David Jefferson went on safari down The Old Kent Road to find Britain’s smallest animation studio.
Tiger Trax Animation is situated in a block of flats just off the Old Kent Road. As Paul Thomas, who owns Tiger Trax, lead me up the concrete stairs and along the open passageways that lead to his front door he admitted that none of his neighbours realize that he has an animation studio there.
Paul’s work will be well known to regular viewers of Tony Hart’s BBC TV programme “Take Hart”. He did a series of 30 second spots featuring a dog called Scratch. These were a big hit in last years series. Paul has recently finished two spots of “Bubbles”, for the latest programmes called “Hartbeat”. These feature a gang of 12 year olds. The main character, Bubblegum Billy, blows bubble gum into shapes such as ‘gum’ boots, ‘choo-choo’ (train) and other puns on the bubble gum theme. The members of Bubblegum Billy’s gang are based on young caricatures of Paul’s friends and Bubblegum Billy is Paul himself. One of the girls in the gang is based on pop singer Kate Bush. Paul knew Miss Bush through the work he has done for the Kate Bush fan club magazine.
The name Tiger Trax came to Paul when he was walking in the snow making footprints. He has been in the animation business for four years. Following a one year college course on drawing he went round as many animation studios as he could find and eventually got a job in the basement of Bob Godfrey’s studio as an assistant rostrum cameraman. Paul developed the idea of Scratch and sent it to the “Take Hart” producer. Paul said that they flipped when they saw it because it was done in lull cel animation and up to that time they had not used cel animation on the programme. The series was animated in Paul’s home studio and rostrum camera work was done at the BBC TV studios in London. He assists the cameraman during the shoot which normally takes about six hours per sequence. The film is edited by the BBC who add any sound that is required. The stories are all worked out and animated by Paul.
Kate Bush magazine
In between animation jobs Paul works as an illustrator. He is doing a children’s book based on Scratch and has developed some board games that have been published in the Kate Bush fan club magazine.