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.

The Mighty Crank Handle

Guest post by Paul Thomas.

I sent a friend request to The Hare And The Moon, a psychedelic folk band I had discovered on MySpace. They replied with interest and an appreciation of my work. Band member Grey Malkin and I began corresponding. I had an ambitious book project. Its roots lay in a small collection of illustrations I made in 2002. A deluxe coffee table volume of unusual stories and illustrations. In 2012 I turned my back on this fantasy idea and approached Grey to be the soundtrack to a new short animation film subject, a autographical story taken from the abandoned book called ‘The Englishman Who Flew Too Much’. He agreed. I named us ‘The Mighty Crank Handle’. An avalanche of ideas followed producing to date fifteen short films. The films combine all of my artistic preferences. Dada. Creator. Animator. Illustrator. Writer. Background designer. Editor. Producer. Director. Poster and DVD cover designer. Influences from silent film and the enjoyment of working with musicians. I create a visual Expressionistic language. Line and texture are most important. They are less animated than my animations of the past for I value time for the eye to spent on individual images. Some are drawn in black ink on white as imperfect forms that populate an unlikely landscape. Characters, always in profile like ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. The remainder vary in style and embrace all colours. The written word is also valuable. It is given the opportunity to be read as silent film style captions.

Poster for Tin Harlequin's Cascade of Dream

Poster for Tin Harlequin’s Cascade of Dream

They are peppered with symbolism and many references. Fellow artist David Skinner. The late Bridget Killeen. Marc Bolan. Bob Godfrey. Kate Bush. The Beatles. My alter ego Tin Harlequin. My joys, frustrations, beliefs, hopes and dreams. I had to reach the age of fifty in 2012 to realise and release all of this. It would be the first time the computer replaced all the machinery of my traditional film making. I sat with my laptop studio awaiting soundtracks sent in emails.

Within our canon of work are two official music videos of similar visual styles. Classic songs with new interpretations, ‘She Moves Through The Fair’ and ‘O Death’. ‘O Death’ features an opening sequence of imagery from my home town of Salisbury. ‘She Moves Through The Fair’ became part of a trilogy. Along with our most successful short ’Kraw Blackstraw’ and ’Purple Sky Shark’ Natural forces of the scarecrow, bride to be and shark are disturbed by unexpected forms. They recover but are never the same. These were themes darker than I had ever explored before.

On creating ‘Nowhere Darkly’ it seemed the perfect vehicle for a TV series pilot episode. I approached America and Canada for funding. Despite a phone call from and long conversation with a top Disney producer the idea is still seeking that elusive financial backing.


In November of 2015 I began to form a storyline of a Straw Man’s desire to be a man and a man’s idea he was Martian. I’ve NASA to thank for my current interest in the Red Planet. It stayed that way until the Christmas holiday period. The Dada within brought about the title and while watching ‘Carols from King’s’ on the BBC I discovered ‘Magnum Mysterium.’ While thinking about red, Mark Rothko’s paintings came to mind. Grey Malkin had imaginative ideas about the sounds of space. Scenes were becoming clearer. The script was taking shape too. Then David Bowie died. It seemed so right that a project about being someone else and Mars would conclude with his inspiration and I therefore decided to dedicate the film to his memory. As a scholar of my craft I returned to the origins of animation when an animator was a showman for ‘Puckish Delirium’ a film about a woman having visions. I animated in the streets of Totnes in Devon with small cut out characters against real life backgrounds. It too contains references to David Bowie. This is our ‘B’ movie to precede our feature ’Hobby Horse’. Linking the two is Grey’s vocal reciting a surreal text I had written.

Grey Malkin reignited my career. He gave me the confidence to really ‘let go’ and to a great extent bare my soul. “The way Paul and I work feels very intuitive, he initially sends me ideas, developing artwork and then finally a silent version of the completed film. This gives me time to get a sense for what might fit in terms of a soundtrack and the kind of mood or atmosphere that the imagery and text conjure up. Working on Paul’s films is a great pleasure, it feels like a very open creative process with plenty of room to experiment and develop upon ideas as they arise.”

We are like an island waiting to be discovered.

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Behind the scenes of ‘Beardmation’ from Aardman

Shaving and styling products manufacturer, Braun, commissioned Aardman to create a stop motion animation film using real men’s beards. Created to mark the launch of the brand new Braun Styling Range, the Braun Beardimation video uses advanced stop frame animation to take the viewer on a journey of eye-catching shapes, patterns and designs as they are etched into facial and body hair using the Braun styling tools. The video features faces, heads and chests of over 50 men to convey a scintillating story of precision that inspires creativity when it comes to shaving.

