Sunday, 5 August 2018

Behind The Scenes On Sherlock

The dvd release of Sherlock Gnomes includes a little piece about the hand-drawn 'Mind Palace' sequences that I designed and then brought to life with my co-animator Aude Carpentier.

Huge thanks to director John Stevenson - and all the production team - for giving us the freedom, support and expert guidance we needed to create these little sequences, dotted throughout the film. It was such a fun project, I've never had a happier experience on a movie.

The link to the clip can be found HERE!

And for other bits and bobs, there is always my WEBSITE

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Sherlock Gnomes

Sherlock Gnomes has been released this weekend in the USA. I was invited to join the production last year in order to create some short hand-drawn sequences that would illustrate the inner workings of Sherlock's brain.

Working alongside two encouraging producers, Carolyn Soper and Steve Hamilton Shaw, the fabulously supportive director, John Stevenson, and the amazing vocal talents of Johnny Depp,  I designed the sequences in a black and white, pen and ink style (a small nod to the original illustrator of the Sherlock stories, Sidney Paget) and then animated them with my frequent co-animator Aude Carpentier.

It was a tremendous fun to work on this project, and I am delighted that many film reviews have singled out our little moments for praise:

"'Sherlock Gnomes' even boast a few moments of genuine inspiration. Whenever Sherlock Gnomes enters his famous 'Mind Palace', in order to sort through every piece of information he has in his enormous brain, the animation shifts to dynamic 2D black-and-white, and the film takes on a playful, buoyant energy."  WorldProNews

"One very peasant surprise was the use of 'old-school' 2D drawn animation to show the inner workings inside Sherlock's head (the end credits call it his 'mind palace'). In one sequence his Baker Street digs become an M C Escher maze of curling staircases, all rendered in a 'pen and ink' style that recalls master animator Richard Williams."  WeAreMovieGeeks 

"Depp's voice performance as the quirky Sherlock Gnomes...takes off during fantasy sequences done in a lively black-and-white line drawing animation style that illustrate his peculiar brain and way of thinking."  LATimes

"...cartoon dream sequences illustrating Sherlock's leaps of deductive logic serve to shake up the movie every now and then."  Entertainment

" has occasional fun ideas, such as rendering the inner workings of Holmes's mind in hand drawn black-and-white."  NYTimes

"...clever 2D black-and-white sequences."  Hollywood

"...the whole film should have been done in this style."  Letterboxd 

I feel tremendously privileged to have worked on this film alongside such a talented, and happy, crew. And it's always lovely to see London on film, particularly from the viewpoint of 8 inches off the ground, which was the average gnome-sized viewpoint of this movie!

(For more information on my various projects, go to or CLICK HERE

Thursday, 23 March 2017


Just released tonight - the latest Gorillaz music video!

I've had enormous fun animating on this the past few weeks, with a room full of great artists.

To watch it click HERE

To watch the 360 interactive version then CLICK HERE


Sunday, 22 January 2017

The Simpsons - rebooted post

Back in 2014 I wrote a blog piece about my involvement as animation director on the Sylvain Chomet-designed opening 'couch gag' for an episode of The Simpsons. Within 24 hours I was asked by the production company to remove the blog piece as they preferred to credit only the directors they represented, and not the hard working crews who toiled behind-the-scenes to bring these short films to life. Personally, I love the talents of the crews I work with, and many of these artists I've worked with again and again so that they've become a kind of 'family' to me - they're people I admire, and learn from, and who I completely trust to deliver great work when the pressure is on. Sadly the production company for this sequence recently went into liquidation, but that does mean now - finally - I can reinstate my post and once again celebrate the great work of this fantastic crew. Time for the back-room boys and girls to come back into the spotlight once again  :-)

Here's the original post:

Look kinda familiar?
Rough animation drawing of French-style Homer,
by Neil Boyle

Toward the end of 2013 Sylvain Chomet was approached to create a special one-off 'couch gag' for the opening titles of The Simpsons. To bring his ideas to life he turned to London-based production company 'th1ng', where he was then represented as a commercials director.

