Author Archives: David Jefferson

About David Jefferson

My name is David Jefferson and I live near the historic English market town of St. Albans, Hertfordshire, England. I have a background in print and graphic design and was the editor of Animator magazine between 1982 and 1995. Animation has been one of my hobbies for many years. I have explored most methods of animation including drawn, plasticine/clay, puppet and computer. The disciplines learnt creating animation help me as a designer of stitching card and string art patterns. I created the patterns available from the Stitching Cards, Form-A-Lines and String Art Fun websites.

National Accident Helpline / Aardman animation competition

Aardman animation competitionNational Accident Helpline has teamed up with Aardman to run an animation competition. Aspiring animators are being invited to create a short animation on the theme ‘Success against the odds’ for a chance to win an animation lover’s experience including a tour of the Aardman studios, ‘Make a morph’ workshop, original Morph artwork signed by Peter Lord, travel and accommodation. The winner and shortlisted entrants also get personalised feedback on their animation from Aardman.

More information and entry pack available here: http://www.national-accident-helpline.co.uk/success-against-the-odds

Entries must be submitted by 18 May 2014.

Aardman plan to bring back Morph

MorphFans of Aardman may remember Morph, the loveable clay character who could change into lots of different shapes.

After an amazing response from the public, Morph creator and Aardman co-founder Peter Lord is launching a campaign to bring Morph back for a new series of adventures!

Using Kickstarter, Peter is appealing to fans for backing in return for a host of exclusive rewards and the chance to be involved in the production process. Find out more on his Kickstarter page.

Scratch and the Yellow Dustbin released on YouTube

 

Yellow Dustbin is a seven minute animated film starring Scratch, Itch and Eve. It is the first Scratch film to be made in thirty years. Scratch last appeared on British television in 1983. In the meantime Scratch and his cartoon pals are alive and well, and appearing regularly as a strip cartoon in the Salisbury Journal.

Armed with a simple love story, Paul Thomas has set his new film in the town of Totnes, where the Scratch strip cartoons are published. Paul says the architecture proved to be ideal for the backgrounds creating a nostalgic English feel. The surreal images were inspired by Dada and psychedelia.

We asked Paul about the production of Yellow Dustbin.

David Jefferson: You were making short animations for the BBC Take Hart programs in the 1980s when film ruled the day. How do the digital tools available to the present day animator compare with shooting on film?

Scratch last appeared on BBC TV with artist and children's television presenter Tony Hart in 1983

Scratch last appeared on BBC TV with artist and children’s television presenter Tony Hart in 1983.

Paul Thomas: There was tension and anticipation when awaiting the delivery of a 16mm cutting copy being processed over night at the Rank Film Labs. Hoping there were no scratches on the neg and I always did mixes and fades ‘in camera’ which too were a risk. Then watching the precious piece of film on the Steenbeck editing table, breathing a sigh of relief that all went to plan.
Then later in the process to have Peter Harwood (the voice of Morph) create a soundtrack to picture. I relished the challenge to bring all the creative contributions together for a short animated film fit for broadcast on national television.

In comparison all the previous processes can be achieved digitally on a computer without leaving your seat. Yes you bypass time consuming activities. Yes you can create everything yourself with the aid of software packages but I always enjoyed the adventure of going to BBC TV Centre. I felt a part of the programme while being able to drop in the production office on spec. Sit in on editing and dubbing. Having the privileged position of watching unedited sequences of Tony Hart unhindered by music overdubs as he performed to camera.

DJ: What were the main software tools used in the production of Yellow Dustbin?

PT: My home computer was the main tool used to create Yellow Dustbin. I used Windows Movie Maker software to assemble the images. It’s a godsend. I can make my crazy illustrated films with The Hare and The Moon on tap. I wished to maintain the rouge edge look of the original Scratch films and that was achieved through the artwork and the various mediums I used. It was the first time working without a rostrum camera so my work was simply scanned in using a peg bar taped to the scanner.

The music, vocal and Matt Dean’s photographs were loaded from emails and CD’s. It was the editing though that made the film. I was surprised my computer offered so much for me to achieve what I wanted. The ability to drop images in here and there. Pull the soundtrack into line with the picture and move entire scenes around at the click of a button.

DJ: The voice of I.V. Webb has a beautiful clarity. Is she a professional actress?

PT: No. I.V. Webb is a singer songwriter currently recording an album in the UK. Once the music for Yellow Dustbin, composed by performed by The Hare And The Moon, was complete I sought a vocalist. I found I.V. Webb. On hearing the warmth and tone in her voice knew she was the one. I was fortunate I.V. took a shine to the script and I made a return to the old ways by taking her into a recording studio to put the vocal down.

