Annecy Festival 1991 – The Golden Cartoon

The films competing for the Golden Cartoon must have gained awards at one of eight European festivals. Report by David Jefferson.

Films selected to compete for the Golden Cartoon must have won major awards at one or more of the eight most important European animation festivals: Annecy, Brussels, Cardiff, Espinho, Stuttgart, Treviso, Utrecht and Zagreb. The prize is a trophy and a cheque for 35,000 ECU (£25,000)

Cartoon, an initiative of the MEDIA Programme of the EEC, conceived the Golden Cartoon as a springboard, to be used by the winning director to start a new and more ambitious project, such as a feature film or a television special.

The five nominees for the 1991 Golden Cartoon were selected from twenty-two award winning films. The finalists were:
A Grand Day Out – Nick Park – UK,
Balance – Christoph and Wolfgang Lauenstein – Germany,
Body Beautiful – Joanna Quinn – UK,
Creature Comforts – Nick Park – UK,
The Hill Farm – Mark Baker – UK.

Creature Comforts by Nick Park.

The winning film was Creature Comforts made by Nick Park. In this film zoo animals are interviewed on camera about their living conditions and the weather. The sound track is based on actual interviews with zoo visitors and people in an old folk’s home. It won an Oscar in the USA in 1991 for the best animated film.

Nick Park also had his film A Grand Day Out nominated. The film features Wallace and his dog Gromit. Whilst browsing through a series of holiday brochures in search of a spot for their annual picnic outing they discover they have no more cheese left to go with their tea-time crackers. What is to be done?

Born in 1958, Nick Park was attracted to animation at an early age. He started making films at thirteen and in 1975 the BBC broadcast one of his first productions Arch ie’s Concrete Nightmare. In 1980 he finished his BA degree in Communication Art at the Sheffield School of Art and in the same year he started studying animation at the National Film and Television school in Beaconsfield. Nick has been part of the Aardman Animations team since 1985 where he has worked on numerous publicity spots, musical clips and television sequences such as Friday Night Live (1988), Spitting Image (1987), Morph and many others.

Nick Park.

Both of Nick Park’s award winning films were made using Plasticine. “A Grand Day Out was a project that was started at the National Film and Television School,” said Nick. “It was made with National Film School money; that is very good as a student budget but quite low as a commercial budget. It was a single handed production, more or less, and it took me six years to make.”

In the middle of Grand Day Out he joined Aardman Animations in Bristol and they helped him finish it. “They gave me studio space and so on,” explained Nick. “Just as I was coming to the end of Grand Day Out I started Creature Comforts; that is part of a series produced by Aardman called ‘Lip Synch’. It took about three months to make.”

Since completing Creature Comforts he has mostly been working on television commercials. “However, like the other directors at Aardman we do a number of other thing in between,” reported Nick. “I am also planning a sequel to A Grand Day Out that I hope to be shooting soon.”

A series of television commercials were made by Nick Park based on the idea of Creature Comforts. Two of these were entered in the Annecy Festival: Heat Electric Frank and Heat Electric Pablo; together with Creature Comforts they were awarded the ‘Special Jury Prize’.

The advertisements were commissioned after the initial success of Creature Comforts. “The agencies are always on the lookout for new ideas for commercials,” explained Nick. “They have feelers out looking at work from art schools and the films studios are making independently. At worst they rip people off and get other people to use these ideas and at best they get you to rip yourself off. Perhaps I should say they get you to use the idea again but in a commercial.”

After Creature Comforts came out Aardman were sent scripts with polar bears advertising all sorts of things. None of them were very good and Nick did not want to work on them. Then they received the proposal for electric central heating and liked it. “The agency wanted the adverts to be episodes made like Creature Comforts,” said Nick. “Although it was not about zoos it was based on the same idea of interviewing people, only this time getting them to talk about the importance of heating. I also liked it because it was not a hard sell campaign, we were not saying ‘buy this’. Many people think it is for gas central heating, so you could say it was not successful, but they are still showing them.”

The sound track was recorded in the same way as Creature Comforts, it was not scripted and not acted. “It was actual interviews which meant we had to do a lot of recording to get one thirty-second piece,” explained Nick. “We have been commissioned to make five more. Because many people thought the last ones were gas this time the clients have said they would like people to mention electricity.”

They interviewed sixty people to get suitable recordings for the first three adverts but this time they were more selective. “We went to people we knew would give good interviews,” divulged Nick. Interviewing and editing the tapes took four weeks. The model making took another two weeks and was completed before the shoot. All the models were made by Debbie Smith. She sculpts them from Nick’s designs. The thirty-second commercials take about eight days to shoot. “On a good day I get through five seconds of film, that is a very long day, on average I would get through three or four,” estimated Nick.

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