The short film “Skywhales”, was featured in Animator’s newsletter issue 7, winter 1983. It was written and directed by Derek Hayes and Phil Austin at Animation City. Skywhales has been discovered by a new generation, thanks to its appearance on YouTube, and has become a cult classic on the Internet.
Derek Hayes and Phil Austin met as students at Sheffield Hallam University where they were on a diploma course for Art and Design (1971 – 1974). Whilst at university they collaborated on several animation projects using a clockwork Bolex camera and an old enlarger stand. That lead to a life in film and was the start of a creative partnership that lasted 18 years.
After graduating they were offered places as the first animation students at the National Film and Television School (NFTS) where they made a 20 minute film, “Max Beeza and the City in the Sky”, as well as working on live-action films with other students.
After the NFTS Derek made a short film for BBC Bristol called “Albion”, which was part of the “Animated Conversations” series. Then in 1979 he got a call from Julian Temple, a fellow ex-student of the NFTS, to say he was directing a feature film with the Sex Pistols called “The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle”. He asked if they would do some animation for it. Derek Hayes and Phil Austin joined forces again and promptly launched an animation company, called Animation City, to do the cartoon inserts, graphics and titles for the film.
Animation City was based in Soho, London for 14 years, making commercials, TV graphics, pop videos and short films. Among the short films was “Skywhales” made for Channel 4 TV. The studio won various awards including a BAFTA for the titles of “Jeeves and Wooster”.
Phil Austin sadly died in 1990. In 1993 Derek closed Animation City to become a freelance director and since then he has directed two short films and two cinema features:
“The Miracle Maker” (1999), was an award winning animated life of Christ and featured the voices of Ralph Fiennes, William Hurt, Julie Christie and Miranda Richardson. It used model animation, 2D animation and computer graphics.
“Otherworld” (2002), with Ioan Gruffydd, Daniel Evans, Matthew Rhys and Philip Madoc. It mixed 2D animation, computer graphics and live-action to retell a series of ancient Celtic legends of love, magic and war.
In 2003 – 2004 he worked with Aardman Animation developing a feature film project called the “Tortoise v Hare”. He was engaged as Director but the film was a casualty of the collapse of the relationship between Aardman and DreamWorks.
From 2005 to the present Derek has produced storyboards for Cartwn Cymru, Cardiff, “Friends and Heroes”; CharacterShop, “Haven”, “DU”, “Knight Rider” and Bristol Zoo. He has also worked as a storyboard supervisor and consultant for various film companies including Dramatico Entertainment and Ragdoll Ltd.
Derek has been External Examiner for various animation courses, including the RCA and the London Institute and is a lecturer at University College Falmouth on the Digital Animation BA course.
Skywhales, by Animation City.