘Pencil Power’ at its best!

The best news of all is that everything is entirely FREE – except for a small charge for their Speaker Presentations that will help cover the costs of it all. (And even those are cheaper if you buy your tickets online before the day – especially if you go for the ‘Events Pass’, that will effectively give you 5 discounted events for the price of 4!)

So why not join them for this day of art & animation magic? Bring the family too! Additional FREE fun events will include learning how to draw caricatures, or how to make animated flipbooks – as well as other spontaneous happenings! Last but not least, at the end of the day in the theater, the best animated films will be presented with their respected ‘Golden Pencil Awards’ after which, everyone will be able to chill out at their last ‘Meet ‘n Greet’ event of the day (purchased ticket required) where Artists, Animators, Presenters and Fans can hang out together and share their pencil stories!

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Animating Hartbeat

By Paul Thomas

I recently uploaded a collection of my BBC Hartbeat films to YouTube. This article covers the background story of those films. I am also planning an exhibition called Paul Thomas at the BBC. It will cover about 15 years.



Hartbeat’ was the follow up to the classic BBC TV show ‘Take Hart’. I had only been able to contribute to two series before having to start again with new ideas for a brand new format. Tony Hart would be joined by four female co presenters. The programme would appear modern and have a faster pace. My contributions began with a telephone conversation with my producer and a letter containing suggested themes to find ideas for. The process would begin as scribbles in my note books. When ready a meeting would be arranged at the ‘Hartbeat office. I would arrive armed with storyboards and a very positive attitude. All my films for the programme were made in my home studio and filmed, edited and have soundtracks created at BBC TV Centre. I used cels of various field sizes and found my techniques and desire to have a textural feel to my films improved. ‘Hartbeat’ was my playground. I would have a lot of fun and realise a lot of ideas.

Tony Hart

Tony Hart

News of Hartbeat

A BBC film can label.

A BBC film can label.

BUBBLEGUM BILLY – I created a gang of friends in full colour against a background of black and white. The soundtrack was put together with music from the BBC library and vocals from David Owen Smith and the ‘Hartbeat’ office girls. This track is called ‘Base Pattern B’. The voice of ‘Morph’, Peter Harwood, created the soundtrack and all my soundtracks with the programme. This was to be my first broadcast reference to ‘Yellow Submarine’ such an inspiration on my work. My gang consisted of Danielz (from T.Rextasy). School friend Gary Florance. ‘Grange Hill’ actress Lisa East.  Kate Bush and myself in the lead role with stories using puns on gum hence ‘Gum Boots’ and ‘Choo Choo Train’. Seeking a grainy real life background Gary Florance and I went searching for an ideal street in south east London. We found it with classic Victorian houses and a front wall. My first offering to the show in 1984 had a visually strong style and lots of potential. However with the new programme structure of not wishing to pursue regular characters Bubblegum Billy was never to be seen again. It did make it into print though being the only reference ever to be made of my characters in the ‘Radio Times’.

The clapperboard I used between shots for Bubblegum Billy.

The clapperboard I used between shots for Bubblegum Billy.

Characters from Bubblegum Billy

Characters from Bubblegum Billy

KALIZASCOPES – I reversed the Bubblegum Billy look for an idea of black and white photographs against full colour animated characters and backgrounds. I suggested Tony Hart as the star but producer Christopher Pilkington insisted on co programme presenter Liza Brown. I worked out all the key positions for Liza and a photo session with Barry Boxall was arranged on the tenth of July 1986 at TV Centre. Chris was right. Liza brought so much more to the idea than I had hoped for with inspired facial expressions and poses. On receiving the printed photographs I worked out the animation using a video line tester at the Halas and Batchelor studios in London. This was an idea I was happy to continue with hoping to animate other cast members. That didn’t happen. Things were changing.

Paul Thomas and Liza Brown at the photo shoot for Kalizascopes.

Paul Thomas and Liza Brown at the photo shoot for Kalizascopes.

Storyboard for 'Sheep Skin Coat'

Storyboard for ‘Sheep Skin Coat’

TRAFFIC SIGNS – Producer Christopher Pilkington left the show and handed over to Chris Tandy. I had to be interviewed again as Chris was unfamiliar with my work. My proposal was inspired by a copy of the highway code and my being impressed with the graphic style. There was plenty of material for humorous gags. My idea of bringing traffic signs to life thankfully impressed Chris. I took a new approach to the idea and chose to cut out all the characters from black paper and stick them on cels. The back grounds were in oil pastel on black card. This gave a new visual texture to my work. I had finally broken away from inked and painted cels.

