The Grasshopper Animators
THE FINAL PART OF THIS SERIES BY KEN CLARK TELLS HOW THE GROUP SOLVED THE MAMMOTH TASK OF ANIMATING THE BATTLE OF WANGAPORE.
When Sir J. Athur Rank’s film Empire ran into financial trouble, he was forced to close down uneconomic enterprises. G.B. Animation at Cookham was one of the Units that came under the axe. A move which effectively prevented a new series of coloured cartoons from reaching the cinema screens. Titled MAGICAL PAINTBOX, they were to have been a fully animated extension to Henry Stringer’s MUSICAL PAINTBOX series.
Each frame of the sound-track was numbered, then pulled slowly past the playback head of a track reader and each synch frame noted on the dope sheet; this included the start and finish of dialogue, sound FX, musical interludes and scene changes.
The completed dope sheets clearly showed the number of frames required for each scone, the action in words, and the frames on which tight synch was necessary.
In 1966 the Group moved to Shelton Street, home of the School of Film Technique. But with declining membership and minimal finance, a few years later the remaining stalwarts formed a limited company called Teamwork Films. They moved to Neal’s Yard and carried on in much reduced circumstances, relying for their existence on sponsored work. Eventually the venture failed leaving John Daborn with the few remaining group assets.
A page from the Hammersmith Hamsters comic showing the type of sets used in the film.
Setting the Scene
DAVID JEFFFRSON DESCRIBES THE METHODS HE USED TO MAKE SCENERY FOR HIS PUPPET FILM ‘MIND THAT BEND’.
My most ambitious puppet animation film to date is one featuring a group of animals known as the Hammersmith Hamsters. My father-in-law is a road safety officer in the London Borough of Hammersmith and this was planned as Hammersmith’s answer to Tufty, the squirrel character used to teach young children road safety.
They gave the go ahead and I decided it was worth starting afresh on the scenery. I made three models for the street. The main one was a flat view of the houses over the road, then two models with forced perspective showing views to the left and right.
Visit to FilmFair Animation Studios
AT THE END OF AN ALLEYWAY IN A TURNING OFF LONDON’S BAKER STREET LIE THE STUDIOS OF FILMFAIR. DAVID JEFFERSON WENT THERE TO MEET PROFESSIONAL PUPPET ANIMATOR BARRY LEITH.
Director of animation Barry Leith.
A lot of the rules of cartoon apply to three dimensional work and I was doing cartoons for two and a half years. You have to adapt it slightly because it’s a different media.
TV series work has always been double framed, to move the puppets on single frames wouldn’t double the time, it would treble it because you’ve got to be a lot more delicate. In fact there are very few people who ask for TV commercials to be single framed. The only time you have got to be careful with double framing is when you are combining it with live action because then the different sorts of movement become very apparent.
We are using a Bolex H16R 16mm camera. We got a guy to build this electric motor on for us. It gives a half second exposure. It has got a clutch on it so that it free rides along there and stops the film being jerked. It’s an ordinary commercial motor.
This Paddington puppet is new and his feet are a bit spongy, the fabric hasn’t worn really flat on the souls of his feet so when you stand him up he tends to faint, so you end up having to run a pin through to help him keep his balance, but give it about another two episodes and it will stand a lot easier. Lots of characters can actually balance for themselves when they are walking. If they have got to lean over to balance then if that character was for real he would lean over when he walks.
I have still got the first bit of film I ever did and it is terrible. It is too rushed because I was under the impression that every¬thing had to be moving. As far as I was concerned a freeze might have been six or eight frames but that is only a quarter of a second, you blink and you have missed it. It is surprising, you can leave a character standing there for as much as fifty frames, two seconds, if you bring him to a halt gently, shoot the fifty frames and start him off again very gently into his action.