A Matter of Loaf and Death

3 Dec 2008

We first heard that a new Wallace and Gromit short was in production in Bradford last year, by none other than Nick Park himself. As we consider ourselves amongst Aardman's biggest and most obsessively fanatical fans (we genuinely considered tripping Nick Park down the stairs just so we could talk to him), we knew that it'd be a long wait til Christmas when 'Trouble at 'Mill' would be screened.

A year passed, and a few insignificant things changed (we started an animation studio, Tottenham Hotspurs got good, America elected a black President etc), and a few slightly more important pieces of information reached our ears: the short was now called "A matter of loaf and death," and Christmas was no longer the earliest opportunity to see it.

We no longer foresaw ourselves shunning our families and friends for half an hour on Christmas day to glue ourselves in front of the TV, or waiting with the rest of the animation community (suckers!). We got tickets to the Premier in Bristol, to support the Prince's Trust, and the best thing of all? We'd get another opportunity meet Nick Park and to chat with him/push him down the stairs.

Long story short: The film was brilliant, the whole night was perfect and Nick Park was just lovely. We even got goodie bags complete with Wensleydale cheeeese! (and, slightly randomly, multi-vitamins. They obviously know that animators don't spend enough time preparing nutritionally balanced meals.)

The film was faster paced than the other shorts, with habits picked up from the feature perhaps that didn't suit the short format quite as well. There were a few places where the plot was confusing and lacked exposition, which could have been the result of Aardman's shortest ever production period.

It lacked the charm of Grand Day Out, the plot of Wrong Trousers and the potential spin off characters of Close Shave, yet it made up for these with an abundance of wit, fast paced action and puns and movie references galore. The new characters fit in to the world of Wallace and Gromit well, and Gromit was even given his own love interest (is it just me, or is Wallace turning in to a bit of a floozy?), although the scale of the aforementioned love interest made animation difficult and at times this could break the illusion.

The story is funny and clever, and with the attention to detail and characterisation that have made Aardman world famous. No opportunity for a pun was missed, yet they were able to keep dialogue natural. Peter Salis once again brought Wallace to life with charming ineptitude, and Gromit's eyebrows were as long suffering as ever. The film will perhaps not take its place amongst the very best of the studio's output, but it'll outstrip anything else showing on Christmas Day, and will be the contender to beat at next year's Oscars.

War Horse - National Theatre

11 Nov 2008

Last night we both attended the National Theatre's production of War Horse. It is the second time round for the production, and was recommended to us by a good animation friend of ours Barry Purves. Barry is an extremely talented animator who has created some fantastic films (and puppets) such as Next, Screenplay and Verdi's opera Rigoletto, as well as animating at Cosgrove Hall for over 30 years (Wind in the Willows, Postman Pat, Fifi and the Flowertots).

It was Barry's rave review that whet our appitite, but when he compared the emotion he felt for a 'puppet' to the realistic CGI creations that come out of animation studios today, we really wanted to see for ourselves how powerful this puppet could be.

Well, we were not disappointed! Based on a novel by Michael Morpurgo, the story follows a young boy who rasies a horse which is later sold to the war effort by his father. Upset by this, the boy sets off to join the army and find his horse. Without spoiling anything for you, there are a good mix of emotions thrown in, and I would be suprised if anyone came away having not shed a tear (even for the big burly men there!)

As you can see from the images - the puppets were amazing. It may be hard to beleive, but the three people operating the horse became invisible and it was truly a horse acting on the stage. From an animation and performance point of view, there was much to pick up from such a performance, and I cannot do it justice in words.

This is completely true - but towards the end there is a moment when the horse gets caught in some barbeb wire - and I honestly caught myself thinking "Oww, they can't do that to a real horse live on stage"!

Oh, and the goose puppet/performance made it worth the admission fee on its own!

We would recommend it to everyone. Thank you Barry!

BBC Southern Counties Radio

17 Oct 2008

Stop screaming hysterically people, we will sign your autograph books and various body parts LATER!

That's right, Slurpy Studios shot to international mega fame yesterday, with an interview on BBC Southern Counties Radio. The only question remaining is; will the unparalleled fame and hoards of screaming groupies go to our heads!?