Traffic Signs

Traffic Signs

Traffic Signs

Traffic Signs

A storyboard for 'Traffic Signs'.

A storyboard for ‘Traffic Signs’.

TIGERTOONS – With the interest in ‘Traffic Signs’ over I decided to create one-off’s and make the most of my position. I would let myself go pushing my abilities into unknown territories. The cel was my canvas. I put everything on it. Paint. Pastels. Wax. Cut-out’s. Paper. Card and used the classic special effect of ‘Ripple Glass’.  My bag of tricks grew but play time was about to end. In 1990 I was told the number of animators on the programme was being reduced and therefore my services were no longer required. I spoke with Tony Hart about this. He was sympathetic and I recall a comment he made that I had not even been presented with a certificate to say I had worked on his show.  My animated work though had matured with such an experience and I had used the medium to greater success than with ‘Take Hart’.





Issac Newton - Tigertoons

Issac Newton – Tigertoons

A sketch from 'The Mole Film' for Tigertoons.

A sketch from ‘The Mole Film’ for Tigertoons.

Three cels in animated sequence from 'The Mole Film'.

Three cels in animated sequence from ‘The Mole Film’.

Moon and Rocket - Tigertoons

Moon and Rocket – Tigertoons

‘33’ A celebration of SCRATCH

This is a guest post by Paul Thomas.

‘33’ years have passed since SCRATCH first appeared on a blank sheet of paper. Now is the time to celebrate and bring together his history in one place in Devon, the Totnes Library.

Scratch 33 poster

It’s another world since his first film for TAKE HART was broadcast on the 23rd of March 1983. It had been made at BBC TV Centre, a dream factory in West London. Once the selection from a vast archive of material was made I realised this would be the first time ever the collection would be seen. It was overwhelming to see the story of SCRATCH on display hoping to enchant the public.



The exhibition opens with ROOBARB. He appears as I began my career aged eighteen at Bob Godfrey Films in London. Bob’s most memorable character was a star by the time I arrived. It was while at this studio I received my breakthrough commission from the BBC.

Paul Thomas introduces the exhibition.

Paul Thomas introduces the exhibition.

The exhibition celebrates too the creative process of the animated film from idea to transmission print. Included are letters from the BBC. A storyboard and script. Production cels. The strip cartoons with over two hundred published in the Totnes Times and the life size cut out of SCRATCH in his Yellow Dustbin.

With such a time span of thirty three years the process and the TV show are history. They are also educational and my audience after the exhibition was opened by the Mayor of Totnes was St John’s C of E Infant School in Totnes. I enjoyed the many questions and was very pleased with the attention the children paid to my story. It was also an opportunity to pay tribute to Tony Hart, Bob Godfrey and make a reference to Kate Bush.

A recent image of SCRATCH as a comet has been very inspirational. I set up a project for the children to design the comet tail following the head I painted on A3 paper. It will be a long piece of work and have its place on the library wall for a while before being put up at the St John’s school.

Scratch 33 exhibition

It’s been quite a journey from an alley behind BBC TV Centre to Totnes high street yet after three decades and more SCRATCH has remained vibrant and full of fun.

He and I hope you enjoy his past, present and future.

Aardman’s Peter Lord presented with a Blue Peter badge

CBBC’s Blue Peter presented Morph’s co-creator, Peter Lord, with the show’s highest accolade, the gold Blue Peter badge, in an animation special on Thursday 9 July 2015.

Peter Lord Blue Peter badge

Each year only a few gold badges are awarded in exceptional circumstances for outstanding achievements, or showing amazing and unique bravery, courage and citizenship. Peter Lord joins the likes of the Queen, David Beckham, and JK Rowling on the prestigious list.

Peter Lord is the Co-Owner and Creative Director of Aardman. Peter founded Aardman with partner David Sproxton in 1972, which has since created some of the world’s most iconic animated productions, such as Morph, Wallace & Gromit, Chicken Run, and Shaun the Sheep.

