Happy Christmas!!

15 Dec 2010

Every year we like to create a Christmas card for all of our Clients, friends and anyone who seems in particular need of some festive cheer.

This is always a fun opportunity to spend some time in Photoshop without worrying too much about what happens, and this years design was a sort of long and drawn out experiment. I didn't really go in to it with a plan (other that than to draw attention to Aaron's hilariously bad ice skating skills!) but played around a lot with the composition and colour balance.

I did try to film myself creating it like last year, but the darned computer crashed halfway through!

Smile for London

4 Dec 2010

It's very rare that we get to create some animation for the sheer fun of it (and believe it or not, creating 24 images for every second can be the most amazing fun one can have by oneself!) but when we saw the brief for Smile for London we decided to have a go. And it only required 10 seconds, or 240 drawing - pah!

It's a competition to show animated films on the underground, to brighten up the drudging boredom of commuting, so we decided to create a film entitled "what do commuters think about?"

This was created in After Effects, with artwork created in Photoshop.

We know that we've got through the first round, which means a fancy soiree in that there London town for the final, which probably means we should go get a haircut...

ASIFA website and BAF 2010 review

22 Nov 2010

Despite only joining Asifa UK last year, we’ve become loyal advocates of the wonderful work that they do to promote the animation industry both here and abroad. As a result we will soon be making their brand new, very shiny website where you can find out the latest animation news, meet other similarly afflicted people, find jobs etc.

Until then, I shall leave you with this article that I wrote for the quarterly magazine 'Dope Sheet' summarizing my top bits of last week’s Bradford Animation Festival, and a recommendation to subscribe to Asifa UK as soon as humanly possible.

"For many of us in the fun filled world of Animation, November means a trip to the curry capital of the North, to be inspired by another healthy dose of innovative filmmaking. And Bradford Animation Festival 2010 did not disappoint. This was another year filled with captivating speakers, breath-taking films and enough animation heroes to make the student delegates salivate in awe.

It’s hard to mention all of my favourite parts of an event that included Gene Dietch and his diminutive wife, Tim Searle’s passionate review of British Animation, a long overdue Lifetime achievement award to Ray Harryhausen and a career choice affirming look at how animation can be used as a therapeutic tool. For me, the standout event in a very enjoyable week was Paul Franklin of Double Negative, who gave us a fascinating insight in to the world of visual effects within Inception and Dark Knight.

One of the things that makes BAF the most popular animation festival in the UK is the quality and number of speakers that they invite from within the animation industry and the peripheries. One example of this was Gary Jackson from Scary Cat studios, who gave an enlightening speech on his work making models for stop motion animation. Turns out that there’s a whole lot more to an armature than balsa wood and twisted wire.

Paul Mendoza of Pixar was informative and charismatic as he spoke about the production pipeline at the famous studio, as well as his influences and career. He then made the somewhat catastrophic mistake of mentioning that Pixar were hiring and was immediately lost under a swarm of student animators, never to be seen again.

Two first-rate programs from Clare Kitson invoked nostalgia and a fair amount of jealousy for the heydays of British animation, when Channel 4 was funding the films that won countless awards and recognition for our Industry from around the world.

As always, BAF showcased an impressive and eclectic collection of shorts, music videos, commercials, features and series’. Screening after screening left me impressed and inspired, both with the technical prowess on display and the rollercoaster of narratives. One moment I was sobbing in to my popcorn at Dustin Grella's “Prayers for Peace”, the next I was giggling like an infant at Alan Shorts “The Fly,” and then I was stunned by the technical wizardry and effects of Patrick Jean’s “Pixel”

The judges (Tim Searle, Clare Kitson and Mette Peters) made a few controversial decisions, causing loud and impassioned arguments directly afterwards as we all debated/ screamed the reasons why our favourite films should have won each category instead. But as no one person seemed to agree on which films should have won the newly named and highly coveted “Osgoods,” most had to grudgingly concede that the judges had done a pretty reasonable job.

Barry Purves, as always, spoke with wit, passion and an intriguingly patterned waistcoat as he delivered the awards. He also treated us to a sneak peek of his latest stop motion epic, which I sense I may need to watch with caution and tissues.

For me, the standout film of the festival was probably “The Little Boy and the Beast” by Johannes Weiland of Germany. Subtle, moving and beautifully poetic, this tale is both funny and sad as it moves towards the plot reveal that you eventually realise you knew all along.

As for the Grand Prix… well like I said, some controversial decisions! It went to Andreas Hykade’s “Love and Theft,” which is fun and bright and mesmerising, but not a lot else (in my humble opinion).

Grand Prix
Love and Theft by Andreas Hykade (whimsical and fun but didn’t create any kind of emotional response)

Special Jury Prize
A Lost and Found Box of Human Sensation by Martin Wallner and Stefan Leuchtenberg (Powerful and beautiful, but keeps the audience at arms length rather than inviting them in.

