I never place anything as a set. The camera sees it in the end so you may as well look through the camera and have another person moving the scenery until you get it in the right place to look good on film. If you move to a different angle and it looks a bit boring, you can change things a little. You can’t take them away, but you can alter the perspective of things to each other and the mind accepts it. The puppet is the predominant thing on the screen and the background is dressing for that.
On the first series of the Wombles I was just the model maker. I have always enjoyed model making, I still do, in some ways I prefer it to animating this sort of thing. It depends what models have to be made.
I went to college for graphic design and then did a post graduate course in film and photography. I left college and was out of work for six months. Being basically a graphic designer I had never thought about animation or model making. My first job was with a guy who makes terrible films and I got the sack after six months for being cynical. He was making very primitive cartoons. The guy had no idea, I was just out of college, had read one book on animation and with the bits I had picked up from that I was telling that guy where he was going wrong. For instance he wasn’t using cels, he was having the same picture painted four or five times, and this was a professional.
Anyway I got the sack from there and about six weeks later I got a job as assistant to Jaque Vasseur who was a very famous French animator. That company went bust after two and a half years. The people I worked for were friends of Graham and Ivor Wood the founders of FilmFair, and they went round to see if there was any furniture they could buy cheap. Ivor saw a couple of little models I made round there, on afternoons with nothing to do, and I ended up getting a job helping him develop the Wombles, and I’ve been here ever since.
All three jobs have been very much by chance and the things I’ve done I have never actually been trained to do. It is very difficult to teach people to do this job, the only way is by trial and error. It is very rare that you make the same mistake twice because you invest so much time in doing something that when it’s wrong you have learnt your lesson.
Editor’s note. The colour photographs posted with this article were taken by David Jefferson during the interview but were not published with the original article for technical reasons.
Interview with Barry Macey
BARRY MACEY WAS A PRODUCER AT FILMFAIR STUDIOS. DAVID JEFFERSON ASKED HIM WHAT HE WAS WORKING ON.
We have got twenty, four minute episodes of the Perishers from the Daily Mirror cartoon strip, twenty six episodes of cut-out animation about two cats called TeeGee and Moony plus some TV commercials.
In the case of the Perishers we are sub-contracting the basic animation. The directing and production planning are being done here while the actual animation is at another studio.
Some of the work is being done by freelance animators. Most of the TV series work is done by freelance animators, tracers, painters, layout men, all the drawing side really. My job as producer on the Perishers entails leasing with the B.B.C. who are also involved in the production. It is getting the package right for FilmFair and the B.B.C.
The Paddington series is not my side, I produce Barry on commercials, so that all he has to do is animate, I do the donkey work. But with TeeGee and Moony, the two cats I’m actually directing. I will work up the story¬board from a supplied story in this case. This means adapting the story and editing it. I will also animate it because it is very simple cut-out animation for small children.
The basic cost of producing an animated series for TV is so enormous these days that there are not many companies around with the money to speculate on them. This is because you can’t get enough money back from just T.V. sales to anywhere near pay for the production. You have to rely on merchandising, the licensing of the characters.
It is very difficult to sell puppet series such as the Wombles on the American market. They are soaked with the Tom and Jerry and the Hanna Barbera cartoons which are run, chase, run, chase, and they can’t accept the English way of thinking.
Paddington is starting to break ground in America on film strips. It is going out to the equivalent of our infant schools, just a. story on a cassette and a film strip. This Company is owned by Film Fair of U.S.A.
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Originally printed in Animator’s newsletter Issue 3 (Winter 1982)