I.V. Webb records the voiceover for Yellow Dustbin.

I.V. Webb records the voiceover for Yellow Dustbin.

Paul explained that Yellow Dustbin is structured as a four part symphony.

Part 1. Home: Sitting on a bench in Totnes high street Paul reflects on his animated cartoon characters. They escape once more from his imagination with help from the music of The Hare And The Moon, the voice of I.V. Webb and photographs taken by Matt Dean. Scratch in his Yellow Dustbin is lifted above the top of the steep high street looking down to his destination as oranges race by Itch mouse.

Part 2. Sky: Itch decorates the sky with whimsical waggish dazzle. Scratch is side tracked but entertained.

Part 3. Remember: As the sky display dwindles The Gallery takes us back to where it all began with Tony Hart. Hanging on a pink wall are scenes from those first animated appearances in Take Hart.

Part 4. Love: Unaware of his interruptions as she dreams of their romance Eve waits for Scratch at the bottom of the high street. It’s clear they are in love. Paul bids us thank you and goodbye in a very Dylanesque way.

Totness museum poster

Totness museum poster

NFTS launches new animation course with Aardman

The NFTS (National Film and Television School) has launched a new animation course in partnership with the Aardman Animations to meet the growing demand for animators in the UK.

The exciting new three-month Certificate in Character Animation course will be taught by industry professionals, including main tutors Loyd Price, Head of Animation at Aardman (Nightmare before Christmas, Chicken Run, The Curse of the WereRabbit, Flushed Away and Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists) and Mathew Rees, Supervising Senior CG Animator (commercials for clients such as Serta, Chevron, British Gas, Hershey’s as well as work on Pirates!).

The Pirates! from Aardman Animations.

The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists from Aardman Animations.

Loyd Price said: “The UK is very much a powerhouse of animation at the moment. Our continued success at Aardman and that of others such as the NFTS means that people are travelling to the UK from all over the world to learn our style of stop frame and CG animation. We’d like to build on that success by developing home-grown talent to work in this exciting entertainment industry.”

The Bristol based studio has enjoyed continued popularity at both the box office and the Academy Awards. It has won four Oscars and had 10 Oscar nominations including the animated feature film Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists, which was nominated for Best Animated Feature Film this year.

The NFTS’ stop-frame animated film Head Over Heels was nominated for Best Short Animation this year – the only film school nominated for an Oscar in 2013. The School’s stop-frame animated film Miss Todd is also a finalist in the Oscar qualifying 2013 student Academy Awards (a competition it has previously won 5 times) and its charcoal-drawn animated film Magnificent Lion Boy is the only UK film school film in Cinéfondation at the Cannes Film Festival this year.

Nik Powell, NFTS Director said: “We’re looking for applicants with a real passion for animation to join this flagship course.”

Jon Wardle, NFTS Director of Curriculum and Registrar added: “This course will give participants a chance in a life-time opportunity to train with Aardman animators and gain the highest level of animation skills that can help them get jobs in this growing industry.”

The 12 –week intensive course will take place at Aardman’s Bristol headquarters and provide the core practical skills needed to become professional animators. The majority of the course is practical with participants working on animation exercises to improve their skills, knowledge and experience. This will also be supported by animation theory. It culminates in a short character animation sequence – pre-planned and boarded – to showcase the skills learnt during the course.

Don’t miss out – Apply before the Friday 21st June 2013 deadline for the Certificate in Character Animation course that starts in September 2013.

Shaun the Sheep returns

Shaun the Sheep makes his highly anticipated return to the UK small screen this month with twenty brand new episodes – proving that life is never dull on Mossybottom Farm. Shaun and the gang return at the end of February, Monday – Friday from 25th February at 3.15pm on CBBC.

shaun-the-sheep

Shaun and his farm friends cause mayhem in the 20 x 7 minute episodes when they get involved in high jinks with hand gliders, dinosaurs, ducks, graffiti, crows, window cleaning, bulls, skate boards, old home movies and even a piano – in an iconic Laurel and Hardy moment!

To support the new series launch, CBBC have commissioned another five Championsheeps games to add to the existing suite of popular online games released during last year’s summer of sport. The games were produced as an experience with on-going appeal which is both engaging and entertaining for fans and encourages friendly, social competition and interaction with the show’s characters.

The new games, which are available on the CBBC website, were developed by Aardman’s in-house digital team who have made significant updates to the suite including new animations for the main hub and new ways of reporting high scores and achievements. A special unlock code feature has also been created and fans will be provided with codes at the end of each new episode giving players access to special features in each of the new games.