Audience Award
The Little Boy and The Beast by Johannes Weiland (Stunning film, restrained but powerful)

Big Bang Big Boom by Blu (An incredible logistical accomplishment, full of energy and ideas)

Prayers for Peace by Dustin Grella (A very moving film with a haunting vocal performance)

Short, Shorts
Pixels by Patrick Jean (A must see film for any child of the eighties or fan of what we now have to call ‘retro’ video games. Technically very strong)

Heroes of the UAE by Ben Falk and Josiah Newbolt (Imaginative, well made and full of surprises)

TV series
Heirlooms by Wendy Chandler and Susan Danta (Great concept and well executed. Well done to the Commissioning body too for taking a risk)

Music Videos
The Tom Fun Orchestra: Bottom of the River by Alasdair Brotherston and Jock Mooney (The best of a not hugely inspiring bunch, but still well worth watching for it’s important ecological message)

Films for Children
Monstre Sacré by Jean-Claude Rozec (A wonderful film with a great story and fantastic visuals. Made me want to have kids just to show it to them)"

Bradford Animation Festival

15 Nov 2010

This years BAF has been a hugely enjoyable event, filled with great films, passionate debates and really quite excellent curry. Congratulations yet again to Deb Singleton and the team for putting on an event that showcased the extraordinary abilities, artistic invention and downright surreal imaginations that make up the animation industry.

I’ve been asked to write a festival review for next month’s AsifaUK, so I wont go in to depth here, but will leave you with a few of my favourite films (or, the ones I liked that weren’t too hard to find on youtube).

Hope to see you at next years BAF, and if I do, mine’s an apple and mango J20 (hardcore I know)

The Little Boy and the Beast by Johannes Weiland and Uwe Heidschöetter
Stunning film, manages to be both funny and poignant

Out on the Tiles by Anna Pearson
Hahahahaaaaaa. Joanna Quinn's sense of humour, early Aardman style animation

Stanley Pickle by Victoria Mather
Best bit of pixilation I've seen in many a long year!

Website review: Made in Water

20 Oct 2010

Well we always say we like to make websites for 'different' products and companies... so we've spent to last month creating this ecommerce site for Made in Water birthpools!

The design is clean and crisp, with lots of white space and tranquil colours (baby blues and pinks to appeal to the target audience of Mothers). This clean, almost clinical approach is designed to make Mothers feel secure and trusting of the product, to subconsciously invoke the idea of a hospital.

Web Designer Magazine – Industry portfolio

18 Sep 2010

We’ve been getting Web Designer magazine for about a year now, so were absolutely delighted when they told us they were going to do an interview with us for this month’s edition.

The section is the Industry portfolio, so we were able to show off a few of the projects we’ve been working on recently as well as chatting about our studio, careers and web design ethos (don’t suck).

So here, in full, is a transcript of the article as a special treat for those of you who simply can’t wait until the squeak-splat that signals your copy of web designer coming through the door…

Katie Steed
Creative Director
Flash, CSS, PHP, MySQL, ActionScript, Javascript, SEO, jQuery

Founded by Award-winning animators Katie Steed and Aaron Wood in 2007, Slurpy has grown to employ a team of creatively diverse artists, designers, coders, programmers and directors. It creates innovative websites that are engaging, eye-catching and enjoyable.

Animation and web design are linked by the limitless possibilities that both disciplines offer through imagination and knowledge. All of the staff at Slurpy love spending their days dreaming up and learning of new ways of delivering appealing and interactive experiences and staying on top of the never ending curve that is web design.

Katie Steed
, creative director says; “we want to make the web a more enjoyable and beautiful experience. Although we believe in the old saying ‘the first bite is with the eye; we also know that a visually pleasing website isn’t effective if it isn’t user friendly., accessible and easy to find on Google.” Slurpy produces 100% bespoke work that has increased customers, sales and revenue for their Clients. It has won several awards for its creativity, design, programming and effectiveness.

Submitting To Festivals

26 Apr 2010

In our last blog, we mentioned some of the problems that students in particular suffer when entering film festivals- namely, the lack of communication on the festival's side. As we consider ourselves as something like experts on the subject of submitting films, we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to share our worldly wisdom on the very important subject of festival submisison.

Step 1: Finding out what film festivals are on.
There’s a site that I simply cannot recommend enough, called http://www.britfilms.com/festivals.It contains a very near complete list of all the festivals in the world, and they’re searchable by keyword. You can search for ‘Animation,’ and festivals that have their submission deadlines in ‘April’ to get a complete list of more festivals than you ever imagined existed. Some of them charge for submission, so watch out for that, and the information isn’t kept up to date particularly, but it’s still the best resource we’ve come across.

