Thursday, 11 December 2014

Pure, Distilled Charm..!


A wonderful review of the recently released score to The Last Belle, courtesy of film music website Movie Music Mania

"Hancock has concocted a compact work of pure, distilled charm!" screams the headline.

"The performance by the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra is rich and vivacious, and Hancock knows how to write music that really lives and breathes. What's more, he demonstrates a knack for detail, the minor flourishes he adds and emotional shades he is able to execute really elevating the score to an impressive level of complexity. Don't be fooled by your preconceptions of a "short film score", because Stuart Hancock once again demonstrates that good things can indeed come in the smallest of packages. Bravo!"


You can read the full review HERE.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Score Is Released!

Calling all fans of exciting, romantic and fun movie-music: the award-winning score to The Last Belle will be available to buy from today (Dec 2nd)!


All 14 minutes of the lush score, recorded by the mighty Bratislava Symphony Orchestra, are being released by Moviescore Media and will be available as a digital download either directly from them, or from Amazon US, Amazon UK, and many other outlets.


To quote from Moviescore Media's press release:

"MovieScore Media finds love (and great film scores) in the most unusual places - this time we release a digital EP by award-winning composer Stuart Hancock who once again proves that small films do not necessarily have small scores - in fact, a symphonic orchestral score can do wonders to fill the 2-D animated characters with life! Performed by the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra, The Last Belle is a rich, colourful and versatile score which gives you an emotional rollercoaster in just 14 minutes. The music follows the two parallel storylines, alternating between a hopeless romantic ("I’ve Got Myself a Date!", "Giddy Rosie", "Finding Love in London") and a carnivalesque rush which sounds like the most insane moments of Danny Elfman’s career ("Going Down the Tubes", "Rushing to Ripov’s" ). The score recently won the Gold Medal at the prestigious Park City Film Music Festival, Utah."



If you'll pardon the mixed metaphors, it's the perfect Christmas stocking-filler for your ears..!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Musical Gong!



Here's an early Christmas treat: an exciting new award for The Last Belle!

Composer Stuart Hancock has just won an amazing Gold Medal for his score to The Last Belle! The award was part of the Park City Film Music Festival, held in the same area as the Sundance Film Festival. And as if one gong wasn't enough, Stuart walked away with another two for his work on the short film 'Hawk' and the documentary 'The Desert Treasure'.

(For UK readers wanting to hear more of Stuart's work, tune in to the BBC each Saturday for the new series of the action/drama  'Atlantis'.)

For me, recording the score to The Last Belle was absolutely one of the highlights of the whole project. The film was always designed to work as a musical piece, alongside the obvious visual elements, so I'm thrilled the score has garnered this top award - congratulations Stuart!

The orchestra begins to assemble, ready to record The Last Belle...





Sunday, 12 October 2014

Between 1996 and 2000 The Last Belle production was housed in a studio at the delightfully named Wardrobe Place.


It's an utterly secluded little courtyard, and despite being within a two minute walk of St Paul's Cathedral, it's unknown to most Londoners, hidden away as it is behind an dull little tunnel. Inside house number 2 (which came complete with a standard London ghost - never seen by me but spotted occasionally by others) we drew, painted and shot quite a fair chunk of The Last Belle.

It was a fantastic place to come to work every morning. From my top floor room I could stretch my eyes over the rooftops opposite to the dome of St Paul's Cathedral; working late into the night I would be kept company by the chiming bells echoing around the moonlit courtyard walls. It was a pretty Dickensian existence, only with electricity, running hot water, and a 35mm rostrum camera in the basement.

Layout maestro Roy Naisbitt, producer Rebecca Neville and director Neil Boyle on the front steps of the studio. 


Sticking to my rule that every location in The Last Belle must be based on a real place (for new readers to this blog there's more on locations Here and Also Here), I snuck our studio building into the film, whizzing past in the background during a fast camera pan:


I was adamant the right-hand basement windows must be lit up for this night-time shot. The reason? Because it was behind these windows that our rostrum camera was tucked away. As a tip-of-the-hat to our brilliant cameraman John Leatherbarrow I made sure the camera room windows were blazing away in honour of the many late nights he put in painstakingly photographing our artwork one frame at a time.

Each time this shot flies by it reminds me what an amazing job John did - indeed, what an amazing job the whole crew did. We had absolutely no money to play with, but even if I'd been given a million pounds I couldn't have gathered a more talented bunch of artists.

Thank you all! And please switch off the lights when you leave.


Saturday, 30 August 2014

A Moment In Time - Part 3

A long silence from me...

...but finally the holiday season is passing, the Christmas commercial pitches are rolling in, and I'm back at the keyboard of this blog.