Behind the scenes of the Braun Beardimation video.

Behind the scenes of the Braun Beardimation video.

Aardman– best known for characters such as Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep and Morph – created the film by combining together the sequence of still images to create the illusion of movement. As with all stop motion projects, the Braun Beardimation film was all about planning. All creative designs were aligned in a way that allowed the pattern to move effortlessly from one frame to the next, and projection guides for the animators were lined up well in advance of filming.

Will Studd, director of the Braun Beardimation video.

Will Studd, director of the Braun Beardimation video.

There is a lot of planning when it comes to creating a stop motion animation video. Stop motion doesn’t have an ‘undo’ button like CGI or 2D animation so it needs to be done right the first time,” explains Aardman’s Will Studd, director of the Braun Beardimation video.
Studd admits that the brief was very original and piqued his interest immediately. “What I liked most about this project was that it was a new way of approaching animation. From a design point of view, I really love that this was a graphic design project realised in stop-motion; it’s a 2D project achieved in a 3D world,” Predictably, the Braun Beardimation project presented a number of challenges to the team who had no experience of working with human hair. “There were a lot of ‘firsts’ for me with this project,” explains Studd. “It was the first time I had worked with beards as my canvas so there was a lot of research into hair density, hair tightness, and hair growth patterns. It was also the first time I had ever changed the physical appearance of my models by cutting their hair. It was much more intimate than I have ever been to any other models that I have filmed with before.”
We had some challenges with registration – lining animation up whilst projecting the guides onto the faces and beards – as humans tends to move a fair bit more than puppets or clay! Because of this, the rigging has been really original; we have never had to rig in the way we have for this project so there’s been a lot of experimentation.”

Behind the scenes of the Braun Beardimation video.

Behind the scenes of the Braun Beardimation video.

Andreas Leibundgut, Assistant Brand Manager for Braun Male Power Grooming Global commented: “We are very excited to partner with Aardman on this unique piece of work. Braun has never undertaken a partnership like this one before and we are really pleased with the final result –the video perfectly demonstrates how a man’s face is the canvas to express his style. Our hope for this campaign is that it will inspire men to be creative and experiment with their looks, and we think it will do just that.”
In addition to award-winning stop motion animation, world-renowned electronic music artist Gramatik provides a musical backdrop to the video with his excusive track, produced especially for Braun Beardimation. Holding true to his distinct musical style, the upbeat track features a unique combination of soul, house, and funk influences.
Also featuring in the Braun Beardimation video are a selection of Instagram influencers who are known around the globe for their enviable facial hair. Male models Andrea Hamman, Chris John Millington and Luke Ditella lent their facial hair to creative barbers to use as the canvass for their artistic designs.

Links to the films:
Beardimation film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KpYzbjGFkqc
Director: Behind the Scenes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UY3CnPnn45g
Stylist: Behind the Scenes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckReVLhvtxc
Influencers/Models: Behind the Scenes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IAUwXZKi-iM

Ogilvy and Aardman shake up the traditional laundry product demo

Ogilvy, in collaboration with the Aardman animation studio, has redefined the product demo for Unilever’s laundry brand Persil. Children and adults alike were treated to a first-of-its-kind animation entitled ‘Monster Stains’, when it launched in cinemas and online this week.

To demonstrate Persil’s stain removal power, Ogilvy came up with the innovative idea of creating a stop-frame animation using school shirts as the canvas and tough stains as the paint. Aardman was chosen as the ideal partner for its best-in-class animation techniques. They created a unique colour palette using 28 common household stains, including everything from gravy and jam to grass and chocolate ice cream.

It took a team of ten artists and nearly three months to complete the 60 seconds of animation featured within the film. The meticulous method included painting a single frame of animation on a shirt, photographing it, washing the shirt clean with Persil, drying it, ironing it, and preparing it for the next frame of animation to be painted on. This process was repeated 2,576 times in total, after which, all the photos were stitched together to create the animation.

Monster Stains image.

Monster Stains image.

Monster Stains font creation.

Monster Stains font creation.

Monster Stains animation studio.

Monster Stains animation studio.

Monster Stains animation creation.

Monster Stains animation creation.

Monster Stains font exploration.

Monster Stains font exploration.

The two-and-a-half minute launch film introduces a couple of animated monsters who end up learning to overcome their fears and getting dirty in the process – illustrating Persil’s philosophy that ‘Dirt Is Good’. The two characters then re-appear in a series of five shorter content pieces that will be used across social media and eCommerce.

