During his three years with NFTS Ken Lidster worked for short attachments at Aardman’s where Nick Park was in residence and would you believe? Nick Park was also a graduate from the school. That alone would have been enough to interest me in pursuing a line of enquiry but pulling a video copy of RARG from the shelf I spotted the magic words: National Film and Television School. You’ve guessed it; Tony Collingwood graduated from the school, too!
Tony Collingwood specialised in animation at the Liverpool Polytechnic and wrote the story of RARG in 1982. Joining the NFTS two years on he found he was entitled to a budget of £10,000, more if he could coerce others into joining him. Fellow student Philip Appleby composed the film score; Collingwood animated and inked every cel, while his wife Fiona MacVicar painted all the backgrounds.
Interviewed by Bob Swain for the American publication Animation Magazine, Collingwood told Swain it had been Bob Godfrey’s TV programme which had convinced him that anyone could do animation. He invented Edwin Barnes and the mythical land of Rarg, where the inhabitants suddenly discover they exist only in Edwin’s dream. They devise a plan to prolong his somnolent state and save their land from early destruction. The direct consequence of Collingwood’s new found awareness of live-action production techniques influenced his approach to his film: “I worked much more in the way that you would with live-action”, he is quoted as saying, ‘1 described the characters before even drawing them. I thought in terms of real actors who could play the parts, and then I started to develop my characters”.
Similar attention has been paid to the choice of voices, drawing on the talents of Nigel Hawthorne, best known for his part in Yes, Prime Minister the popular TV series, Michael Gough, Anne Jameson and Ronnie Stevens.
His film ran for 18-minutes when he graduated; then Jim Henson saw it and financed an extra 5-minutes and an enhanced music track and the film was completed in March 1989. The original background music had been played by the London College of Music Symphony Orchestra but for the final 23-minute version they were able to engage the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by James Stobart.
Luck continued to smile upon him when he was invited to make a children’s series of animated cartoons Captain 7 & The Zedmen responsible for the storylines and the animation. When the first series came to an end he went to work on a feature-length cartoon for Paramount Bay Based Kids for showing in the United States. At the same time, he completed the story outlines for a further series of Captain Z’s adventures.
Considering on average only three students a year specialise in the Animation Department there have been some outstanding successes.
The roll of honor includes:
David Anderson – Dreamland Express.
Philip Austin and Derek Hayes – Max Beeza and City in the Sky.
Alison Snowdon – Second Class Mail.
Joan Ashworth – The Web.
Nick Park – Grand Day Out.
Andy Walker – Monkey Business.
Nick Willing – Golden Grape.
Mark Baker – The Hill Farm.
Tony Collingwood – RARG.
Joanna Woodward – The Brooch Pin and the Sinful Clasp.
Susan Loughlin – Grand National.
Ken Lidster – Balloon.
The National Film and Television School came about as the result of the decision by an independent committee in August 1965 ‘to enquire fully into the need for a National Film School’. Five years later, in June 1970, the School became a reality when it was registered as a Company, limited by guarantee and lacking a share capital. It is registered as a Charity and is funded by Treasury grant. The government and the film and television industry have contributed to the School’s finances. Channel 4 and S4C (Wales), and other industry sponsors have lent their support, and in addition there have been numerous donations.
1990 was a vintage year for graduates from the school. No less than 131 worked on a wide variety of British film and television programmes as directors, producers, directors of photography. cameramen & women, composers, documentary filmmakers, writers and animators.