Once the film is shot, although there are certain points where it can be tightened up with editing, there is less flexibility than with live-action. “In The Puddle Town Puffer, the train looked so good when shot we decided we would gain by having it on screen longer. A whole scene was dropped and more train shot, it certainly worked better. It would be great to line test the whole film, the way one does with commercials but it isn’t cost effective.”
They relied on a Quick Action Recorder to show how the characters looked on screen and how they animated. The QAR records the animator’s pencil drawings digitally on a computer via a video camera and plays them back in real time on a TV monitor. “The QAR tests are not something I would show to clients or send to Central Television but the machine enables us to experiment with the animation,” enthuses Ward. “Often you’d animate something and wonder what it would be like if you cut out a few inbetweens or exaggerated the animation a little more, now with the QAR it’s very quick. You can extend the animation or go over the top and, in a few seconds, see the result.
“Most of the animators work at home and out of town. Often they come in with a bundle of drawings, shoot a test, and if need be, make some new drawings on the spot. They depart happy in the knowledge that their animation works or they have changed it and made it work.
“These experiments lead to the development of a special Pondle walk. The Pondles are very tubby which means they are carrying a lot of weight. When we were planning the series we animated a bouncy walk cycle for Conker. Everyone thought it looked funny so we decided to have bouncy walk cycles for all the Pondles, if it made us laugh it might make the kids laugh. If it hadn’t been tried on the QAR we might have settled for a more conventional walk cycle.”
The animation is being shot by Tony Haines at Filmfex Services. They shot a lot of Watership Down and also worked on the Tellybugs series so they are used to working with a stock system.
“We keep all the pencil drawings of the stock animation here, the traced and painted cels of the stock are with the camera department,” says Ward. “We ran through the stock system with Haines at the start of production. A list the file numbers for stock required in each film is sent to Filmfex and it is up to them to locate it. We had problems at first, as you can imagine, but it finally worked and at the moment we are shooting at a goodly pace.”
The film is being edited by John Daniels and Ken Morgan who work in the same building as 101 Productions.