Monday, 15 February 2016

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside...

Things are in full swing for Final Major Project! A bit of development from the previous post but I have decided to home in on what I've learnt in previous years and show improvement on those skills. So I decided to make a car, a set, several props and maquettes for my final project. I'm looking to make an old-fashioned set and car to match, then produce a story and character from that.
This weekend just gone I went to Swansea, in and around the town area, because I knew there are several older styled buildings for inspiration for my set and it would be good to get some first hand reference of what these buildings look like and to note the various different textures. Plus its the nearest beach to me for my thinking and planning time!

Here are some of the sketches I did throughout the weekend;

Weekend finished off by schedule planning by the beach! Perfect.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Company 5 - Animortal Studios "The Best Goddamn Cop on the Force"

The final company to be analysed is one that I have had very positive experiences with directly. Animortal Studios, based in Bridgend, South Wales, is a studio that specialises in stop-motion animation films. At present, Animortal are working on the production of "Chuck Steel: The Night of the Trampires". I was lucky enough to assist in the art department whilst completing work experience.

Animortal is a recently founded studio, and has more than forty staff employed to work on their latest picture. Whilst working in the art department; I worked under art directors Bridget Phelan and Phil Lewis, both with considerable experience within the industry.
Bridget worked on Aardman's Chicken Run & Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit, as well as LAIKA's Coraline and Paranorman, whilst Phil was an art director on A Close Shave and The Pirates!, alongside working on other Wallace and Gromit features. It was an inspiring experience to see the level of work that is required at this level of the industry, and the meticulous attention to detail that goes with it.

Despite being there as a temporary member of the team, I felt welcomed by each and every member of the production. Everybody was friendly and this facilitated a comfortable atmosphere to work in. I believe that this was vital in allowing me to be confident enough to produce some good work, and maximise the benefits that I could take from the experience, learning a huge amount about working in industry and on a major project such as this.

I hope there are many more instalments in the Adventures of Chuck Steel, so that I can hopefully get another opportunity to work on this excellent project again, with a talented and friendly group who deserve this project to be a success.

Company 4 - Three Stones Media "Makin' A Bad Ting Good"

The fourth instalment of the stop-motion studios road show will be dedicated to Three Stones Media. The company was originated in 2007 as a collaboration and is based in Battersea in London, Three Stones Media are a smaller company in the market, particularly when compared to other organisation that have been analysed in this section of the blog. With one chairperson and two production staff, Three Stones Media will appear to rely on freelance and partnership work for projects.

One thing that can be seen as a huge positive when working for Three Stones Media is the continuity factor. The company will really throw itself into a project, and will focus upon it to ensure the highest quality of end result possible. As a worker, I would fit into this framework, as I like to maintain a meticulously high standard of work as possible, especially when delivering a final product.

This is evident in the development of children's television series Rastamouse. As it is a smaller, locally based organisation, Three Stones Media really have to make their projects successful and reputable, as larger competitors could theoretically gazump them. But the success they have accrued with an established brand such as Rastamouse has been fantastic for them to get a foothold in the industry, especially as this renowned series was the first to carry the studios name since it's inception.

Since then, Three Stones media have produced many episodes of Rastamouse of CBeeBies, and it has been nominated for numerous awards include Best Pre-School Programme at the Broadcast Awards on several occasions, including 2016. It shows that delivering on project to the best of your abilities can be just as effective as delivering many projects but spreading resources.

Three Stones Media's distribution and production of Rastamouse has been fantastic. I think I would be a good fit at Rastamouse as I would like to try and work in the puppet department to get some basic knowledge of the fabrics and materials where there is a crossover into the art department. But after having talks with people that worked on Rastamouse I would learn a lot from the people I would be working with and my skills would definitely improve on a production such as this.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Company 3 - MacKinnon & Saunders "Mr. Ravioli"

The third company from the stop-motion world I am going to focus upon is MacKinnon & Saunders. It is a very well established company in the world of stop-motion, MacKinnon & Saunders pride themselves on having over thirty years of experience in the trade, and the company's team can offer a wide range of services include a full production, puppet & set construction and consultancy on a variety of different components. Whilst it appears to operate on a project-by-project basis with no designated headquarters, it is a very reputable business that has operated on some hugely successful projects.