Cannot recommend enough that you keep a list of all the festivals you’ve submitted to, and keep a note if they tell you they’ve received your film, when you should know if you got in, and which ones you’re successful with.

Step 2: Submitting
Somewhere on the festival site (albeit sometimes hidden in a place that no normal person would ever look) there will be a ‘submissions’ link, which will take you either to an online form or to a paper download. The forms all ask for much the same information, but some ask for additional material. When we prepared copies of Death by Scrabble on DVD for festivals, we also prepared a CD with additional material. Some festivals ask for the additional stuff with the submission, some wait until they’ve decided you’ve got in, but all that does is add to your postage costs.

Our additional CD contains a synopsis, a script, a biography/ filmography and photo of the director, credits, screenings and awards and techniques summary, as well as 3 promotional images in good resolution and thumbnail resolution. Not every festival asks for all of this, but it covers everything we’ve ever been asked for, and is much easier than making specific cds for different festivals.

CHECK and double-check your dvd in as many players as you can get your greasy mitts on. A festival director friend of mine said that about 10% of the films they received didn’t play, and needless to say they did not get accepted!

Step 3: The waiting game
Once you’ve sent your film off, not much left to do but hope and pray! Some festivals you will never hear from again, some will say they’ve got your film and then leave it at that. The politer ones write to tell you if you haven’t made it, but the number of these is disappointingly few in our experience.

When you are successful, some festivals will offer you tickets plus bed and board for the duration, but at the other end of the scale, some of the smaller ones can barely afford to give you a ticket to the screening your own film is in. We recommend going to as many as possible- although watching your own film on the big screen can be painful, opportunities to mingle don’t come much better!

So that’s it. Good luck and we hope to see you at next years Annecy!

List of video sharing sites

24 Apr 2010

Viral marketing describes a promotional strategy that encourages individuals to pass on a message to other people.

This creates the potential for exponential growth in the message's exposure and influence, with people 'infecting' their friends and loved ones before they even know what they're doing.


When we make viral marketing campaigns for our Clients, they often expect us to simply upload the video to youtube and then sit back and watch it go three times around the world before supper.

In truth of course, there's a lot of work in making a video go viral, and in promoting it online.

Here's a list of over 50 online video sharing sites that serve as a good starting point. It's not a complete list, so please let me know any others that you know of so we can keep the list up to date.

Atom Films
Buzznet Video
eBaum’s World Video
Google Video
HelpFul Video
Kyte TV
Medicine Films
MSN Video
PhotoBucket Video
Self Cast TV
Seven Load
Smart Video Channel
Stumble Upon Video
Yahoo Video

Business Club

22 Apr 2010

We have recently made the decision to join a networking group called Business Club. Despite having severely disenchanted with networking following our year with the severely cult-like BNI, this is a tentative step, but one that we take with confidence following a very fun and profitable first meeting.

After all, when a networking group pays for itself for the first 2 years in the first meeting, you feel as though you might as well join!

The meetings are lively, entertaining and educational. Although the focus is very much on business and networking, this is done in a relaxed and informal way, allowing real relationships to develop that aren’t strained by constant pressure for referrals.

Best EVER Animated Music Videos

16 Apr 2010

What makes an awesome music video?

It's not the song, because we've all seen some bad songs made bearable by great videos, just as we've all seen great songs let down by a terrible video.

There have been a lot of really creative, original music videos made over the last 50 years or so, that have combined with the song to make a truly seminal, memorable experience. The music video should enhance, evolve and explain the track. They are the visual translation of the lyrics, the tone and the meaning of the song.

Animation is the perfect medium for Music Videos, because you have 3 minutes to try something totally new and innovative. Lots of new animation techniques have been pioneered in the Music Video Industry, because artists are given so much freedom to express themselves visually.

This is my list of the top 20 animated Music Videos ever. Some are old, some are new, all are awesome.

20. Jason Forrest - War Photographer

Directed by Joel Trussell
2D animation

19. Keane - Bedshaped

Directed by Corin Hardy
Stop-motion animation

18. Nizlopi - The JCB Song

Directed by Monkeehub
Hand drawn animation

17.Weird Al Yankovich - Jurassic Park

Directed by Mark Osbourne

16. Pearl Jam - Do the Evolution

Directed by Kevin Altieri and Todd McFarlane
Handdrawn animation

15. Oren Lavie - Her Morning Elegance

Directed by Oren Lavie

14. Johnny Reubonic - Word of Mouth

Directed by Chris Oatley
2D animation

13. Santogold, Julian Casablancas, and N.E.R.D - My Drive Thru

Directed by Psyop
Photography and CGI animation

12. Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc.