Today's offering is a little addendum to my recent posts on the legendarily unfinished movie 'The Thief and the Cobbler'. During my recent surge of studio spring cleaning I came across this little curio, which was made back in 1982:


I believe it was made as part of the drive to raise financing for the film, and was modelled on the famous toy puzzle where you have to navigate ball bearings, in their correct order, into hole-shaped slots. The ball bearings in this version are a golden colour, to echo the 'Three Golden Balls of Fate' atop a palace minaret, part of the storyline from the movie.



I have no idea how many of these were made - I would assume hundreds. Does anyone else out there have one tucked away at the back of their pencil drawer, like me?

And finally, here's a vintage Behind-The-Scenes-On-The-Thief picture taken by Simon Maddocks, the great photo-chronicler of so much British animation history (for which, thanks).


I had no idea this photo even existed until very recently. It shows a frighteningly young me sitting with assistant animator Tanya Fenton at one of the production parties (Summer? Christmas?) in 1991. It's very strange - in a 'Back to the Future' kind of way - to stumble suddenly across an unknown image from your life nearly a quarter of a century before...

All I can do now is marvel at the fact that in those days, sitting cross-legged on the floor all evening was a comfortable proposition...

Monday, 30 June 2014

If Desks Could Tell Stories...

After weeks of 'spring cleaning' my studio space is finally clear...


Entirely barren in fact, apart from a few kilos of dust. I am moving out of this work space and on to pastures new. But the drawing desk is coming with me. This is the desk (same desk - different studio space) where I first sat down in October 1996 to produce the first of 35,000 drawings for The Last Belle. This is the desk at which 95% of my work on The Last Belle was laid out, drawn, redrawn, erased, thrown in the bin and rescued from the bin. I've sat at this desk squinting at drawings, yelling in frustration at drawings and laughing at drawings (is it slightly embarrassing to admit to laughing at your own drawings now and again?) This desk has seen me sit at it all day and sometimes all night, both clean cut and unshaven, both elated and despairing, and on one occasion almost entirely naked (long story).

In short, we've been through a lot together.

But for a short while - between moving from my old studio space to my most recent studio space - my beloved desk had to go into storage. For an agonising few months I had to go without the perfectly tilted drawing board, the ergonomically designed shelving, and the exquisitely placed shallow pencil drawers. Instead, for the duration, I had sit on a bench (far too low) at my girlfriend's kitchen table (far too high). My 'drawing board' was a jagged 'L' shaped offcut of perspex (far too thin, so it wobbled) propped up against two piles of magazines (far too unstable) with an anglepoise lamp (far too hot) shining up behind it. It was in this makeshift torture chamber I animated this scene:

  





And here's the funny thing: when The Last Belle was finally finished and cut together, this scene - born in complete agony and discomfort, and without the aid of my beloved drawing desk - leapt out as my absolute personal favourite.

There's probably some profound philosophical insight I should be able to gain from this... but I'm buggered if I can figure out what it is.



Thursday, 5 June 2014

A Moment In Time - Part 2


A wonderful afternoon was spent last Sunday at the British Film Institute, watching the first ever UK screening of the assembly cut of 'The Thief and the Cobbler', digitally restored and archived by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The print is a copy of how the famously 'unfinished' film stood on a single day in May 1992, when production was shut down by Warner Bros and the Completion Bond Company: a mixture of finished full colour footage, line tests, storyboards, 'missing scene' captions, final music, temp music, and the original character voices. It's an insight into what the final film might have been, but also an insight into how an animated film is constructed, the very workings of its birth.

It is 22 years since I saw any of that footage up on the big screen, and it brought back a flood of memories. Despite the struggle I remember going through on some of those shots, it all sailed past effortlessly on the screen - which hopefully means we got it right!

Considering the sad fate that befell the film, the event was an actually a very happy and uplifting day. As Richard Williams pointed out after the screening, the legendary animation artists who worked over so many years on this film - many of them now long dead - would have loved the audience reaction to their work, the laughter, the engagement with this intricate hand-crafted world shining up on the screen. Thanks to this preservation print, The Thief and the Cobbler is now no longer simply a film, or even an unfinished film, but a unique preservation of a craft, and its craftspeople, captured in time.

Here are some pictures from the post-screening reception, all taken by 'Thief' FX animator Simon Maddocks (with thanks):

Neil Boyle, Rebecca Neville, Richard Williams and Imogen Sutton


Layout and design maestro, Roy Naisbitt

Richard Williams, Heidi and Brian Stevens, 'Thief' DoP John Leatherbarrow


The party continues late into the evening... John Leatherbarrow and
'Thief' FX animator Mark Naisbitt