The company is highly regarded as a puppet fabricator and constructor of armatures of a very good standard. In the past few years, MacKinnon & Saunders have been credited as a 'Special Effects' company on many success full animated movies, such as Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), Toby's Travelling Circus (2012), The Boxtrolls (2014) and the Clangers (2015). In addition to this, it has been heavily involved in children television series' such as Postman Pat and Bob The Builder. As a model maker, this level of diversity is greatly appealing, and the challenge of creating both established and new characters for projects such as these would be one I would relish. The variety of projects would also allow me to test myself in many aspects of stop-motion, and it would very enticing to work within many strands of the industry.

Even though I am interested in the model making and stop motion side of the company; it is imperative to point out that MacKinnon & Saunders also manage projects and consult on other mediums of animation, such as 2D and CG. It is this flexibility that allows them room to manoeuvre in the industry and compete against their competition.

In recent times, MacKinnon and Saunders continue to diversify in the marketplace. In addition to the aforementioned film and TV projects; the company have recently agreed deals to be involved with new episodes of CBBC series' including the popular 'Frankenstein's Cat'; as well as televisional commercial work and promotional reels for charity and exhibition events. Their recent portfolio gives every indication the varied and successful trend that MacKinnon & Saunders are currently on looks set to continue.

Fantastic Mr. Fox is my favourite Stop-Motion film because I love everything about it. I think the puppets are beautifully made. So looking into Wes Anderson's Stop-Motion films would have been my 6th company! Looking into the diversity of Mackinnon & Saunders has made me realise that I would like to possibly explore new avenues of companies that aren't Stop-Motion related. I enjoy sculpting so creating maquettes like the one in the picture above would be ideal for me, I find great satisfaction in being given a 2D drawing or image of a character then sculpting it in 3D with Sculpey.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Company 2 - LAIKA "Etcetera, etcetera, big words, chummy banter."

The second company to be detailed are LAIKA. Based in Hillsboro, Oregon in the United States, LAIKA was founded in 2005 as a successor to Will Vinton Studios. Whilst LAIKA is a relatively new company in the filed of stop-motion animation, it is one that is certainly making big waves and superb progress across the industry. Will approximately 400 employees on their book as their celebrated a decade in the industry, LAIKA have now established themselves in this sector.

LAIKA has the feel of a very independent yet close knit community; one which everybody from animator to viewer are a part of. The mission statement of the company is "to bring to the screen the kinds of emotional, innovative, and exhilarating stories we as filmmakers loved growing up". This very much sums up the aims and objectives that LAIKA are trying to establish.

LAIKA played a part in Tim Burton's 2005 stop-motion feature "A Corpse Bride", propelling them into the public psyche. The studios fist feature length film was Coraline (2009), which was highly lauded and earned the company an Oscar nomination for their debut production. LAIKA appears to take meticulous care on their project in order to maximise it's impact, as their second and third features, Paranorman (2012) and The Boxtrolls (2014) also garnered credit from the critics and accrued Oscar nominations from The Academy. It will be interesting to see whether the studio's fourth production, Kubo and the Two Strings will make it a quartet of nominated animated pictures when it is released in Summer 2016, continued the high standard of LAIKA's work thus far.

LAIKA identify themselves as a community team. There is a great sense of pride in the work they produce, and the community they reside in. It also has a very unique style, where the focus is placed upon fantasy and elements of mild horror. This type of animation allows are company to be very creative when it comes to fantasy character and set design, and this is something I believe would lend itself well to my creativity and imagination. LAIKA are an expanding company, and with the high level of critical acclaim it has attained thus far, it could continue to grow into a major employer in the stop-motion field.

