Paul Thomas continues his brief autobiography of his struggle to find success as an independent animator.
Julian Holdaway was a great help. A rostrum cameraman based in Bob Godfrey’s basement. He introduced me to books, people and places in the animated world and helped sustain my desire for knowledge of my craft. I had learnt a lot in a very short space of time.
Hartbeat was a playground for me. Replacing Take Hart it allowed me more freedom to explore ideas, techniques and styles. I brought road signs to life. Animated my friends in Bubblegum Billy and created many ‘one-off’s’. It was a healthy opportunity for my film making.
An idea was hatched while filming a friend in her garden. I shot short live action sequences, pixilated and animated her. I brought in David Skinner to help me create and expand to an eight minute short entitled BAM a mixed media experiment. I added further female friends to the brew including Janet Law, Bridgett Killeen and Kate Bush. Once in the can Kate’s father suggested I approach her brother Paddy for my soundtrack. Paddy, David and I assembled at the Halas and Batchelor studios to look at the footage. The soundtrack would compliment pixilation, cel and cut-outs. Expressions of tone and line in cel paint, oil pastel, ink and photo copies. Paddy’s music was superb. BAM was broadcast in Channel Four’s World of Animation series in December 1987. The programme’s producer Richard Evans commented in the broadcast, ‘A very unusual film by British animator Paul Thomas.’ I had arrived.
Richard wished to showcase a compilation of all short films I had made for Take Hart and Hartbeat to date. My Hartbeat producer Christopher Tandy gave a very blunt answer to this request. ‘No!’. I showed Tandy BAM hoping he would recognise the skills I had on offer. He remarked, ‘Why are you showing me this?’ My skills went unrecognised.
Roger Singleton Turner telephoned with a surprise commission. A strip cartoon style dream sequence for an episode of the BBC children’s comedy series Gruey Twoey. The episode was broadcast on my twenty seventh birthday.
I was hungry for a television series of my own. While looking at styles I’d pursued in my showreel I chose one used for a group of Hartbeat films. Combining photographs of the show’s co-presenter Liza Brown with full colour cels and backgrounds. I called them Kalizascopes. David Skinner and I spent nine months creating six, five minute episodes of Saffron starring the actress Sophie Aldred. It was shot by Chris Shelley and edited by Steve Gabell, my regular team. Despite all our efforts ‘Saffron’ remains un-broadcast.
Twenty two years later in retrospect I would re-record the soundtrack and write fresh scripts. The visuals will remain untouched. They contain some of the best work I have ever produced. Sophie always believed the project was ahead of its time. How far ahead? Beyond my lifetime it would seem.
My dip, thanks to Sophie Aldred, into Dr Who enabled me to meet the World Leisure Corporation. They were sitting on a project called Puzzle Cat. I was engaged to be artist, character designer and animator. I stayed with the project until the completion of the pilot episode. It was quite a pilot too!
The story was written by English folk music legend Dave Arthur. Told in live action scenes by Doc Cox and shot in Dave’s garden. Puzzle Cat was sent to Channel Four and turned down by a producer lacking the ability to spot a very good idea. We also pitched ‘Saffron’ to her. She turned that down too.
For Christmas of 1992 I bought myself a little art book about Miro. His work sent me into creative overdrive. As the new year of’1993 unfolded my Miro inspired pictures were added to a showreel seen by producer Andrew Thomas of Felgate Productions. He liked the new work.
I created The Paint Family; a mum, dad, daughter, son and dog. I was back on the box with the BBC in the children’s series Playdays. Things moved quickly. Andrew took my new creations to the Cannes Film Festival where they gained interest. ‘Get your passport ready Paul!’ Andrew cried. Next, a pilot episode was made for a TV series. Throughout I had been working with Director Anne Gobi. She and I met to record our voiceover actor at Lansdowne Studios in London. The actor was James Bolam. I directed James through the session and gave him a framed picture of The Paint Family. What a pilot we had!
It was titled A Path to The Bath. What happened next though was unbelievable. It was described to me by Anne Gobi as ‘Some rabbit like creatures jumping about in the countryside.’ What Anne had seen would put an end to my latest enterprise. They knocked Andrew and Playdays aside in their conquest. They were the Teletubbies.
To be continued.