Peter appeared on Blue Peter on Thursday, returning with their first creation Morph, who hasn’t appeared on the show for nearly 35 years. Adding to his list of honours, including his very first blue badge received in 1981, Peter’s gold badge is in recognition of his work for British animation on the world stage.

On receiving his gold badge, Peter said: “This is fantastic. It’s a dream come true.”

Ewan Vinnicombe, Editor of Blue Peter, said: “The Blue Peter audience love watching and creating their own animations. We are delighted to award Peter his gold badge nearly 35 years after his first appearance on Blue Peter. Peter has created some of the most well-known animated characters including of course Morph, who had a starring role on today’s show.”

The Halas & Batchelor short film collection released on DVD

Halas & Batchelor short film collectionHalas & Batchelor were responsible for over 40 years of ground breaking animated films. If you are interested in the history of British animation then the Halas & Batchelor short film collection is well worth watching. Not only does it contain 18 complete H&B short films it also has a Clapperboard interview with John Halas plus 3 other documentaries with numerous clips from the studios prolific output.

Clapperboard was a weekly show produced by Granada television and headed by Chris Kelley. In 1980 Clapperboard devoted three half-hour shows to the H&B studio to mark their 40 years in the animation business. All three programmes are in this collection.

History of the Cinema. Halas & Batchelor.

The History of the Cinema. Halas & Batchelor.

During the Clapperboard interview John Halas talks about how the studio got started with information films made for the British government in 1940, how it progressed with advertising shorts, an example being one for cornflakes, and the production of their feature length film Animal Farm. The program includes clips of the films being discussed. We learn that in Animal Farm, Winston Churchill was the inspiration for the character of the old major pig in his swan song speach. We are also told that H&Bs satirical cartoon History of the Cinema irritated the film industry to such an extent that the then head, wanted to ban the showing of the film.

John Halas and Joy Batchelor at work.

John Halas and Joy Batchelor at work.

Another of the documentaries is Ode to Joy. Joy Batchelor was the the other half of the H&B animation team. The commentary tells us that in spite being one of animations most important figures, today she is one of its unsung heroines. Examples of Joy’s work show she was a brilliant graphic artist, not only as an animator but also as an illustrator for newspapers and magazines when animation work was scarce. We are told that her illustrations set the house style for the studio. Her roll was to translate a clients brief into an engaging story, in order to persuade, sell or entertain. She also excelled in managing the work of others with the unfortunate result that she is uncredited on many of the later shorts. However, on Animal Farm she is credited with script writing, direction, production and design.

A 67 minute documentary An Animated Utopia, written and directed by Paul Wells, gives an in depth look at the character of John Halas as a humanitarian. We are informed that Animal Farm was covertly funded by the CIA as part of its strategy during the cold war. For Halas it was a labour of love enabling him to make a serious feature using animal characters. A politically charged film addressing everything from animal rights to conflicting ideologies. Another type of H&B production was demonstrated with an amusing clip from the ‘Tales from Hoffnung’ short film Birds, Bees and Storks with Peter Sellers as the voice of an old duffer explaining the facts of life.

Hamilton the Musical Elephant.  Halas & Batchelor.

Hamilton the Musical Elephant. Halas & Batchelor.

The Owl and the Pussycat.

The Owl and the Pussycat.

As well as the film clips in the documentaries there are 18 complete Halas & Batchelor’s short films ranging from the whimsical The Magic Canvas to the profetic Automania 2000. They include popular titles such as The Owl and the Pussycat, Hamilton the Musical Elephant, Tales of Hoffnung: The Symphony Orchestra, Foo Foo: The Stowaway, Butterfly Ball, The Figurehead, The History of the Cinema and Autobahn.

The Halas & Batchelor Short Film Collection is released on DVD (RRP £12.99), and Blu-ray (RRP £14.99), from 29 June 2015.

Morph returns to children’s TV after 15 years

Aardman’s classic character Morph returns to CBBC and a brand new generation of fans.

Morph on telly

Everyone’s favourite terracotta clay hero, Morph, will return to the small screen on CBBC. The new adventures of Morph will be broadcast on the channel next month.

Morph is returning home to the BBC after more than 15 years away from our television screens. Originally created in 1977 by Aardman, Morph first appeared on the BBC Children’s art programme ‘Take Hart’ alongside the artist and presenter Tony Hart.

Staying true to the original format, the new episodes are shot using clay and traditional stop-frame animation at Morph’s original home at the Aardman studios in Bristol.