The stylised element of all of LAIKA's productions amaze me. Where Aardman attracted me to Stop-Motion in the very beginning and that has it's own style and beauty, I think it's LAIKA's productions that have kept me hooked on Stop-Motion animation. Following where the new technologies will take them next. I would love to be involved in the art department at LAIKA because watching YouTube videos of miniature knitting and sculpting keep me inspired and keep me working to a new level of standard and finish all the time. I think making miniature cakes and trying to replicate them in so much detail would fit well into what the model makers have to achieve at LAIKA, because the food and props are realistic but hold their own stylistic elements. It is something that I am working on for my final major project, working in a similar style to the sets and props in The Boxtrolls. So researching into more into the goings on at LAIKA benefited two projects! Working alongside the production crew that have made some of my favourite Stop-Motion feature films like The Boxtrolls would be brilliant and I know I would work to my full potential with the never-ending amounts of inspiration at LAIKA. 

Monday, 8 February 2016

Company 1 - Aardman "Cracking Cheese, Gromit!"

There are various companies in the stop-motion industry that I truly admire, and the projects that are produced within these organisations are a great inspiration to me when looking toward a professional career within this sector.

Aardman, for me, are the reason I fell in love with the art form. Watching classic productions such as Wallace & Gromit is where I first noticed the beautiful, unique characters. It charmed me from an early age, intrigued and astounded in equal measure by the creativity being showcased on screen.

For some outside the industry, if you say 'Stop-Motion Animation', the response will often be 'Like Wallace & Gromit?'. That is the power of Aardman. It's uniqueness can define and represent a genre, yet it will continue to innovate and produce. Aardman have two studios in Bristol, and have been based in the city since their inception. In 2015, Aardman acquired a majority share in New York based studios 'Nathan Love' - therefore expanding their presence Stateside. Whilst it is known for it's films and TV projects, Aardman have a diverse portfolio including commercials, charity projects and many animated shorts. With may employees across a range of departments, Aardman truly are a big player in the stop-motion industry.

Aardman have been a staple of mainstream stop-motion animation since the 1980's, when the loveable Morph was introduced to us. The Eighties also gave us the first Wallace & Gromit feature, A Grand Day Out, bringing the synonymous duo onto our screens for the first time, as well as the debut of the 'Creature Comforts' series, another telling contribution that has stood the test of time and is revered in the modern day, three decades on.

As is prominent throughout this prose, Wallace & Gromit are a massive inspiration to me as a model maker, and it wouldn't be a bold claim to suggest that it is regarded as a much-loved and hugely iconic part of Great Britain's TV and Film industry over the last few decades. With five major adventures to their names, Wallace & Gromit truly are a national institution.

Despite seeming to strike upon a winning formula, Aardman haven't rested on their laurels. They have branched out into other feature films, putting their trademark design into different scenery and structures. With Chicken Run (2000), Flushed Away (2006), Arthur Christmas (2011), The Pirates! (2012) and Shaun The Sheep (2015) being some very good examples of their box office flexibility, and also allowing them to compete with other animation companies, from the world of stop-motion and even beyond.

I have been very fortunate to be lectured by Martin Adamson and Andy Shackleford over the last three years, who have both been involved in Aardman projects. Martin worked as a senior model maker on The Pirates! (2012), whilst Andy was an animator on Shaun the Sheep: The Farmer's Llamas (2015). Having these experiences close to hand has allowed me to appreciate Aardman productions even more, particularly Martin's experience as a model maker.

It would be a childhood dream to be involved in an Aardman project one day. I believe that my model making style has been greatly influenced by Aardman productions, and that the resources and materials available to a company of that magnitude would certainly allow me to expand and improve upon this existing skill set.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Beginning of the End

So, the final project of my University degree begins! Isn't that a bit nuts? It's come around way too quickly. Still in very early stages of brainstorming and initial ideas but our brief for Final Major Production is basically to do what we want to be doing in the future - which is brilliant. 
The first thing I thought of when I read the brief was about the previous projects I have done/wanted to improve on or try again. I thought of my Land Rover project and that I wanted to try and make a car with curves, maybe a classic, maybe a convertible... the complete opposite of what I had already made to showcase a different variety and set of skills.
Here are some sketches of random cars just getting into the rhythm of drawing shapes, different angles and viewpoints, parts, colours, shadows, light, textures, etc.
I will be updating my blog every Monday throughout Final Major Project to keep the ball rolling. Ciao for now!