Directed by Passion Pictures
CGI and 2D animation

11. Royksopp - Remind Me

Directed by H5
Isometric shapes 2D animation

10. Oldelaf and Monsieur D - Le Cafe

Directed by Stephanie Marguerite and Emilie Tarascou
2D animation

9. Team William - You Look Familiar

Directed by Michélé De Feudis and Joris Bergmans
2D animation

8. Junior Senior Move your feet

Directed by Shynola
Pixel Art (using Microsoft Paint)

7. Fujiya and Miyagi - Ankle injuries

Directed by Wade Shotter
Dice stop motion animation

6. White Stripes - Fell in Love with a Girl

Directed by Michel Gondry

5. Streetlight Manifesto - Would you be impressed?

Directed by Jurjen Bosklopper
2D animation

4. Michael Jackson - Leave me Alone

Directed by Jim Blashfield
Mixed Media

3. BBC Children in Need - Children in Need

Directed by Chapman Studios

2. Peter Gabriel - Sledgehammer

Directed by Aardman
Stopmotion animation

1. A ha - Take on me

Directed by Steve Barron

I hope that you enjoyed this list of the best animated music videos. If you want to see other music videos, here's Wikipedia's list of All the Music Videos ever made with Animation. It's a long list,but if you're interested, it's a great way to spend an afternoon!

And here's the shameless plug part: Check out our recent music video for Sam Roman's song 'The Best Day We Ever Had.'

Writing for the web

5 Apr 2010

People don’t like to read information from a computer screen. They scan pages for important content, and click on the first link that catches their eyes or vaguely resembles the information that they were searching for.

The more content you have the less people will read. This is because too much text on a page is intimidating; it scares people away.

In addition to this, having a lot of text is bad for Search Engine Optimization (SEO), because it means that your important keywords are buried within a lot of less relevant text.

Short, succinct copy is the goal, and these tips are intended to help you write for the web, or review existing content with both optimization and readability in mind.

Most Important Things To Remember:

  • Copywriting is about selling first and writing second. This involves an understanding of your reader and what makes them tick.
  • Focus on the reader. It’s not about you, your company or your product. Figure out who they are, what they want, what will make them buy from you.

A good copywriter knows their product inside out. A great copywriter knows their audience inside out. Build a psychological profile of your typical reader, and keep it in mind when writing your text. Ask yourself:

  • How old are they?
  • What sex are they?
  • What are their hopes/ fears/ desires/ vices?
  • What is their occupation?
  • What is their income bracket?
  • What do they want more (or less) of in their lives?
  • Do they value money or less stress higher?
  • Do they value fashion or comfort higher?
  • What are their values?
  • How do they see themselves?
  • How do others see them?
  • Are they lead by their head or their heart?
The more insights you can gain in to your reader’s mind, the more likely you are to write copy that appeals to them in a way that they can’t ignore.

  • Always refer to the reader as ‘you.’ Not ‘some of you’ or ‘all of you.’ Imagine that only one person is reading your copy
  • Use ‘you’ at least three times for every time you say “I” or “we.”
  • Don’t tell people what they are interested in, e.g. “as a busy managing director, you’ll want to know all about…”
  • If you state a fact about your product, follow it with the benefit to the reader.
  • Keep in mind the reader’s constant state of mind “What’s in it for me?”

Benefits selling:

You must provide plenty of objective reasons why your reader should buy your product, but remember that people buy mostly on emotional grounds. Benefits sell. Features do not.

Tell the reader how your product will improve their life, and they will care. Tell them that it has a 16 gigowatt engine and is made of a polycarbonate encrusted shell, and they will not.

Writing for the web is all about showing your readers that your product is the solution to their problem. That means the first thing you have to do is to work out what their problem is.

How will your product improve your reader’s life? Answer that question in the first 2 sentences and you’re off to a great start. Mention as many benefits as you can, and use concrete, specific examples to illustrate what you’re saying.

F – features - our websites are designed bespoke for your business
A –advantages – your visitors will be impressed and consider your business creative and professional
B – benefits - your revenue will increase dramatically

So, how is it done?

1. Put the most important information at the top

The “inverted pyramid” began in Journalism and is hugely relevant to writing for the web.

Identify your key message make sure it is within the first paragraph, because the reader could stop reading at any time. Most people read just 3 lines before deciding whether or not the page is relevant.

Ask yourself what you want the user to do with/find out from this page. Make this the most obvious part of your content. If your reader can identify quickly what each page is about, they can decide whether it is worth reading further.

2. Less is more!

A good rule is that you should be saying the same as you say in print on the web using half as many words. War and Peace, for example, will never be popular as an e-book.

  • Keep your language and sentence structure simple. This is not time to show off your vocabulary.
  • Dense chunks of complex text will put readers off.
  • Remember, short copy is good copy
  • Stick to one idea per paragraph.