We were interviewed by a DJ by the name of Alison Fern at the station's headquarters in Surrey. The program title was 'Mr. and Mrs,' and the idea behind it is to interview 'interesting couples' (for those of you who don't know, Slurpy Studios comprises of Aaron Wood and Katie Steed - an 'interesting' couple who live and work together.)

The interview was a great experience for us and a lot of fun to do. We were a little surprised to discover that Alison Fern was not to be seated opposite us in the studio, but in Brighton! We were placed in a room with microphones and headphones, and went on air at 1pm. This relaxed approach suited us very well, and we were able to chat with Alison in a casual manner about animation, Slurpy and (slightly worryingly) marriage!

It was probably not the most intimate interview possible, the depths of our souls and psychological make up were definitely not plunged, but we answered all of her questions about how hard it can be living and working in such close proximity, about animation in general and the successes that we've had so far. We talked about our heros and inspirations (mostly Joanna Quinn, Nick Park, Suzie Templeton, Richard Williams) as well as our own work and where we see ourselves in the future.

We're hoping to get hold of a copy of the interview, which we will post here. Apologies to anyone who tuned in a little late and spent all afternoon listening to them talking about male hygiene and hedges!


8 Oct 2008

The more observant of you may have noticed that Slurpy are not the most consistent or regular of bloggers. It tends to be something which takes a back seat behind trying to earn a living and occasionally sleeping. However, it is a subject about which we know an awful lot (whether we manage to put it in to practise or not is a different matter). For this reason we wrote a little manual a while ago for a client who wanted to learn more about the subject, and we thought we'd share it with you now.



“A blog is a personal diary. A daily pulpit. A collaborative space. A political soapbox. A breaking-news outlet. A collection of links. Your own private thoughts. Memos to the world.

Your blog is whatever you want it to be. There are millions of them, in all shapes and sizes, and there are no real rules.

In simple terms, a blog is a web site, where you write stuff on an ongoing basis. New stuff shows up at the top, so your visitors can read what's new. Then they comment on it or link to it or email you. Or not.”

First and foremost, blogs are incredibly “search engine friendly.” That means that search engines, such as Google and Yahoo, reward good (ie relevant) blogs by putting them high in their results. This is because:
- blogs are frequently updated, resulting in a more up-to-date and appropriate match to the search query
- the are relevant to the search query, because they are predominently text based.
- blogs typically contain many ingoing and outgoing links, which widens the amount of information that the search engine has about the site.
- people can comment on other people’s blogs, making them interactive and more impartial.
Infact, Google (the most popular search engine) owns Blogger (the most popular blogging site) so it’s no wonder that they rate their results highly!

Blogs are fast to write, easy to use, and completely free. They attract over 50 million regular viewers in the US alone, and those visitors tend to be young, of above average income, have high speed connections and be considerably more likely to shop online. Customers can find businesses via their blogs, and start a relationship through the informal and interactive medium that gives a human face to a company that may be on the other side of the globe.

A regularly updated blog makes you site considerably “stickier” – meaning that it sticks people to it for longer periods of time, and gives them a reason to return. Wherever you are, whatever you do, you have knowledge and insights that are fascinating to a group of other people, and a blog is one of the best ways of finding these people and making them return to your site again and again. It is an opportunity to show off your expertise, and to prove, rather than tell, your potential customers how good you are at what you do.

Social networking relies on the fact that buzz creates more buzz. If you can attract a small but regular amount of traffic to your site, those people will soon link to your blog on their own, helping other people to find you and then promote you themselves. Why spend time and money on expensive promotional campaigns when writing a few interesting paragraphs about your business a week online will soon get people clambering over one another to promote you. Good word of mouth over the internet, once established, can continue expenentially with minimum effort.

There are many blogging facilities online, including Blogger, LiveJournal, TypePad, Word Press, Blog-City, Xanga, and MSN spaces. All of these have their unique advantages and disadvantages, but for this tutorial, we’re going to deal with Blogger.com, because they are owned by Google and are therefore most likely to be rewarded with good search results.

