Doing series work is different because you have a lot more freedom as an animator or a director or a producer to do your own thing. The BBC have their own independent producers who will check out the script of a series before-hand. They don’t criticise to a large extent. They will criticise if they think it is a weak script or there is something within the story or animation that doesn’t work.
“Animation varies so much, from Bob Godfrey’s “Henry’s Cat” which is hilariously simple through to Siriol’s “SuperTed” which is fully animated and expensive. You can put a square and a circle on the screen and make it into a funny story or you can animate as fully as Walt Disney and it still works.”
Flicks Films recently made four Olivetti computer commercials using the Mr Men characters. They originally animated the Mr Men very simply and kept them graphic like the books. For this series of animated commercials the client wanted them to be animated fully. They made tests to see if they would lose their character and the results pleased Ward. “Making them 3-Dimensional instead of 2-Dimensional worked very well”, he said. “Again the voice was important. If you haven’t got a good script and you haven’t got a good track you can be the best animator in the world and it would be pointless. It is a team effort. You might be the manager of the football team but without the players efforts it would not come together. I like working with a team of creative people with everyone having their input. I could not sit down and make a film on my own because I need other people around me to help the enthusiasm of a production. You tend to criticise and be too tough on yourself whereas when you are working with a team your ideas flow in different directions. I might draw up a storyboard and give it to an animator. The animator may see it and animate it in a totally different way although the end result is the same because he has followed the storyboard and that, in a way, is an achievement for me. It is great to see something come to life in a different way, on series work that happens frequently.”
The choice of team depends on the project in hand. If they have an animated commercial to do they might pull one of the animators off Bananaman and bring in some freelance trace and paint to put it together. If it needs to be done quickly or it needs to be fully animated then they bring in other animators. Although Ward is a trained animator he prefers to direct and produce. “You can pick the best people for the job’, he says. “You get a commercial and get excited about it because you know you can employ a certain animator on it. You know that the end result is due to picking the right team to produce that result.”
The animation industry in London consists of dozens of small companies headed by producer/directors. We asked Ward why he thought this was. “The system forces you into setting up your own company. If you do well and someone wants you to make a commercial you can do one at home but after a while, if it grows, you need someone to answer your phone, you need an office, someone has got to do your books, then you need an assistant and it grows from there. Before you know it you are running a company. A lot of animators have been forced into becoming production companies which they should not be.
It has been said that the majority of good animators were frustrated actors who could draw but could not act properly. Terry Ward takes the view that animators are what they draw and continues, “You are actually playing out your fantasies on paper. But if you’re not animated yourself, either inside or outside, it doesn’t come across on the paper. So I suppose animators have to have an extrovert nature because that is what is coming over on the paper all the time. I do find introverted people produce introverted animation. Extroverted animators animate what they are.
If the same can be said of producer/directors then one should detect a well planned, business like approach running through Terry Ward’s films.
Printed in Animator Issue 13 (Summer 1985)