3. Make web pages easy to scan

The web is a visual medium, so it’s very important to provide the visual clues for scanning

  • Highlight key information
  • Use bulleted lists
  • Break up copy into short paragraphs
  • Use headings and subheadings as visual clues

(click to enlarge)

4. Use brief and emotive Headlines

Headlines are one of the most important things you will write on the web. The first couple of words need to be real attention-grabbers if you want your visitors to read on.

  • Be concise. They should not be longer than 10 words
  • Use clear and descriptive keywords. Remember that headings count very highly towards your optimization.
  • Use headlines to get your reader’s attention and provide information about what the text is about
  • Use powerful words to grab attention
Example Bad/ Good words:
Optimal / Best
Cost Effective / Cheap
Impact negatively / Hurt
Raison d'etre / Purpose

5. Use brief and effective Links

Links are great for helping people navigate around your site and around the wider web with ease. Longer links are harder to read than shorter ones, so be as concise as possible.

  • Avoid the use of “click here,” as the link text, for optimization as well as readability reasons
  • Text in links counts highly for search engines; try to choose a keyword or phrase as the link text.
  • Try to make links read as part of the text.
  • Links are good, but only link to reputable and relevant sites.
  • Don’t use complete sentences as links.
  • If you want someone to read important content, make sure you place the link AFTER the content, not before or in the middle.

6. Consider the way people search

Put yourself in the mind of your perfect visitor and try to use the language and words that they might use to find you.

This will make your pages easier to understand for the user and have a higher chance of being picked up in searches. The best thing about the web is that your perfect customer is the person who is searching for you!

Example: Use cartoon instead of animation if that is what you think your target audience will type in to Google.

7. Avoid scrolling pages where possible

Most users only scroll up to 2 web pages. To avoid scrolling:
  • Be ruthless - cut & edit unnecessary content
  • Break up large chunks of content into multiple pages with this,
  • Use ‘more information’ links for people who are particularly interested in the subject
  • Link out to supporting information

8. Use plain English

Plain English does not mean ‘dumbing down’ your text, it's about having a clear message that helps readers to locate key information. Avoid jargon and don’t write in a flowery, academic or marketing style. Don’t use prior to when before is just as good

9. Avoid welcome waffle

Never use the phrase “welcome to our website” or an equivalent. It’s like small talk, it doesn't convey any information; it’s an attempt to be welcoming and friendly. However, web users don't have time for small talk, they just want to find information (e.g. name and telephone number) and then move on. On the web it’s all about quick communication and getting fast results.

Your website section will actually be much more user-friendly if you avoid welcome waffle.

10. Last but not least: Proofread your text and check your grammar!


  • Begin by planning your text carefully and thoroughly
  • Only write once you know exactly what you want to say in each paragraph and the tone you will take
  • Keep your imagined reader in mind constantly
  • Keep it short, but more importantly, keep it relevant
  • Use benefits, rather than features to sell your product
  • Read and rewrite as many times as necessary. Leave it for a day and come back to it before signing it off.

Web design competition - win $10,000

Weebly are offering $13,000 in prizes ($10,000 1st place, $2,000 2nd place, $1,000 third place) for the best submitted themes. Sounds like a pretty good competition to me - you don't even have to slice and dice the design yourself, just submit the .psd.

Of course, they can use all of the designs submitted, so it's a good deal for them too, but it's still a great opportunity for any web designers out there! They also have a fairly impressive list of experts judging the competition, and will give credit on the designs so everyone should get a little something out of it.

Animation Showreel

4 Apr 2010

We are exceptionally pleased and proud to reveal our new showreel! It contains our work over the few years from projects including Title sequences, Music Videos, Short Films, Series pitches, Idents and Commercials, for Clients including Sky and ITV.

How to train your dragon

1 Apr 2010

Dreamwork's new film How to Train Your Dragon has not been on top of my years must see films. The films coming out of the studio (since the original Shrek, which I wont hear a word against!) have been generic, formulaic and, lets be honest here, designed with merchandising very much in mind!

The trailers haven't done a huge amount of improve my opinion of the film (although I have read some very good reviews), but yesterday I came across this concept art which shows where the film came from visually. I've always absolutely loved dragons and fantasy art, and this is no exception. It looks like at one point it was going to be a really dark, moody piece with atmosphere and drama.

I don't want to judge the film before I've even seen it, but comparing this beautiful concept art with the images of the finished film screams to me that someone somewhere took a very wrong turn!!

... and how it turned out. Very happy meal friendly!

Submitting your website to design blogs

22 Mar 2010

I mentioned in my last post that our new website slurpystudios.com has been listed in over 100 design reviews and blogs. Since then I've had several requests for a list of these design blogs so that other proud web designers can submit their sites for review.