• Go to http://www.blogger.com
• Click “Create your blog now”
• First you will need an account with Google. If you don’t already have one, then fill in the form as requested.
• Signing up will take you to your “dashboard,” the hub of your blogging world, and you can now create a blog by clicking on the button.
• Enter your chosen Blog name, and Blog URL (this is the place on the web that the blog will be located)
• Choose a template. If none match your brand identity, you can always ask Slurpy to design one for you.
• Start Blogging!

It really is that simple, from now on all you have to do each time you want to write a new blog entry is return to www.blogger.com, and click “New post.” You can add photos and videos, change fonts, add signatures, anhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifd a whole host of other things to make your blog one that people want to return to again and again!

It is worthwhile playing around with the settings in your blog, to customize it to your preferences and make sure that it is as optimized as possible for search engines to find. Click on the “settings” tab at the top of the page, and go through the different options, making sure that they are set to allow everyone to view (if that is what you want of course) and that you use all description and keyword opportunities.

Blogger.com has the added advantage of allowing you to host the blog yourself from your own domain. To do this you will need Blogger’s FTP feature, full instructions can be found here.

Although these guidelines for writing a blog are little more than common sense, they are broken often enough for it to be worthwhile setting them out in black and white.

• Do use correct spelling, punctuation and grammar. Don’t be deceived by the informality of the medium, it is always important to come across as intelligent enough to follow basic linguistic rules.
• Write in the first person
• Use lots of headings, because a lot of internet users are there to browse
• Hook your audience in the first sentence
• The ratio of interesting content to promotional material should be no less than 90-10. Don’t just tell people how great and knowledgeable you are, use the blog to prove it!
• Engage with your audience to earn their respect and their regular readership.
• Your blog will fail if it is obviously phoney- keep it real
• Post at least weekly, no more than daily. Blogs require a lot of maintenance
• Read and comment on other people’s blogs as much as possible, and link to them in your blog where relevant – people will soon reciprocate. Reading other blogs will also give you a good idea of what works and what doesn’t
• Try to respond when people take the time to comment.
• Keep each paragraph fairly short – alot of text on a screen can be pretty intimidating
• Link to other blogs within your own, and also link to previous blogs of your own so that people who are new to the site can browse the topics that interest them more easily. Every time you mention a new idea, try to link it to something- links are what makes the web work.
• Ask for comments on your blogs. Most readers are more interested in what they have to say than what you think. End each blog with “tell me what you think”
• Add pictures and videos. There are hundreds of royalty free stock images at www.sxc.hu that you can download, or make your own (or ask Slurpy to make some for you). Just don’t steal them from Google Image Search – it is illegal to use an image without permission.
• Fill in your profile with as much information as possible. The more people know about you, the more likely they are to trust you. Try to include a photo as well.

• Don’t make your language too formal- this is supposed to be the human face of your business where you communicate with people as equals. Don’t talk down to people, and don’t use corporate language
• Don’t use hard sell techniques- people don’t browse the internet looking for advertising, they look for information and entertainment. Providing one of these will get people returning regularly.
• Don’t be derivative, and if you do quote from other sources then reference the source.
• Don’t spam other people’s blogs. Use the comment system to communicate and introduce your ideas and blog space, but just adding a link will not make you any friends.
• Don’t write when angry. Although you can take down a blog whenever you want, you’ll have no idea who’s seen it and possibly copied it before you do.
• Don’t expect a million hits overnight, it takes time to build up a regular readership. In the next section we’re going to discuss how to speed things up a bit.
• Don’t preach, lie, or pretend that you know more about something than you really do – odds are that someone out there will catch you out.

A blog can take many angles, and each one will attract different readership and fans. You could talk about new developments, new products or services that you’re offering, the day to day running of the business, big issues of the day or you could be responding to other blogs or media. Say you were writing a blog on organic Gardening: your blog could include responses to questions that you receive regularly, links to new books and magazines, meal recipes, maps of the best places to grow organic food, reviews of cookbooks; anything it takes to establish you as a leading authority on the subject will bring business your way.