Peter Lord, Aardman Co-founder and Co-creator of Morph said; “Both Morph and I are equally delighted that his latest adventures are back on the BBC. Although he’s been away for a while, I’m delighted to report that he’s as lively and full-of-fun as ever – and rather more youthful than his creators! It’s fantastic to see him back in his rightful home.”

Cheryl Taylor Controller of CBBC said; “CBBC are delighted that Morph is back on our screens this year. His playful and curious persona has always been a delight and we know that viewers of all ages will welcome him with open arms.”

The new series launched in the summer after a successful Kickstarter campaign raised over £110,000 which part-funded 15 brand new one-minute episodes. The episodes, which have been released throughout the second half of 2014 on Morph’s very own YouTube channel ( have been enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of fans worldwide.

Follow MORPH:
Website: |Facebook:
Twitter: | Instagram: @amazingmorph

Morph takes up photography


Morph, the classic children’s character created by Bristol-based Aardman Animations, has taken up photography in his brand new episode.

Morph the photographer

‘Sloped World’, is the thirteenth episode in the series of 15 one minute short films to be launched on Morph’s YouTube channel and features Morph and his side-kick Chas honing their photographic skills using a Canon EOS 550D.

Creative Director on the new Morph episodes, Merlin Crossingham said: “When Morph was first created back in 1977, he lived on an artist’s desk alongside ordinary, everyday things like pencils, paints, modelling clay, books and mugs. The new episodes feature Morph on an artist’s desk in a corner of the Aardman Studios in the current day, where along with the paint, pencils and mugs, you’d also expect to find a few electronic items. We asked for feedback on storylines from our Kickstarter backers, and many seemed to agree that Morph would get up to mischief with modern-day gadgets as we received lots of story suggestions featuring mobile phones and digital cameras.”

Merlin adds: “When we came to produce the props for Sloped World, we wanted to stick with the found object approach so we looked at real cameras for Morph and Chas to find. We shoot our animation with the Canon EOS 1D Mark IV but it was too big next to Morph for the shot composition so we chose our much smaller EOS 550D as the prop.

Merlin continues: “The entire new Morph series was shot on Canon EOS 1D Mark IV cameras over three months. The EOS 1D Mark IV has a very stable live video feed which gives vital reference for stop motion animation. We actually capture each frame as a raw file which allows us to then out put our final films at any resolution up to 4K with no fuss. It sounds a bit mean but the best thing about the cameras is that you forget that they are there, they just do the job well.”

Guido Jacobs, Country Director at Canon UK & Ireland says: “It’s great to see that Morph is brushing up on his cameras skills in the latest episode and using Canon equipment to do so. We were delighted that the EOS 550D was chosen as a camera for Morph to use as we’re big fans of the series here at Canon. Morph is a complex programme to film and the EOS 1D Mark IV allows Aardman to achieve the best results while staying true to Morph’s traditional stop motion animation.”

The new Morph series launched in the summer, after a successful campaign on the Kickstarter crowdfunding website raised over £110,000 which part-funded 15 brand new episodes. Staying true to the original format, the new episodes are shot using clay and traditional stop-frame animation at Morph’s original home at the Aardman studios in Bristol. Morph first appeared on our TV screens back in 1977 when his creators Peter Lord and David Sproxton produced short films for the BBC children’s art programme, Take Hart with Tony Hart.

‘Sloped World’ is on Morph’s YouTube channel

Aardman are also running a fab competition to win the very same camera on Morph’s Facebook page starting 5 January 2015.

The story of ‘Brigitte, Bruno and Ben’ animated by Lucy Izzard for Aardman

A 70 second film entitled “Brigitte, Bruno and Ben” tells the story of Ben who helps entrepreneur Brigitte in the ‘developing world’ by directly lending her just £10 through the website Previously Brigitte struggled to feed her family on less than 80p a day.

The film was written and animated by Lucy Izzard for Aardman and Deki. This story emotionally engages the viewer by focusing on particular people and showing the positive effect a loan can have.

Deki loan 3 Deki loan 1 Deki loan 2

Animator Lucy Izzard was born in Sydney, Australia, and moved to the UK at the age of four. Creative from an early age, she spent most of her childhood in Kent, fashioning cuts and bruises out of her mother’s makeup for murder-mystery home videos. After graduating with a First class degree in Illustration and Animation, Lucy won the BBC Three New Talent Animator Award in 2005, and began working on short films and commercials for companies such as Slinky Pictures, 12foot6 and the BBC. She currently resides in Bristol with her family, where she continues her passion for animating in her work for ArthurCox and Aardman.

