Over my shoulder

By Ken Clark

Publicity for the medium is welcomed whenever it promotes new work or adds to general public awareness, but I have never subscribed to the idea that tricks of the trade should be continually on show – a good magician never reveals his secrets. However, that is not to say the occasional tantalising expose cannot achieve a degree of effectiveness. It is simply a question of degree.

(Clockwise from the left) MOMI Co-ordinators: David Francis and Leslie Hardcastle, with researchers Janet Corbett, Liz Heasman and David Watson on the MOMI site.

The Museum of the Moving Image (MOMI) has the right idea. It has opened the door just sufficient to whet the appetite. Contrast their approach with the overkill we have recently witnessed heralding the general release of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? There were so many clips, repeats of same, and special programmes devoted to the making of the film, they threatened to spoil the viewers appreciation of the film itself. Fortunately it did not happen. Audiences loved it to the extent the sound track was often lost amid the guffaws of laughter, the enormous budget being justified by the speed in which the money was recovered.
Good animation is rarely cheap, although Anne Wood, acting for the best of philanthropic reasons has found one answer:

Kelioggs/Ragdoli Productions Ltd

After listening to the discussion forum at the close of the last Bristol Animation Festival Anne Wood of Ragdoll Productions, was moved by what she heard. It is difficult for newcomers to find a place in the profession, as one person commented, if you are lucky enough to be taken on it is likely to be commercials and/or diagrammatic work, not so likely to be Cosgrove Hall or Siriol. Lacking the necessary capital to produce a production of their own with which to ‘sell’ their talent the situation becomes very hit or miss. If only the possibility existed for young professionals to make a film at someone else’s expense!

Anne Wood came away with the idea firmly rooted in her head. Lacking the means to finance the project herself she decided sponsorship offered the best solution. She contacted Brian Jacobs of Burmett Agency who arranged a meeting with Kellogg Company of Great Britain Ltd. The result was a scheme they call’The Magic Mirror’ which suffered from an unpromising start. The postal strike almost threatened to wipe out the entire launch of their competition designed to encourage more individual animators to create quality work for 6- 8 year old children!

The explanatory paperwork arrived on my doormat a mere three days before the closing date for entries. A phone call elicited the fact that due allowance would be made if I dashed off a quick script based on an out-of-copyright fairy tale or folk lore fable. To help me choose, a list of European fairy tale titles had been thoughtfully provided.

The organisers also required an indication of visual styling in the form of a character drawing; an indication of the chosen technique; a personal CV; and relevant support material.

The judging panel intended to whittle the entries down to 26 potentially viable projects and then make money available from stage to stage. The chosen few would each receive a £250 fee as an initial contribution towards the cost of preparing a detailed storyboard, a maximum number of 200 drawings, together with any other appropriate visual material.

John Coates (TVC), Diane Jackson (animator), Philip Simpson (BFI & BAC-TV) and Bob Berk (Ragdoll’s Art Director) would join the existing judging panel and choose 18 of the most promising presentations. The originators of the chosen scenario were to receive £750 as a contribution to the third testing stage when it was intended to reduce the number of contenders to 13, each of whom would receive a budget in the region of £22,000 (no less) to enable him or her to finish their 7-minute production.

The organisers hope to include the films in a TV series sometime after the delivery date, set for August 1989.

In return for signing over the worldwide copyright and rights in the nature of copyright for the full term (including any renewals or extensions) in the films so produced, and subject to certain conditions over a five-year period, the filmmakers will be entitled to retain personal rights in respect of their originated film characters.

During that 5-year period and at Kelloggs request, full assistance will be forthcoming in the exploitation of characters or story as further animated films, cartoon strips, videos and TV programmes featuring the originators characters, and the production of illustrations for books etc. In return, the lucky 13 are entitled to charge Kelloggs the going rates for services rendered.

It is not a bad deal for Kelloggs either, for a minimum outlay of £350,000 the company will receive an initial 91 minutes of animation, all exploitable material over a five-year period.

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