Your posts can be any of the following things:
- Informational – A news oriented blurb, such as a new development
- Question/ Answer – get bored of answering the same email five times a day? Stick the answers in the blog. Remember that if lots of people are asking you, lots more people are probably searching for the same thing
- Instructional – A how-to article or tutorial on a particular aspect of the business
- Link posts – Find an interesting blog or article, link to it and review it
- Rant – Don’t be afraid to take sides! Interesting blogs don’t sit on the fence, but offer opinions and reasons. Feel free to let off some steam once in a while, just avoid making offensive personal comments.
- Book/ Product Reviews – Give an honest review of a book relating to your field, people will respect you for your opinion and if their’s differs, you have an excellent opportunity for communication
- Lists – Top 10s are always popular, and will help establish you as an authority. You can also critique other people’s lists
- Interviews – Chat with other people in your field, or let someone else interview you. Chances are that questions will come up that you’d never put in writing before.
- Stories and Anecdotes – Keep them relevant, but all stories add a personal touch to the blog. How did you get in to the business? What difficulties do you find?

Probably the most important and time consuming part of starting a new blog is promoting it on the web. Although there are fewer blogs in the world than there are websites, the number is constantly increasing as more and more companies realise the vast exposure they can obtain through increasing their online presence in this simplest of ways, meaning that competition is becoming fiercer

Search engines work by sending out “spiders” about once a month to check for any updates to your site and to re-evaluate how relevant you are to each search criteria. You don’t want to go a whole month before search engines recognise that you’ve updated your site, so you can now “ping” them to make them aware that they need to send the spiders round again. Go to http://www.pingomatic.com/ and fill in all of the relevant information, before checking all of the boxes and clicking “ping.”

Take part in the community:
This is the aspect of creating a blog that can take the most time, but can also be the most rewarding. Read other people’s blogs; comment on them; post replies to questions; interact with other bloggers; post links to interesting articles. The more you can become part of the community, the more people will link to your site, and the wider your readership becomes. To find blogs that interest you, just search in http://blogsearch.google.com/ and start building buzz around you!

Blog to email Subscriptions
By far the easiest way for readers to receive your posts is via email subscription, to save readers the effort of returning manually to your page to see if you’ve updated recently. Feedblitz.com offers a free blog-to-email service that inserts a ‘sign up’ box on your blog so readers can provide their email addresses. Subscribers then receive an email digest of every new post, and can click through to read the entire blog. Only about 15% of internet users understand and utilize RSS, so email subscription is still something your can’t afford to forget. The other advantage of this service from Feedblitz is that it provides you with reporting tools showing how many of your emails are opened and which headlines get the best results, showing the content readers value most.

• Go to http://www.feedblitz.com/f/?AddBloggerWidget
• Fill in the form with the email address that your blog is registered to, correctly replicate the CAPTCHA and click Install
• Go to the email that was automatically sent to you, and click on the link to confirm registration
• You can now login to Feedblitz (although you may have to request to have your password sent to you)
• Return to http://www.feedblitz.com/f/?AddBloggerWidget and enter your email address etc again.
• When you click the link this time your will be taken to Blogger, where clicking “Add Widget” will add the blog-to-email widget to your blog.

Want to get more out of your blog? The Internet contains literally thousands of free ‘widgets’ that you can add to your blog to make it stickier and more user friendly.
Search “widget + blogger” to find widgets that do every task imaginable, from collecting email addresses to listing all of the websites you check out (not always advisable). When you decide on one that you want to add to your blog, it is generally a simple matter of entering your website’s URL, followed by a few more pieces of information. You will be presented with some coding, which you can just copy (Ctrl+C) and paste (Ctrl+V) in to your new blog.

Publish your articles in e-zines:
The life of your post does not have to end when you post it. If people are enjoying reading it, why not try submitting it to online journals and publications? There are hundreds of magazines and newsletters that are scouring the web for content to fill their pages, so try submitting your best posts to them. Sometimes, the success of a blog can be a story in itself!

If you have any questions or any other aspect of web promotion, please don’t hesitate to contact us at info@slurpystudios.com

A busy (and depressingly rainy) September

Personally I have little or no idea what happened to September. One minute I was looking forward to it because some optimistic newsreader promised me an Indian summer, and the next minute I was looking back on it pulling on my thermal underwear. I just hope October takes a bit longer because otherwise I may have to start hunting out my hot water bottle.