Getting another site to mention your site is valuable in 4 ways:

  • People search design blogs for inspiration and will see your site, dramatically increasing your visibility
  • People will be able to comment and review your site, with the possibility of winning prizes and awards
  • Other sites linking to your site makes Google and other search engines think very highly of you and put you higher up the search rankings.
  • Submitting to a few of these design blogs can create a snowball effect; when other blog writers browse these sites for inspiration, they often repost your site on their own blog and increase your audience in that way. For example, we received hundreds of hits from the influential blog TemplateMonster '101 Awesome website portflios' although we didn't submit the site to them.

So here is a list of some of the sites which collect inspirational or beautifully designed websites that you can submit to:

Apologies if there are any duplicates - it is quite a long list! If there are any others that I haven't listed, please let me know and I'll update it to include them. I checked them all, but if any of them stop working for any reason, please let me know that too so we can make this a useful resource for everyone

New website!!

20 Mar 2010

Any regular visitors to this blog may just have noticed that the design has changed. Gone is the epilepsy inducing red, and here (we hope) is a slightly more tasteful design based on our new brand identity and website.

As is often the way with web design studios, our own site has been slightly neglected of late, and we've been meaning to redesign it for over a year. Just like the shoemaker's kids' shoes (or whatever the saying is), it's just something that we've kept putting off.

But now it's finally finished, and we're very happy with it. I hope you'll check it out and let us know what you think! The site has already been listed on over 100 international design reviews, and has been picked by several influential blogs.

Tex Avery

13 Mar 2010

Everyone knows Tex Avery. It's just that not everyone knows that they know Tex Avery.

Do you know Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny or Droopy? Then you know Tex Avery.

The man was a legend. He worked at Warner Bros and MGM for most of his prolific career, and created more memorable characters during that time than most other studios managed put together. He practically invented slapstick animated humor, and taught animators all over the world how much power they really had over their creations.

He stretched the boundaries, pushed the line, and created a style of animation that no longer looked to emulate live action, it looked to exceed it in every way.

So why am I waxing lyrical about this man 25 years after he died? Because I came across a website today which contains several of his character sheets, and it really brought home to me how ground breaking the man was. I'll post one here, but check out comicrazy for the rest.

Film Review: Princess and the Frog

20 Feb 2010

Most of my feelings about Princess and the Frog were those of relief that at last Disney had returned to what Disney do best (hand drawn animation telling heart-warming stories, preferably with the occasional song thrown in for good measure) and hope that it did well enough at the box office for them to make more.

I hadn’t actually got around to forming any hopes or expectation about the film itself, so was little more than a blank slate, waiting to be enchanted.

I thought the film was very good. The story was fun, the music memorable. The characters were believable and empathetic (I was a blubbering wreck at the end, but a quick look around the cinema made me realise that I was the only person emotionally devastated by the death of a firefly). Spoiler alert by the way. Sorry about that.

I thought the villainous Dr Facilier was particularly good – his movement perfectly captured his personality. Lead Animator Bruce Smith and his team did a great job on creating a character with distinctive movement and a tortured soul that stole every scene he was in.

If I had a gripe (and I do) it would be the over reliance on the supporting characters to the detriment of the development of the main ones. This is something that Pixar do so well – they trust their main characters to carry the story and provoke the necessary laughter and emotion, so they don’t feel Disney’s need to fill the screen with trumpet playing crocodiles or unusually breasted blind women with a penchant for snakes.

Not in the top 20 or so Disney films, but a great starting point on the road to recovery!

The history of pre-animation

11 Feb 2010

One of the extra activities that we do at Slurpy Studios, are animation workshops for Children aged 7 to 13. Animation is an incredibly fun, inspiring, yet educational activity that children of all ages can engage in, and it's always been a great privilege to be there when a child first sees their creation coming to life before their eyes.

The first thing that we always do with the children is to take them through a series of clips from the last 100 years of animation, from James Stuart Blackton's Enchanted Drawings, all the way through to Avatar. I think that it's only through understanding where animation has come from, and seeing some of the early experiments and breakthroughs that a proper understanding and respect for the medium is born.

I remember my first experiments with animation. We did a thaumatrope in class when I was about 9. A thaumatrope is simple a disc with string attached. On one side is a drawing of a bird (for example) and on the other side is a drawing of a cage. When the string is pulled and the disc is spun, it appears as though the bird is in the cage. This is because of persistence of vision; a flaw with the human eye which causes it to retain an image for a fraction of a second longer than it sees it. It is because of this flaw that both film and animation can work.

Needless to say, the thaumatrope got me hooked, and I spend all of that night making my bird sit inside the cage, before moving on t0 Zeotropes and Phenakistiscopes and (slightly easier to spell) flipbooks.

So, for kids who are budding animators, and for parents who are desperate to give their offspring something to do on a rainy day, here is a template for a thaumatrope that you can print (on to card) and make in a few minutes...

And for anyone out there who is no longer impressed by spinning disc (shame on you), I cannot recommend Dick Balzer's website highly enough. It contains information and images of all of the pre-animation animation toys, such as Praxinoscopes, Tachyscopes, Phenakistiscopes and other such dyslexic nightmares.

