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. Continue reading →
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.
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. Continue reading →
Dale Hemenway wrote an article in Animator number 24 telling how some of his cartoon sequences came to be shown on the BBC programme ‘Hartbeat’. The programme was hosted by Tony Hart, who had a unique approach to art. He featured many different styles of animation produced by young, freelance or independent animators.
Sketches for Dale’s personal project featuring a dog and a flea.
Dale wrote to me recently to tell me what he has been doing since the article was published. He made a short for Central TV, animated on the acclaimed children’s series Bob The Builder for 10 years, until the studio closed, and is now an animator on Lego videogames.
He is also creating a 2D pilot film for a children’s series in his spare time. You can find out how Dale is getting on with the project on his blog called Short Progress.
Paul Thomas was interviewed in Animator Issue number 11 in 1984. At the time he was running the Tiger Trax animation studio, situated in a block of flats just off the Old Kent Road.
Paul Thomas now.
Paul began his animation career at Bob Godfrey’s studio and at the time of the interview, was doing sequences for Tony Hart’s BBC TV programme “Take Hart” and design work for the Kate Bush fan club magazine. He also contributed a regular cartoon strip to Animator mag under the pen name of Dr Scratch, featuring a rather droll dog called Scratch.
Paul recently discovered the Animator mag web site whilst searching the Internet and dropped me an email with his latest news.
He has left the concrete jungle of London for the green and pleasant land of Salisbury, Wiltshire. Paul is now the director and writer for a children’s puppet performance group called Tin Harlequin. He told me that forming the group “was a dream come true”. Their first show, Different Worlds, has hit the road performing in rural communities and at festivals throughout the SouthWest of England. It features six original tales that Paul has written with characters he has created. Paul says, “I bring a ‘pagan rock & roll surrealism’ to my work”. They are at the Totnes Festival on the 12 September 2010, as the opening act on that final day.
Newspaper cutting about the Tin Harlequin children's puppet performance group.
The Scratch cartoon strip, first published in Animator mag , lives on. It has appeared weekly in the Salisbury Journal for the past two and a half years, with the 135th episode published this week.
A Scratch cartoon strip from Animator mag Summer 1987.
You can read more about Paul’s Tin Harlequin group on his myspace page where he has also assembled a gallery of pictures from his long and interesting career as an animator, writer and designer.
Animator Barry Leith with Paddington at FilmFair studios (1982)
Paddington Bear was featured in Animator’s newsletter issue 3, winter 1982 when we interviewed director of animation Barry Leith at FilmFair Animation Studios. At the time Barry was working on the Paddington Bear TV series. In that series Paddington was a puppet and the humans drawn animation, cut-out and mounted on card so that they could be integrated on the same set as the puppet.
The first Paddington Bear story was published in 1958 and was written by Michael Bond. The Paddington Bear TV series was first aired in 1975 with puppet and drawn animation by Ivor Wood. In episode one the bear is spotted by the Brown family on Paddington station where he had arrived from Darkest Peru as a stowaway. He had a label round his neck that read “Please look after this bear, thank you”. In no time at all Mrs Brown named him after the station and he became part of their family.
Paddington Bear was developed into a soft toy by Shirley Clarkson in 1972. With no business experience, no capital, and just £100 of backing, Shirley came up with the original – now classic – Paddington. She grew her company, Gabriella Designs, from a tiny spare-room business selling tea cosies in Doncaster into an international business shipping Paddington Bears all over the world.
Shirley Clarkson with her soft toy version of Paddington Bear.
Manufacturing from a collection of ramshackle farm buildings, she was hit by a wave of orders from retailers, as the world went Paddington crazy. Then things went horribly wrong as staff went on strike and 50,000 bears had to be recalled because of faulty eyes. Shirley watched her business collapse.
Shirley tells her rollercoaster story in a book called Bearly Believable: My Part in the Paddington Bear Story. With warmth, modesty and a blunt Yorkshire wit, she provides a delightful insight into how a simple bear became a worldwide icon. You can look inside Bearly Believable on the Amazon website.
Now Paddington Bear is to take to the big screen in a production that is to be a mixture of live action and computer animation. The film is being produced by David Heyman, the man behind the Harry Potter films. The Sun newspaper reports Mighty Boosh star Noel Fielding has been signed up to play Paddington Bear’s cousin – a half man, half beast who, like Paddington, comes from Darkest Peru.
It is understood the new film will be based on an original screenplay inspired by the various characters and episodes in Paddington’s life as told through Bond’s books. It is being co-written by The Mighty Boosh director Paul King and Hamish McColl, co-writer of 2007 comedy film Mr Bean’s Holiday. Paddington Bear has much in common with Mr Bean; both are very polite and very accident-prone.