Slurpy were busy in September. We created an entire brand identity for Unibutler, including their web site, logo, graphics and animation. If you want to hear a funky tune you wont be able to get out of your head, feel free to check them out at www.unibutler.com. They were a great company to work with; two guys just out of University with an idea, who were totally passionate about their business and who, we think, have a great future ahead of them. If their web analytics are anything to go by they will anyway!

Unibutler intro from Slurpy Studios on Vimeo.

Slurpy won a competition a few months ago on ITV to create a 10 second title sequence for them, and from that came a commission for three short films, two of which we have now finished. These films will be broadcast later this year, but here's a sneek peek for anyone who has read this far:

ITV Fixers - hoodie scares Gran from Slurpy Studios on Vimeo.

We've spent a lot of time recently on the promotional side of the business. Although we've managed to get as far as we have with just word of mouth, combined with the power of social networking (and people who don't believe in social networking should know that we met our first Client through Facebook and our third through Myspace). We felt that now we were a lot more confident in ourselves and our abilities as animators, we were ready to face the big bad world and start actually promoting ourselves.

With this in mind, we spent this morning at a BNI (British Networking Institute) meeting. BNI are an organisation which groups different businesses together and encourage them to be mutually helpful, with the idea that the better you know other businesses, the more likely you are to refer them to family and friends (and they you). We had a lovely morning (and we're not naturally morning people), collected a ridiculous number of business cards, and met some thoroughly nice people. So we joined. We'll let you know how it goes!

In other news, we're currently working on some ecards (which we love doing because we get to be in the Christmas spirit two months early and before all but the most organised of shops), as well as an advert for a weight loss diet, a website for a property developer and a whole host of other little projects to keep us bent over our lightboxes.

Speaking of which, I should probably get back to mine!

Summer Time...

31 Aug 2008

4mations 400 badge
It doesn't seem that long ago that we posted the music video and were looking forward to a few days off! August has been a quiet month, very much tying up loose ends, promoting ourselves and straightening out some 'boring' business-type things.

We have finished our 2 short animated pieces for ITV (30 seconds each) on the misrepresentation of youths who wear hoodies. This is not available on our website yet, but is due to be broadcast in October.

Best Day We Ever Had is currently being submitted to various film and animation festivals around the world. One of the schemes we have joined is a new Channel 4 inititive called 4mations which showcases animation talents. Slurpy were one of the first to join, hence the strange cat 'badge' we were given (above)!

Apart from the work, August has seen us audition for Tim Burton's new film 'Alice in Wonderland', vivst the Edinburgh Fringe and do a mini sight-seeing tour of the North East. We thought it worth mentioning a wonderful second-hand bookstore in Alnwick, Northumberland. Barter Books is housed in the old railway station and is the 2nd largest bookstore in the UK. It retains an old railway station atmosphere and there is plenty of space to sit and browse your books. If you are up that way, it is well worth a visit!

"Best Day We Ever Had" Music Promo

26 Jul 2008

"A newsreader announces the end of the world. The human race accepts its fate and finally finds peace. But is that really a meteor heading for Earth, or could it be something else?"

We have just completed our first fully animated music video for the song "Best Day We Ever Had" by talented singer/storyteller Sam Roman. The video chiefly uses traditional 2D animation, but with an added blend of special effects and composited layers. The video draws on a 1950s comic book style and the science fiction films of the era. See how many references you can spot!

Sam Roman is a soul singer who is about to release his second EP, entitled "Singer/Storyteller". He has performed alongside Jamelia and Lemar, and also supported funk legend, Don Blackman to a sell out crowd at the Jazz Café.

You can check out Ian Lumsden's review of the video at the Animation Blog.

June Update

30 Jun 2008

We have had both a quiet June, and a very busy June. We started the month off by going to Annecy Animation Festival, where Death by Scrabble was being shown in the graduation films competition. The film recieved a great reception and has spurred us on to produce something for next year's festival. We did the usual meeting, eating, film-watching and sight seeing that you tend to do in Annecy, although this year's festival did have its share of bad weather. Our recommendation of the festival would have to be The Three Robbers, mainly for its great German music!

