“The initial offer to join the project is to establish a common format within the membership,” I was told, “so that we can supply Harry to all hospitals without restrictions on the type of media that they can use. Harry is available as a printed photocopyable comic showing some of the more common hospital procedures, including blood-tests, stitches, etc., but the real power of Harry comes over in full colour and sound as an interactive computer disk or when transferred to video.”
Work was recently completed on a live action/animated video showing the administering of an anaesthetic to a little girl. Chris’s brief was to use Harry in such a way as to reduce the stress factor. This meant leaving room in the live-action scenes for the cartoon character to interact, for example: when the needle is inserted into the back of the child’s hand, Harry yawns and goes to sleep. When the little girl wakes up, Harry is right beside her waking up at the same time. With a re-assuring grin Harry succeeds in diminishing fears without trivializing the medical process.
It is Mike and Chris’s intention that Harry should be seen as the standard for information presentation to children in hospitals and they offer him to interested parties through their special bureau service.
“In all cases it is the children who have ultimately told us how they would like to be informed and entertained, and we have been only too willing to listen. We have also taken much advice from professional bodies within the Health service.”
All of this has been achieved since twelve-year old Chris’s cartoon character, Whiffle the Mouse was shown on Rolf Harris’s Cartoon Club in January 1990. Within the year his character appeared weekly in the Bucks Free Press newspaper, eventually running for two years, making him the youngest professional cartoonist in the country…. and all this before he sits for his ‘A’ level exams.
Chris’s ambition is to make his career in the world of cartoon and animation. By any measure he has taken an astonishing and creditable step along that road and demonstrated that his first sixteen years on this planet have not been wasted.
Animation workshops may seem to be the sole prerogative of colleges, universities and film schools, but that is not so. Stan Haywood pioneered an educational initiative which involved taking Chromacolour’s Amiga based animation system into schools and introducing children to the fascinating world of moving pictures.
Following Stan’s lead, other enterprising Amiga owners have set up as workshop leaders. Some operate through regional Arts Boards, others move around the country in a freelance capacity. A fixed venue is preferred where it serves a close community, on the other hand the freelance approach allows for much greater flexibility.
Steve Hughes MA. is a freelance who has been active for seven years. After Art school, came fringe theatre work for Community Arts, shadow animation, shadow puppet theatre, then he became a theatre practitioner involved in workshops.
His ‘good lady’ Lee Sass is broadly engaged in Visual Arts and it was through her he first became involved with Yorkshire deaf teenagers who were seeking help with drama and animation. Having left his early work on Super-8 and 16mm film behind him, he now uses a system made by EOS called Supertoon, used in conjunction with Take-2 animation program and DeluxePaint 3 and 4. The system also requires a high-grade video editing desk with time code to accomplish single frame rendering, a digitiser placed between the video camera and an Amiga 500. The edited sequences are recorded onto video tape through a genlock.
The purchase of the new Amiga 4000/030 and Simpatica, a video deck editor will greatly enhance his versatility. The latter item has been thought necessary because his local Health Authority has asked him to work on a corporate quality movie titled ‘Paradise’, about HIV and AIDS. The Authority is the sponsor. and proposes distributing it among Lincolnshires deaf community. Although it will have a soundtrack, understandably it will have to work on a purely visual level.
Steve is quick to point out that his workshops are for adults, as well as children. “When working with children,” Steve told me, “the creative person in the group is usually the misfit – the child the teacher points out to me, saying: ‘You’ll have trouble with that one!’ I generally start by showing them flipper, pads and the Zoetrope. The Zoetrope fascinates them. Pencil and paper exercises begin with simple two-drawing movements which introduce them to the principle of illusory movement, then they are asked to complete a five-drawing movement for the camera. I shoot on threes and work in blocks of twenty-one frames. We progress to storyboarding and then we make up a short sound-track, recording it like a radio play or documentary. My cassette recorder has four channels, for voices, music and FX. Later, the visuals are cut in sync.