Propaganda and war time animation

3 Feb 2010

Yesterday I wrote a very short post which, after a fairly meandering journey, talked a little about propaganda animation produced during the war. Since then I've had several friends asking me more about the subject and, since it's something that I find absolutely fascinating and also something that I have a little bit of knowledge about, having done my dissertation on it, I thought I'd go in to the subject in slightly more depth.

Animation is the perfect medium for propaganda. Why? Lots of reasons:

- Animation is considered an innocent medium. It's associated mostly with children's entertainment, and the audience therefore lowers it's guard. We don't expect a political message to be delivered in an innocent medium.

- Animation doesn't have a class, a race, a sex or anything else that alienates part of the audience. A talking bunny is neither black nor white, neither upper or lower class.

- Animation is a clear and concise medium which allows you to say exactly what you want. The animator controls every single pixel of every single frame of the film, and can show only what they want the audience to see. This increases the power of the message dramatically.

And there are a million of other reasons. This is why animation is frequently used not only in propaganda, but also in advertising, which has many of the same requirements.

In Britain during the Second World War, propaganda was considerably more muted than it's American counterpart. Halas and Batchelor films such as 'Dustbin Parade' for example, reveal England's fighter spirit and everyone pulling together attitude. American films, such as Disney's Der Fuhrer's Face or Education for Death often revealed a more aggressively anti-Nazi/Japanese attitude.

I always believed that this was because the American people needed to be educated about why they were going to war, and why they should hate the Germans. The British already knew why they were going to war and only had to be taught how they could help. It could also be to do with the excessive amount of anti-German propaganda produced in England during the First World War, which had mostly been proven to be lies.

For more information on this fascinating subject, I recommend the films of Halas and Batchelor (and here I can squeeze in a plug for the Animation Research Center in Surrey, which I used to Manage, and which contains an extensive collection from the studio), the documentary Animation Nation from the BBC, and the collection of films from the Disney studio entitled On the Front Lines.

Here are the films contained within On The Front Lines, most of which are available to watch on YouTube:

Donald Gets Drafted

The Army Mascot

Private Pluto

Fall Out; Fall In

The Old Army Game

Home Defense

How to be a Sailor

Commando Duck

The Vanishing Private

Sky Trooper

Victory Vehicles

Der Fuehrer's Face

Education for Death

Reason and Emotion

Thrifty Pig

Seven Wise Dwarfs

Donald's Decision

All Together

The New Spirit

The Spirit of '43

Food Will Win the War

Out of the Frying Pan and into the Firing Line

The Grain that Built a Hemisphere

Cleanliness Brings Health

Chicken Little

Winged Scourge


The vital importance of Coke

2 Feb 2010

As I was working frantically (read: browsing lazily) on the internet today, I came across this advert for Coke from the 1950s which I found so hilariously funny that I had to share it with as many people as I could.

(Click to enlarge)

Just remember that it's never too soon to start your baby on a diet of caffeine and cocaine!

It did remind me though of some Disney films that were made during the war for various Government campaigns. I did my dissertation on the difference in war time propaganda films produced in Britain and America, and watched some creations from the Disney studio that no fan should ever have to see! One film that I stumbled upon during this time (although it didn't make it in to the dissertation) was called The Winged Scourge. It was made in 1943, and uses the Seven Dwarves to warn people against the risk of Malaria, and to inform them that the best method for reducing the risk was to... wait for it... pour oil on to every water source.

Scary huh!

And this film was just one of a great many films that the Disney studios produced during the war (despite the fact that nearly one third of their staff were drafted.)

There's a great DVD collection called Disney on the Front Lines which includes about 30 short films made about the war effort and introduced thoughtfully by film historian and mega Disney nerd Leonard Maltin.

Several of the films have not been seen since their initial release; and others were never shown to the general public. Many of the wartime entertainment shorts are largely propaganda, and many are educational. Donald's nightmare of working on a Nazi assembly line in "Der Fuehrer's Face" is still hilarious slapstick. The grimmer "Education for Death" and "Chicken Little" have aged less gracefully (and considerably less politically correctly!!).

It's a scary collection, but it's also fascinating for anyone with an interest in Disney, animation, the war, propaganda or the changing acceptability of gratuitous racism and health policies which actively push to destroy the environment.

Preparing a pitch - things found on t'internet

31 Jan 2010

For the past few months, we at Slurpy have been working hard to prepare a pitch for a BBC children's series. Obviously I can't say much about the series, only that it's aimed at the Cbeebies (very young) audience and that we're very excited about it. What I did want to share with you though, is all of the useful things that I've found on the internet while I've been researching this project, which I think any young studio or even independent animator will find useful. There's not always a huge amount of information available with regards to budgeting and planning a series, so here's some of what we've found useful...