On our return from Annecy, production began on our latest project - the music video for soul singer Sam Roman's new single "Best Day I Ever Had". The video will be based on a 1950's comic book style, incorporating both animation and live action elements.

Although this has kept us busy, we still found time to do a bit of publicity work. Following on from the ITV Fixers competition, we have been written up in a couple of local newspapers (Farnham Herald, and Farnham Diary), as well as appearing on the UCCA website ("Animated Couple Win ITV Prize"). Finally, Slurpy have had their first animation 'exhibition'! We have assembled a small collection of our past work, including puppets, props, drawings and storyboards, which are on permenent display at Halliford Film Studios, Middlesex.

Slurpy's First TV Broadcast!

25 May 2008

Slurpy Studios has just completed its first animated piece to be broadcast on TV. The piece, a 10-second title sequence based around an environmental theme, will be shown as part of a new TV show called ITV Fixers - "a major campaign where young people can take action on any issue they feel strongly about - changing things for the better."

The show airs at 6.15pm every weekday evening between 23 – 27 June 2008 on ITV Meridian, Thames Valley and West.

This may have been a very small project, but it has already lead to another producer at ITV wanting to collaborate with us on a new show involving live action and animation. Watch this space...!

WINNER - Stoke your Fires best 2D Animation

17 May 2008

Yesterday a Slurpy Studios representative (Katie Steed) took the day off from drawing thousands of practically identical pictures, and spent the day at the Stoke on Trent Animation Festival, somewhat ingeniously named 'Stoke your Fires.'

It was a thoroughly enjoyable day with guest speakers including Chris Bowden from the world renowned Cosgrove Hall, master puppet-makers MacKinnon and Saunders, and Greg Lynn from Chapman Entertainment. At the Award Ceremony later, the day was made even better with the announcement that DEATH BY SCRABBLE picked up the award for Best 2D animation.

Considering the exceptionally high quality of the competition, we are delighted to have won this award which is an exquisite porcelain work by Jerry Warmsley Pitts. It will look very nice on the studio mantelpiece (...just as soon as we get it back from the taxi that we accidentally left it in).

With yet another Award behind us, Slurpy are excited about the future. We are currently working on a website, a title sequence AND a music video. If you want us, we'll be at our desks!

East End Film Festival, UK

23 Apr 2008

Today saw the Slurpy Studios team visiting one of the newest of the British festivals; the East End film festival. This festival, only in it’s second year already boasted a varied and well thought out program of films, including a Polish animation event and films made specifically about the East End of London, not to mention the 32nd appearance of our very own ‘Death by Scrabble.’

Some excellent films featured in the program that we were able to attend. After much debate on the train ride home we decided that Johnny Kelly’s film “Procrastination” about the same subject was the favourite, for its all to familiar behaviours and well thought out design. A film that goes so far as to embody everything that it discusses, and touched a nerve with the entire audience.

Also on the Slurpy Studios list of really very excellent films were ‘Like me, only better’ by Martin Pickles and Sally Arthur’s ‘A to Z.’ Both are RCA films (unless I’m wrong, and I could quite easily be) and both entertained while educating- something we very much admire.

‘John and Karen’ by Matthew Walker is a film that I can find something else to love about every time I see it, but it suffers from the unfortunate condition of having beaten ‘Death by Scrabble’ to the grand prize at a different festival, so sadly we’re sworn to hate it forever.

All together an excellent program of films, and the East End festival were a joy to work with from start to finish. All too often festivals are falling over themselves in an attempt to get people to submit their films, but then don’t feel the need to communicate with the film maker again until the day before the festival, when they mention that your film is in the program and would you like a free ticket…oh you can’t come? Shucks.

The festival will probably never be one of the big ‘must attend’ English festivals, but then neither does it have pretensions to be. It’s a small film festival, which aimed to increase local resident’s exposure to a wide variety of films, and in that it succeeds marvellously. Just don’t go there expecting to meet Nick Park or Joanna Quinn.

First Blog!

18 Apr 2008

Hello, and welcome to the first Slurpy Studios blog. We intend to update this page with any news, events, photos and projects that we are involved in.

So thank you for taking a look!