The short film “Skywhales”, was featured in Animator’s newsletter issue 7, winter 1983. It was written and directed by Derek Hayes and Phil Austin at Animation City. Skywhales has been discovered by a new generation, thanks to its appearance on YouTube, and has become a cult classic on the Internet.
Derek Hayes and Phil Austin met as students at Sheffield Hallam University where they were on a diploma course for Art and Design (1971 – 1974). Whilst at university they collaborated on several animation projects using a clockwork Bolex camera and an old enlarger stand. That lead to a life in film and was the start of a creative partnership that lasted 18 years.
After graduating they were offered places as the first animation students at the National Film and Television School (NFTS) where they made a 20 minute film, “Max Beeza and the City in the Sky”, as well as working on live-action films with other students.
After the NFTS Derek made a short film for BBC Bristol called “Albion”, which was part of the “Animated Conversations” series. Then in 1979 he got a call from Julian Temple, a fellow ex-student of the NFTS, to say he was directing a feature film with the Sex Pistols called “The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle”. He asked if they would do some animation for it. Derek Hayes and Phil Austin joined forces again and promptly launched an animation company, called Animation City, to do the cartoon inserts, graphics and titles for the film.
Animation City was based in Soho, London for 14 years, making commercials, TV graphics, pop videos and short films. Among the short films was “Skywhales” made for Channel 4 TV. The studio won various awards including a BAFTA for the titles of “Jeeves and Wooster”.
Phil Austin sadly died in 1990. In 1993 Derek closed Animation City to become a freelance director and since then he has directed two short films and two cinema features:
“The Miracle Maker” (1999), was an award winning animated life of Christ and featured the voices of Ralph Fiennes, William Hurt, Julie Christie and Miranda Richardson. It used model animation, 2D animation and computer graphics.
“Otherworld” (2002), with Ioan Gruffydd, Daniel Evans, Matthew Rhys and Philip Madoc. It mixed 2D animation, computer graphics and live-action to retell a series of ancient Celtic legends of love, magic and war.
In 2003 – 2004 he worked with Aardman Animation developing a feature film project called the “Tortoise v Hare”. He was engaged as Director but the film was a casualty of the collapse of the relationship between Aardman and DreamWorks.
From 2005 to the present Derek has produced storyboards for Cartwn Cymru, Cardiff, “Friends and Heroes”; CharacterShop, “Haven”, “DU”, “Knight Rider” and Bristol Zoo. He has also worked as a storyboard supervisor and consultant for various film companies including Dramatico Entertainment and Ragdoll Ltd.
Derek has been External Examiner for various animation courses, including the RCA and the London Institute and is a lecturer at University College Falmouth on the Digital Animation BA course.
The films of Sheila Graber were featured in Animator’s newsletter number 5, summer 1983. At the time she had recently given up her post of Head of Creative Studies at King George Comprehensive School to pursue animation on a full-time professional basis.
In a career spanning more than 20 years she has created over 60 shorts and 3 TV series. One of Sheila’s driving forces has been to “use animation as a means of communication not just for entertainment but for education and healing too”.
She has run animation classes as far a field as Tunisia and Caracas, and gained an Alumni Fellowship from Sunderland University in 1998 for “Outstanding services to Education and Art”.
Sheila is currently running a series of weekly art and animation classes for adults with special needs for the “Brothers of Charity” in Waterford, Ireland. This is a long term project of 4 years standing. The results are so successful she hopes to continue and evolve her work in this area.
Sheila has just written a book, with supporting DVD, called Animation: A Handy Guide.
Making a hand drawn animated
16mm film by Sheila Graber.
Animation by a Young Film Maker was an article written for Animator’s newsletter issue 2 autumn 1982 by Michael Salkeld. At the time he had just become the winner of the BBC Young Filmmakers competition.
I thought it would be interesting to see if he had gone on to follow a career in animation. An Internet search turned up a profile of Michael Salkeld on the Axis online resource for contemporary art.
Michael says “I am an artist working in animation, capturing the subliminal rhythms of movement and refining them within the animation as a choreographed graphic representation. For me animation is choreography and visual orchestration. I have worked in a variety of techniques ranging from hand drawn and painted animation to 2d and 3d computer CGI and video. I also compose music.”
In October 2009 two films by Michael, “I am a horse” and “North Circular”, were projected on to the classical frontage and portico of Civic Hall Millennium Square Leeds, as part of Lumen’s programme in the Light Night festival.
His film “North Circular” was screened at the Fantasia International Film Festival 2009, Montréal. Canada and “I am a horse” was screened at the Melbourne International Animation Festival 2009, Australia.