Animation Production Process

Dave Redl, creator of the Family Pants series, has written an incredibly useful and informative essay on the Animation Production Process from beginning to end. It's geared towards people using Flash, but is an excellent general introduction.

"Imagine getting the script, "Fred gets a bowling ball from the closet.” A directors can kill a budget with a simple action like this. They'd show Fred opening a closet toward us, stepping out of the way to reveal 1,000 gags in the closet; a pterodactyl umbrella and such, then grab the bowling ball on the top shelf causing every one of the 1,000 items tumbling out toward us, in perspective, and finally having the bowling ball hit Fred in the head. A simple act, that might be funny, but has nothing to do with the story other than getting the ball.

Hanna and Barbara would have simplified this to; Fred walking left, asking Wilma, “Where’s my bowling ball?” Cut to Wilma sitting in chair, we only see her neck up, “In the closet Fred.” We hear a door opening off camera. Cut to Fred’s butt sticking out from behind a closet door with some rummaging sounds. “I can’t find it! There’s too much stuff in here!” Cut back to Wilma, “Try the top shelf dear… Fred look out!” A crash off screen, the camera shakes and Wilma’s eyes close. Cut back to a pile of stuff in front of a damaged closet door. Fred’s head pops up from the wreckage, “Wilma, one of these days, you have got to clean out this closet!” Then the bowling ball rolls off the top shelf onto his head with a “klunk!”

Dave also shows his animatic as an example, and offers to send the .fla to anyone who emails him. (Also, check out the Family Pants cartoons if you haven't seen them, they're very funny).

Animation Budgets for films, TV shows, shorts and DVDs

Researching budgets can be one of the most difficult parts of preparing a pitch. Going too high or too low can be disastrous, and without having made a series before, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Captain Capitalism doesn't answer this question for you (I'm afraid it's some pretty complicated maths mostly), but he does offer this fascinating graph which shows the budgets of animation films and cartoons throughout history, all adjusted for inflation.

Did you know, for example, that Steamboat Willie cost the equivalent of $173,886 to make (which in 1928 was $15,000) and was 7 minutes long, working out at $414 per second of screentime, or $23 a frame? Whereas Treasure Planet (which I believe comes second only to Final Fantasy in biggest animated financial disasters) cost $159,434,929 to make, working out at $1,553 PER FRAME!

Well worth checking out: http://captaincapitalism.com/blog/2008/11/animation-budget-history.html

Animation Budgeting Spreadsheet

This incredibly useful (and really quite daunting) budgeting guideline from Screen Australia is easily the most useful document I've found on the web. It breaks down every part of the production process in to possible expenses and contains all of the formula that means you're not going to spend your days poking at a pocket calculator. Under 'Publicity materials' for example, the list of options is:

  • Publicist
    • Fees
  • Stills
    • Stills Cameraperson
    • Graphic Design and Photo Manuipulation
  • Press Kits
    • EPK - see d.below
    • Cover
    • Typing
    • Artwork
    • Printing
    • Distribution
    • Copies of DVD Trailer/Clip
  • Electronic Press Kit
    • Production
    • Copies
    • Distribution
  • Promotional Materials
    • Graphic Design
    • Printing
    • Fliers
    • Postcards
    • Poster
    • Distribution Boxes, Tubes for posters
    • Other
  • Video Promo/Clip Selection
    • Production
    • Dubs
    • Distribution
    • Boxes, Labels, etc
  • Website Production
    • Domain Name Fees
    • Hosting Fees
  • Other
    • Crew/Cast T-shirts
    • Other

Now, would you have thought of allocating money for Crew t-shirts? Me neither! Thank you Screen Australia!!!

The Pitching Process

A lot of excellent articles have been written on the nerve-wracking process of pitching to a networking, here are a few... Screenwriters Daily - how to pitch a cartoon AWN - a perfect pitch Media Freaks - Cartoon series pitching Q&A And of course there are lots of locations where you can pitch to multiple networks at one time, such as; Kidscreen Summit, Cartoon forum, MIPCOM, and MIPTV

Commissioning briefs

Every network will have different commissioning briefs, because each of them has a different remit. Cbbc and Cbeebies both offer up their commissioning guides as .pdfs from their websites. CBBC and CBeebies. These documents give great insight in to what the different channels are looking for (basically the next Charlie and Lola), and what their intended budget is.

Other useful things

Everyone is used to using Stock Photography these days, but what about Stock Music and Sound Effects? For smaller budget productions these can be incredibly useful and save a huge amount of money. We use Audio Micro for choice, because their search engine works better than the others we've experienced, which allows us to save time.

As someone who's spent ridiculous proportions of their life contorting their body in the mirror so they can draw different positions, this photo reference library is incredibly useful. I've only just discovered it, but I can already tell I'm going to be going back there most days!