Rocking the Boat
Cardiff is a major production centre for animation with many large and small studios producing TV series. These have grown with the help of the Welsh television channel SIC which was established in Cardiff in 1982. Rather like its London based counterpart Channel 4. SIC has been very keen to promote animation, but probably for different reasons. SIC has a mandate to produce programmes in the Welsh language and animation can be re¬recorded in any language without noticeable lip synch problems.
SIC is backing animation production well into the nineties, initiating three major international projects co-ordinated from Cardiff – Animated Shakespeare (delivered Autumn ‘92), the Animated Operas (delivery Autumn ‘93), and Animators in Concert (delivery Autumn ‘94). Each of these is a series of six half-hour animated films designed for worldwide, peak time viewing.
The Shakespeare project was handled by the Dave Edwards Siriol Animation Studio. This is one of two halves created when the original Siriol studio split. In the early days of SIC Dave Edwards was the director of Superted. The new studio, set up in 1988, is now working with the USA and Moscow on a wide range of productions. Dave Edwards was overseeing the impressive Shakespeare project made in co-production with Soyuzmulffilm of Moscow.
A suite of offices in Castle Arcade. Cardiff, are the headquarters of Fairwater Films, run by enthusiastic managing director Tony Barns. As well as producing the highly successful The Shoe People, Tony has produced several Viz cartoons. These include Billy the Fish, Roger Mellie the Alan on the Telly and Sid the Sexist. Fairwater have been in business for eleven years.
On the outskirts of Cardiff, at Llantrisant, is Cartwn Cvmru which was formed four years ago. Naomi Jones. producer and managing director of the company, has worked in animation for ten years and combines her numerous skills with those of animator and director Gary Hurst. One of their recent productions was Funnybones, a story about a family of skeletons and their skeleton dog. The narrator of the tale is Gruff Rhys Jones who, when asked to participate, declared, “my kids will kill me if I don’t.”
One of the youngest studios in Cardiff is Home Movies. Five talented animators make up the studio, each with their own distinctive style. Joanna Quinn is famous for the creation of ‘Beryl’, the intrepid heroine of Girl’s Night Out and Body Beautiful.
Candy Guard is another of the Home Movie animators who has struck a cord of recognition with her female characters. The trials and tribulations of every day life are given a humorous twist, whether at the employment agency (The Wrong Type), or the hairdresser (Alternative Fringe).
The International Animation Festival opened with the world premiere of Under Milk Wood. The 50 minute production uses the original Richard Burton radio play as the soundtrack. It stays true to the spirit of the original, fleshing out a continuous parade of characters in a Welsh seaside town. The film was made at Siriol Productions, the other half of the previously mentioned split.
Siriol Productions managing director, Robin Lyons, has involved the studio in a number of European co-productions with studios in France, Belgium and Germany.
Siriol Productions has also been involved with trials of a new computer animation system which was launched at the animation festival. The 2D animation software, called Animo, was developed by Cambridge Animation Systems.
Traditions of black humour and subversion.
The theme of the festival was “Rocking the Boat”, planned to tap into young adult taste. Festival director Irene Kotlarz said, “We celebrate animation’s traditions of black humour and subversion which have always existed as a counter current to the mainstream image of family entertainment.
“As audience perception of animation is moving away from kids cartoons these alternative traditions are re-emerging with force, whether inspired by the popularity of The Simpson’s. Japanese ‘manga’ animations, or the new voices being heard from animators in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.”
The margins of taste and taboo were examined in a programme for adults only. “Touching Bottom”. Whacky humour was the subject of ‘Corny Can of Worms”, where characters are more likely to go ‘splat’ at the end than come out in one piece. There was a tribute to one of the early victims of the censor’s scissors, saucy Betty Boop. in a programme from the UCLA film archive and modern females were represented by such films as A Girls Night Out.
A stimulating programme from The National Film Board of Canada. premiered new work and some classic favourites. Films ranged from Caroline Leafs 1976 Oscar winner The Street to Wendy Tilby’s Strings and Chris Hilton’s Blackfly, both of which were nominated for an Oscar in 1992.
In 1991 the NFBC celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of its animation department. set up originally under Scotsman Norman McLaren. McLaren’s work was the subject of The Creative Process, screened in a separate presentation.
A number of seminars and exhibitions were staged at the festival as well as a workshop where local children could gain hands-on experience of professional animation equipment and benefit from professional knowledge.
On the next few pages are reports of three of the seminars. They show something of the range of subjects covered at this excellent event.
Report by David Jefferson. The International Animation Festival Cardiff was held 10 – 15 March 1992.
Printed in Animator Issue 30 (Spring 1993)