This Paddington puppet is new and his feet are a bit spongy, the fabric hasn’t worn really flat on the souls of his feet so when you stand him up he tends to faint, so you end up having to run a pin through to help him keep his balance, but give it about another two episodes and it will stand a lot easier. Lots of characters can actually balance for themselves when they are walking. If they have got to lean over to balance then if that character was for real he would lean over when he walks.
Ivor Wood is the director of the Paddington Bear series and my title is director of animation. We go through the scripts very carefully when a new one comes in so I know basically what Ivor’s after but other than that I’ve got a lot of latitude, to a degree I’m left very much to my own devices. You can’t really animate these things without directing them at the same time because half the time if you’ve got something written down you start off doing it and something else comes to mind. It might only be because of the way it is animating around but it’s nice to let things follow up. It’s the way you build up the puppet’s character. In one sense it was nicer when we were doing the Wombles because there were seven of them. When you’ve got seven characters to play around with you can get a lot more fun out of them, make individual characters, do all sorts of little cameos, but Paddington having only one puppet character, I don’t think we’ve got as much scope.
The drawn characters in the Paddington films are already done so you can’t change them, you can only animate what is given. There are three other people getting that side of it together and all I do is refer to the dope sheet.
Ivor Wood does the key animation for the cut-out figures, we’ve got an animator who does the inbetweening and my assistant, Karen, colours them mounts them on card and cuts them out.
We decided to use the drawn cut-outs because so many incidental characters come into the stories. In the Wombles there were the seven characters with no other people coming in, but in Paddington scripts they are always meeting people in railway stations and things like that. A crowd of people would not only take ages to animate but it would take six months to build the puppets. Principally it is cartoon done on a multi-plane camera but standing up in terms of silhouettes. It is a combination of cartoon and multi-plane camera without the sheets of glass, with a three dimensional character walking round inside it all.
We didn’t use cut-outs with jointed limbs because the movement wouldn’t look right with Paddington. It can only go in one plane where as drawing it enables you to put it in any plane you like in the same way that I can animate Paddington in any plane.
When we made the Wombles we recorded the sound track after shooting the animation. On this series we are doing the sound first which is better because you know exactly how many frames you’re animating to. When I’ve done it the other way round I’ve worked from the script and timed it with a stopwatch. It can be quite reliable, within a tolerance of ten or fifteen frames. All you’ve got to remember is to read it at the same speed as somebody would say it on the actual sound track. If they have to say it at such a pace that there’s not enough time then there is something wrong. I always work on the principle that with these four and a half minute films you should be able to read the script in about three minutes so you have got one and a half minutes silence, because then it allows you to put spacing throughout the film and also spacing with his actions.
If Paddington walked on and from that moment he started giving you all this chat there would be no character to him. When people speak they do pause. They might pause for quite a few seconds and you can do the same with animation. It gives you time to build up bits here and there which otherwise you could not do. Or you could do it but you would have a very speedy character. It would be talking away, gesturing, running up and down and you just would not be able to develop its character in a comfortable sort of state. It is always nice when it slowly comes through and you can do that better with spacing than with words.