Ogilvy used the same tough stains to create a complete bespoke typeface especially for the campaign.

They also partnered with Kode Media, an international production company, who produced, shot and edited all of the live action elements in the film.

James Hayhurst, Brand Equity Director at Unilever said, “These entertaining films bring a whole new slant to the traditional laundry product demo and the idea that where there’s a stain, there’s a story. The characters capture the fun-loving spirit of the ‘Dirt Is Good’ brand philosophy and the short form content is a perfect way to connect with our consumers on their mobile devices and in the e-commerce environment.”

Andre Laurentino, Global Executive Creative Director for Unilever at Ogilvy said, “We wanted to take Persil’s product demos to the next level. We of course knew how the stains would be removed. So we spent time thinking about how we got them on. We got messy, we had fun, and we learned a lot – a typical ‘Dirt is Good’ story.”

Merlin Crossingham, Creative Director at Aardman commented, “At Aardman we have a history of embracing big challenges and when Ogilvy came to us with such an interesting project, we jumped in with both feet. The finished spots are playful stories with delightful characters, created in a truly unique way and we hope you enjoy them.”

Watch the main launch film: https://youtu.be/MDtnoG6MgBc (Monster Stains)

Aardman short helps raise awareness of macular degeneration

Creative agency Caroline has enlisted the help of the Aardman animation studio to bring to life the star of its latest charity marketing campaign – a character called ‘Mac’.

Mac was created by the team at Caroline to spearhead a campaign for The Macular Society, a small charity that supports people with central vision loss.

The campaign will raise awareness of a little known eye condition called Age-related Macular Degeneration, which is the leading cause of vision loss in the UK.

Keen to carve out a place for the campaign in the competitive charity sector, the agency approached Aardman, also based in Bristol, to see if they would be willing to help design the character and create a short animation involving Mac to help launch the campaign.

Aardman agreed to come on board and the film was completed by end of February.

MacInsideEye Wobbly1 Gloria Mac_Grandchildren Mac_sickAndy Purnell, joint Creative Director at Caroline says: “The Macular Society is a (by charity definitions we’re medium) small and relatively unknown charity, but they are doing some amazing work to help support people suffering from vision loss, primarily those with AMD, a condition that is becoming more and more common in our society as we all live longer.”

Purnell added: “Charity advertising is not easy – it is a very, very crowded market. With a small budget we wanted to do something that would make us stand out from the crowd.”

“We came up with Mac, an engaging character that would help bring a complex issue to life and we were delighted that Aardman agreed to come on board to ‘bring him to life’.”

The short film, directed by Bram Ttwheam, chronicles the part Mac plays in giving Gloria, his elderly ‘owner’ a wonderful and active life, of which vision is key to. Sadly, Mac succumbs to AMD, and poor Gloria’s full and varied life is severely affected, as, of course, is Mac.

It will be used alongside a number of other activities, including road shows, events, materials and additional channel activity to raise awareness of the condition of AMD and the essential role the Macular Society plays in helping sufferers and funding research to find a cure for AMD. The campaign will also be appealing for donations to help the Macular Society in its vital work, and to increase membership.

Heather Wright, Executive Producer and Head of Partner Content, Aardman

“We love making films for charities like this one for the Macular Society, because it gives us the opportunity to use our creativity in a meaningful way beyond simply entertaining.

Animated characters can be a powerful tool in helping people to understand a complex or difficult subject such as macular degeneration. Mac is an endearing character to look at and we use a lightness of touch in his performance that isn’t frightening but clearly explains the issues. He seems benign and happy to start with, but then as the condition worsens we understand the symptoms that sufferers will recognise and other people can empathise with.”

More than 600,000 people in the UK are affected by AMD. The condition causes damage to the macula, which is part of the retina at the back of the eye. It is only the size of a grain of rice but is responsible for all of our central vision, most of our colour vision and the fine detail of what we see.

About The Macular Society
With over 22,000 members the Macular Society is the voice of people with macular conditions. It provides free information and support to improve lives and ensure no one has to face macular disease alone. There are around 300 Macular Society support groups around the UK and beyond. It also funds research into macular disease.

About Caroline
Caroline is a creative company, founded by experienced people with bags of awards for effective creative thinking. Caroline is part of a group of creative companies under the umbrella of the Blue Flint Group. www.hellocaroline.co.uk

Watch the film: https://vimeo.com/164249629 (Gloria’s Mac)

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.

DRAWTASTIC

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!

‘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.

ROOBARB

ROOBARB

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.”