Lucy Izzard’s website:

Watch the Deki film:

Aardman create new film for Imperial War Museums

Aardman and ad agency Johnny Fearless have created a new film and campaign to promote IWM London and the new First World War Galleries (opening 19 July) and to commemorate the First World War Centenary.

Flight of the Stories 4
Flight of the Stories 1
Flight of the Stories 2
Flight of the Stories 3

The 90-second film, “Flight of the Stories”, depicts the journey of personal stories and letters written by those who never left the fields of Northern France during the First World War.

In the film, ‘quotation mark’ characters symbolising these stories emerge as lines are read from letters and diaries entrusted to the museum by relatives during and at the end of the First World War. As the voices gather, the bird-like characters join to form a flock, taking flight across Northern France and the English Channel, over London, and finally resting at IWM London.

Paul Domenet, Executive Creative Director, Johnny Fearless, said:
“ We wanted to bring people to IWM London to see and hear the words of those who lived and died through the war for themselves and encourage them to reappraise the First World War in a way, which is different to the stereotypical mud and blood imagery. “

Aardman combined 2D illustrations and 3D CGI animation techniques to create a hybrid effect, bringing to life the bold landscapes and muted palettes of war artists from the era.

Darren Dubicki, Director, Aardman, adds: “We took an idea that was to create a powerful piece of imagery that is suggestive of the paintings from the era coming to life, and therefore a stunning promotional piece for the Museum’s commemoration plans.”

“Flight of the Stories” will be screened online and in cinemas from Monday 7 July as part of a multi-platform campaign supported by posters, press, radio and online ads promoting the new First World War Galleries.

The posters feature the stories of personal objects will run in Underground stations on cross-track and platform posters, tube cards and digital panels.

Johnny Fearless was appointed by the IWM in an AAR-organised pitch in April 2013.

“The film is both beautiful and poignant,” says Penny Hamilton, Head of Brand and Marketing, IWM. “I think it captures exactly what we were trying to convey – for whilst it is true that some of the people never made it back from the fighting front, their stories have, and it is our duty at IWM to ensure that they continue to be told. This what we will be doing in our new First World War Galleries.”

IWM London and the new First World War Galleries will reopen on 19 July 2014 ready to mark the official start of the Centenary commemorations.

Watch the film:

Behind the Scenes of Maynards TV ad by Aardman

Aardman have created a miniature world bringing the hedgehog family to life with stopframe animation for Maynards Discovery Patch. These are a new range of fun-shaped fruit flavour jelly and foam sweets. The ad took nearly three weeks to shoot, frame by frame.


Directors Karni and Saul had a very specific visual treatment in mind for the spot: “We were looking for a textured, intimate and handmade look so we decided to opt for needle felting finish which gives the puppets a realistic, yet cosy feel.


“The challenge was creating a world – part hedgehog, part person – that humans can relate to. It was loads of fun coming up with the small details in the set like the nature themed elements.”


The advert, which runs from 9th May, features a family of hedgehogs trying Maynards Discovery Patch for the first time and exploring the questions on pack. The ad has been produced by Aardman, the studio famous for popular characters including Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep and Morph.


The Maynards Discovery Patch range includes four themed variants – Discovery Patch Animals, Discovery Patch Body Bits, Discovery Patch Myths & Monsters and a multipack of treatsize Discovery Patch Mini Creatures. All packs feature fun facts or quizzes on the back of pack to inspire moments of family discovery. There is also a Maynards Discovery Patch app which you can unlock by scanning the pack, giving families an opportunity to discover even more through an augmented reality experience.


The TV campaign is part of a £3 million UK media investment of this year, which will also include cinema, video on demand, out of home (close to stores), digital, experiential PR and in-store activity.

Kaitlin Williams, Brand Manager for Candy at Mondelēz International, said: “We’re hugely excited to be working with Aardman for our first TV campaign for Discovery Patch. The hedgehogs are the perfect fit with the quirky and curious personality of the product, and we expect the ad’s going to be a big hit with consumers.

Watch the ad:

Making of the ad: