Author Archives: Guest

Animating Hartbeat

By Paul Thomas

I recently uploaded a collection of my BBC Hartbeat films to YouTube. This article covers the background story of those films. I am also planning an exhibition called Paul Thomas at the BBC. It will cover about 15 years.

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Hartbeat’ was the follow up to the classic BBC TV show ‘Take Hart’. I had only been able to contribute to two series before having to start again with new ideas for a brand new format. Tony Hart would be joined by four female co presenters. The programme would appear modern and have a faster pace. My contributions began with a telephone conversation with my producer and a letter containing suggested themes to find ideas for. The process would begin as scribbles in my note books. When ready a meeting would be arranged at the ‘Hartbeat office. I would arrive armed with storyboards and a very positive attitude. All my films for the programme were made in my home studio and filmed, edited and have soundtracks created at BBC TV Centre. I used cels of various field sizes and found my techniques and desire to have a textural feel to my films improved. ‘Hartbeat’ was my playground. I would have a lot of fun and realise a lot of ideas.

Tony Hart

Tony Hart

News of Hartbeat

A BBC film can label.

A BBC film can label.

BUBBLEGUM BILLY – I created a gang of friends in full colour against a background of black and white. The soundtrack was put together with music from the BBC library and vocals from David Owen Smith and the ‘Hartbeat’ office girls. This track is called ‘Base Pattern B’. The voice of ‘Morph’, Peter Harwood, created the soundtrack and all my soundtracks with the programme. This was to be my first broadcast reference to ‘Yellow Submarine’ such an inspiration on my work. My gang consisted of Danielz (from T.Rextasy). School friend Gary Florance. ‘Grange Hill’ actress Lisa East.  Kate Bush and myself in the lead role with stories using puns on gum hence ‘Gum Boots’ and ‘Choo Choo Train’. Seeking a grainy real life background Gary Florance and I went searching for an ideal street in south east London. We found it with classic Victorian houses and a front wall. My first offering to the show in 1984 had a visually strong style and lots of potential. However with the new programme structure of not wishing to pursue regular characters Bubblegum Billy was never to be seen again. It did make it into print though being the only reference ever to be made of my characters in the ‘Radio Times’.

The clapperboard I used between shots for Bubblegum Billy.

The clapperboard I used between shots for Bubblegum Billy.

Characters from Bubblegum Billy

Characters from Bubblegum Billy

KALIZASCOPES – I reversed the Bubblegum Billy look for an idea of black and white photographs against full colour animated characters and backgrounds. I suggested Tony Hart as the star but producer Christopher Pilkington insisted on co programme presenter Liza Brown. I worked out all the key positions for Liza and a photo session with Barry Boxall was arranged on the tenth of July 1986 at TV Centre. Chris was right. Liza brought so much more to the idea than I had hoped for with inspired facial expressions and poses. On receiving the printed photographs I worked out the animation using a video line tester at the Halas and Batchelor studios in London. This was an idea I was happy to continue with hoping to animate other cast members. That didn’t happen. Things were changing.

Paul Thomas and Liza Brown at the photo shoot for Kalizascopes.

Paul Thomas and Liza Brown at the photo shoot for Kalizascopes.

Storyboard for 'Sheep Skin Coat'

Storyboard for ‘Sheep Skin Coat’

TRAFFIC SIGNS – Producer Christopher Pilkington left the show and handed over to Chris Tandy. I had to be interviewed again as Chris was unfamiliar with my work. My proposal was inspired by a copy of the highway code and my being impressed with the graphic style. There was plenty of material for humorous gags. My idea of bringing traffic signs to life thankfully impressed Chris. I took a new approach to the idea and chose to cut out all the characters from black paper and stick them on cels. The back grounds were in oil pastel on black card. This gave a new visual texture to my work. I had finally broken away from inked and painted cels.

Traffic Signs

Traffic Signs

Traffic Signs

Traffic Signs

A storyboard for 'Traffic Signs'.

A storyboard for ‘Traffic Signs’.

TIGERTOONS – With the interest in ‘Traffic Signs’ over I decided to create one-off’s and make the most of my position. I would let myself go pushing my abilities into unknown territories. The cel was my canvas. I put everything on it. Paint. Pastels. Wax. Cut-out’s. Paper. Card and used the classic special effect of ‘Ripple Glass’.  My bag of tricks grew but play time was about to end. In 1990 I was told the number of animators on the programme was being reduced and therefore my services were no longer required. I spoke with Tony Hart about this. He was sympathetic and I recall a comment he made that I had not even been presented with a certificate to say I had worked on his show.  My animated work though had matured with such an experience and I had used the medium to greater success than with ‘Take Hart’.

Tigertoons

Tigertoons

Tigertoons

Tigertoons

Issac Newton - Tigertoons

Issac Newton – Tigertoons

A sketch from 'The Mole Film' for Tigertoons.

A sketch from ‘The Mole Film’ for Tigertoons.

Three cels in animated sequence from 'The Mole Film'.

Three cels in animated sequence from ‘The Mole Film’.

Moon and Rocket - Tigertoons

Moon and Rocket – Tigertoons

Click Here To Select Your Free Stitching Cards Pattern

Money Saving Tips for 3D Animation

Thank you to Kate Sorenson and her couponing team for contributing this article. Kate and her team run the blog, Coupon Cravings, a site full of great deals and clever ways to save.

3D animation is engaging, creative and fun. It can also be a great tool for teaching and school projects. However, the costs of animation can outweigh the benefits. If you need some tips for lowering your artistic expenses, look no further. Take advantage of the following tips to help you cut down costs on your animation projects. Whether animation is a hobby or a lifelong passion, these tricks will help you save money by whittling away unnecessary expenditures.
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Out Of My Mind – My Animated Adventure – Part 3 of 3

Paul Thomas continues his brief autobiography of his struggle to find success as an independent animator.

This is a little known fact. I had met with Anne Wood (creator of the Teletubbies) and cast as one of thirteen animators she sought for a new children’s TV series called The Magic Mirror. A major company was brought in to finance the series but were unhappy with Anne’s choice of animators. They required a competition to choose a new set of thirteen. I wasn’t chosen but the series was axed having been broadcast I believe, only once as it blatantly promoted the financers. Gary Glitter was the narrator for one episode!

The Paint family and The Christmas Tree production cel.

Anne Gobi formed a rebel alliance and took The Paint Family elsewhere to find funding.
Many countries were happy to take the series once made. It was left to the UK to supply the money. Anne informed me a producer was willing to do just that but would make a final decision on returning from a holiday. When Dan Maddicott returned from his holiday he said no. The rebel alliance collapsed.
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Out Of My Mind – My Animated Adventure – Part 2 of 3

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.

Production cel from Hartbeat.


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Out Of My Mind – My Animated Adventure – Part 1 of 3

This guest post by Paul Thomas gives us a brief autobiography of his struggle to find success as an independent animator.

Animate – verb – to make alive or lively.

A young Paul Thomas at the lightbox

On Christmas day 1966 my present of an Action Man went missing then reappeared later that day. Where had he been? In the new year of 1967 my dad showed mum and I his Standard 8 home movie of our Christmas holiday and there was my Action Man animated on the screen. The seed was sown.
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Scratch – Making an exhibition of himself

Happy birthday Paul Thomas and Scratch

Scratch creator Paul Thomas celebrates his 50th birthday today (12 January 2012). Also, Scratch is thirty years old this year. To mark this auspicious occasion Paul has written a summery of his life in animation and beyond.


Click on the pictures for larger versions.

By Paul Thomas

I’ve been in the business of creating something from nothing professionally for over thirty years. Out of one particular day’s nothing in 1982 came something that would change my life.
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Cel Shading: the Unsung Hero of Animation?

Left: a computer graphics render with soft shadows. Right: a cel shader (also known as a toon shader) and border detection. This creates hard edged shadows with lines drawn around the model. Illustration from Hash Animation Master manual.

This is a guest post by Olivia Lennox.

As you’ll well know, there are far more animation techniques out there than the average movie-goer or TV watcher knows about. You can’t blame them for only really knowing about stop-motion animation, CGI animation, and what goes into shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy. These techniques are what ‘make it big’, and what can be seen on screens, both big and small, all over the world. But there are plenty of other forms of animation that don’t get the credit they deserve.

Take cel shading for example. This lends animation a ‘cartoony’ look which can be very effective in certain media. This form of animation has actually only been adopted by a handful of film and television productions; however it has been used extensively in video games. Perhaps the reason for this is that cel shading is easier on the graphics processor, so games can look great even on less powerful hardware. When cel shaded animation does make its way into film and television, it’s usually used conservatively, but there are exceptions as we’ll see. There’s an important distinction to make before we get into the cel shaded world: whilst there are plenty of techniques that use block colours, cel shading refers specifically to the cartoony rendering of light and shadow.
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The Lost Art of Rotoscoping

Rotoscope by Max Fleischer, patent drawing from 1914.

This is a guest post by Olivia Lennox.

Animation has come a long way since the days of the first cartoon motion pictures in the early 1900s. It’s come so far in fact that it’s difficult to believe it started as a few hand-drawn images on a page. Compare and flick book to the trailer for Pixar’s upcoming movie Brave and you’ll get the idea. But here we are, in a world where computer generated imaging has quite literally taken over the world of animated film: when was the last time Disney released a ‘2D’ movie in their original style? It’s been some time indeed.
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Top 10 Animated Christmas Movies for the Whole Family

This is a guest post by Sophia Anderson.

So much of what we love during Christmas-time is based in nostalgia and tradition; fond memories of decorating the tree, taking a nighttime drive to see Christmas lights, and, of course, cuddling around the TV with yummy treats and a warm fire to watch a Christmas movie. December is here, so tis’ the season to break out all of the holiday movies! Here are ten of our favorite animated Christmas movies and TV specials, old and new.

1. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

There is a reason why people wait every year in anticipation of the annual TV airing of A Charlie Brown Christmas. It’s hard to go wrong with the Peanuts gang, but the Christmas special might be the best of all their holiday offerings. Every scene is memorable, from the group decorating the tree that Charlie Brown brings home to Linus’s speech on the true meaning of Christmas. The soundtrack that goes along with the movie – featuring both original songs by the Vince Guaraldi Trio, as well as covers of older Christmas songs – stands apart from the movie as being one of the greatest Christmas albums of all time.
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Top 10 Animated Films for Adults

This is a guest post by Lori Hutchison.

In the history of animated film, relatively few films have been released for adults (with the exception of the anime industry in Japan). Here are ten ground-breaking films that feature mature adult themes and prove that animation can be just as moving as it was when we were young.

1. Animal Farm (1954) – As the first British animated feature for general release, this film is just as powerful as the acclaimed book by George Orwell. The political allegory received an “X” rating when it was first released, which prohibited anyone under 18 from seeing the film. Although the rating has since been changed to “U” for universal, the violent and political nature of the film is meant for adults.

2. Fantastic Planet (1973) – This film is considered to be a metaphor for the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. It tells the tale of a race of brilliant blue giants who keep humans as pets until the humans eventually revolt. It is also the feature debut of French animator René Laloux, for which he won a special jury prize at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival.

3. Watership Down (1978) – Based on the epic fantasy novel by Richard Adams, this film tells the tale of a group of rabbits who must leave their home warren and travel to a new place. Although it has been deemed appropriate for children, the dark and violent sophistication of the film gets to the heart of human struggle.

4. Akira (1988) – The Japanese animation industry is notable for its prolific production of animated films for adults. While there are many notable titles that could be included in this list, Akira was the film that inspired generations of modern animators. Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, it takes a dystopian, cyberpunk world where a biker gang befriends a boy with psychic powers. The unprecedented style of animation is much more fluid and detailed than anime styles of the past.

5. Princess Mononoke (1997) – Considered as the most adult of Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki’s films, this film stresses the importance of mankind’s relationship with nature. Princess Mononoke was the highest-grossing film in Japan until Titanic was released later that year. Like many of Miyazaki’s works, it features a strong heroine, environmentalism, and strikingly fluid animation with often made with water colors.

6. Metropolis (2001) – Inspired in part by Fritz Lang’s 1927 film and a manga created in 1949, this film features stunning visual elements and colorful characters, not to mention a jazzy soundtrack. It takes place in a dystopian world where humans and robot co-exist.

7. Waking Life (2001) – This film by the American Richard Linklater was shot in live-action, then rotoscoped through a special process with a team of computer animators. It is very philosophical and dreamlike in nature, shifting between a series of thought-provoking conversations.

8. The Triplets of Belleville (2003) – This modern gem from France features a grandmother trying to rescue her cycling-obsessed grandson from the Mafia with the help of an elderly singing trio. With little dialogue, a retro animation style, and innovative music, you won’t find a film quite like this one.

9. Persepolis (2007) – This film was based on Marjane Satrapi’s acclaimed autobiographical graphic novel about her childhood in Iran. Although it deals with specific political events, Satrapi’s story contains many universal elements about adolescence, religion, sex, politics, and family ties. The animation is in the idiosyncratic black-and-white style of Satrapi’s artwork.

10. Waltz with Bashir (2008) – This film was the first animated film to be released in Israel since 1962. It is a feature-length animated documentary that chronicles one man’s experiences during the 1982 Lebanon War. It took over four years to complete and received several awards.

This article was posted by Lori Hutchison. She owns the site Masters in History Colleges and is an Art History Professor.