The team have been working closely with Aardman’s expert CG artists in order to progress the look of the characters in the game by developing 3D models, enhancing the game experience both aesthetically and mechanically as the 3D elements provided far greater flexibility than a 2D graphic with the movement of each character. In turn this allowed the Digital team more creative freedom to produce five visually appealing and addictive games for Shaun fans to enjoy across the world.

The Staves Winter Trees Video from Aardman

Aardman have collaborated with Atlantic Records and British folk rock trio The Staves to create a visually stunning music promo to accompany their latest single Winter Trees from their debut album Dead & Born & Grow.

 

Aardman directors Karni and Saul talk about the making of Winter Trees:

“The weird thing for us about this video, is that for a song called Winter Trees we wouldn’t normally base a story in a forest with trees but saying that when we first heard the song, we wrote ideas down separately just brainstorming it… and we both wanted a forest. So we guess it had to be that way, its the feeling the song gave us. So beautiful but slightly sad and bare too – like a forest. Something emotional.

“Then we bashed out the idea back and forth between us – coming up with slightly hybrid animals escaping something and an ‘owl lama’ with a man/spirit on its back.

“We knew from the girls, the song was based on a relationship so we wanted to take it wider and further by showing creatures escaping a flood and hanging precariously of tips of trees. It reminded us of the fisherman who sit on tall poles in the sea, it was a very visual scene. We wanted it to feel emotional while not too twee and have a story that was symbolic of a relationship and slightly surreal.

The trees represent the three staves sisters in a very loose way.

The trees represent the three staves sisters in a very loose way.

“We also wanted to make the trees the musicians, so there are three trees that represent the three staves sisters Emily, Jessica, and Camilla in a very loose way.

“As for the visual treatment we wanted to base it on 3d laser-cut wood puzzles – which we’d been researching it for a while. We made some art work examples and ref images and Saul sketched the rabbit squids and the lama owl.

“After that we showed it to Atlantic and the girls, who loved it and gave us the green light.

“Then we had to figure out how to make it, together with Aardman’s animation and CG team. Obviously we are based in one of the best places in the world for animation, so we figured it out pretty quick. It’s a mix of techniques; hand drawn, flash and CG animation. None of it is classic stop frame though.

The Staves Winter Trees Video“We wanted that hand drawn emotional feel with the ease and 3D model feel of the real world that CG can give. So we mixed it up like we usually do.

“Then it was a matter of an animatic and making it look like wood, giving it dramatic lighting, deciding on shape/style of animation/colours and all that.

“The girls were very trusting in us and the vision and so we could just get on with it. It was a tight schedule and budget so we had to work fast and make everyone else work very hard with us. But they were all so enthusiastic about the visuals and song that they were willing and super collaborative.

“We are really pleased with the end result and the label and girls are too. It seems to have struck a chord with people, it’s getting quite a bit of attention, maybe because it’s something a little fresh visually that’s still delicate and has an emotional story.”

The Staves. Emily Staveley-Taylor - vocals, Camilla Staveley-Taylor - vocals and ukulele, Jessica Staveley-Taylor - vocals and guitar. Photograph by Dan Curwin © Atlantic Records UK.

The Staves. Emily Staveley-Taylor – vocals, Camilla Staveley-Taylor – vocals and ukulele, Jessica Staveley-Taylor – vocals and guitar. Photograph by Dan Curwin © Atlantic Records UK.

Aardman Launches New Animate It! Kit

Have you ever watched an Aardman film and wanted to try plasticine animation yourself? Aardman have released a brand new Animate It! kit containing materials and software to help you get started.

Built around Aardman’s world-leading stop-frame technique and characters, the pack comes complete with software, tutorials and moulds to make your characters.

The kit contains software that enables you to shoot your animation sequences using a webcam and store them on your computer. A webcam and computer are NOT included. There is an on-screen tutorial from an Aardman Animator. A Morph character can be modeled with the clay supplied. To help with this there is a Flexi-mould and stick-in eyes.
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Aardman & WARL create a new look for Clipper Tea

Aardman Commercials have partnered with WARL and Clipper Tea, the UK’s only company to boast a completely Fairtrade and organic range of tea, coffee and drinking chocolate, to create a gorgeous new national TV ad campaign for their Everyday Teas.

The 20-second stop frame commercial, which was launched on 27 April and runs for a month, has been brought to life by Aardman director Daniel Cohen, who has created a never-ending ‘conga’ of mugs joyously dancing past a box of Clipper Everyday Tea while being filled with tea bags and hot water from a kettle. “The simple concept of mugs dancing ‘the conga’ worked tremendously and was great fun to direct!” says Cohen.
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