Once Sylvain had written a script and redesigned the Simpsons family in his distinctive style, our small crew in London set to work.

Model sheet by Sylvain Chomet

The shot was designed to work as a single, locked off master shot, with each of the characters having their own moment in the spotlight as the gag progressed. In a long shot like this I think the hardest thing to keep control of is clarity: figuring out what happens, to whom, and when. The 'blocking' of a shot should ensure that your eye is directed around the screen seemingly effortlessly, without everything descending into a confused muddle. Because the blocking needed to be so precise I decided against planning the sequence in static storyboard form and instead opted to draw up animatic drawings, full size onto 15 field paper, plotting the positioning and timing of each character on a line test machine.

Neil Boyle at work on the animatic

Getting everything roughly posed  and working harmoniously took me about a week and a half of sketching and shooting. But it was enormous fun. Figuring out the blocking is one of my favourite parts of the film making process - it's a strange combination of performance, psychology, geometry... and general plate spinning.

The animatic - plotting out out the action in pose form.

In the meantime Kirk Hendry set about creating the colour scheme for the Chomet-style Simpsons living room, as well as the overall lighting scheme: the lights going off, flickering back to life, and the ambient glow of the TV screen bathing the room in a bluish glow. He also created many moving shadow effects, and dozens of subtle optical effects to add extra texture to the shot.

Kirk Hendry, creating lighting and textural atmosphere... well as subtly different colour temperatures for the 'feel' of the shot.

When all this work was sent off to France and the USA for approval by Sylvain Chomet and the Simpsons producers, we got to work on the animation itself. Because we had 'fenceposts' for the timing and positioning of the characters already roughly blocked out in the animatic, it was easy to split the animation between myself and fellow animator Peter Dodd, knowing we wouldn't be obscuring or overlapping each other's work.

Peter Dodd, animating Bart and Lisa locked in combat.

As I've written in many posts here, the animatic system really helps keep things on course, while still allowing a great animator like Peter to improvise with his own creative touches.

Inside the mind of a great animator: Peter Dodd's amazingly labyrinthine workings-out look like a work of art unto themselves. But the end result looks effortless.

As each piece of rough animation was completed, the team of assistant animators leaped in, either doing touch-up and inbetween on the original roughs, or a full clean-up and inbetween, depending on what was required.

Assistant animator Justine Waldie

An emaciated Santa's Little Helper - my favourite part to animate.
Animator Neil Boyle, assistant animator Justine Waldie

Assistant animator Aude Carpentier

Assistant animator Aude Carpentier assisting Peter Dodd's animation of the
goose, escaping its fois gras destiny.

It turned out we created quite a mountain of paperwork: sixty seconds worth of animation, featuring seven characters (including the snail on the TV!) all of which were scanned and painted by Donna Spencer, before being seamlessly composited and lit by Kirk.

Assistant animator Alan Henry

Assistant animator Angeline De Silva

Kirk Hendry at work compositing: at this stage only Homer, Santa's Little Helper, the goose and the foreground snail are in colour and in place.

Gerry Gallego simultaneously assisting and growing a magnificent moustache
for charity.

Assistant animator Jay Wren

Assistant animator Katerina Kremasioti

Danny Atkinson adding the final grading touches at 'th1ng'.

A really lovely job to work on - it's rare you get to create a short piece of commercial animation that is not selling something, but is produced just for its own entertainment value. 

Snail for TV dinner! 

A fantastic treat, and a wonderfully talented crew to work with. Fingers crossed another unexpected treat won't be too far away...

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Made Up

We're thrilled to have our new live-action short film 'Made Up' as part of the Lakeshorts 2016 International Film Festival.

This (very short) short is all about the mysteries of how women learn the art of applying make-up on moving trains - a subject that has both perplexed and entertained me over thirty years of commuting through the packed London Underground transport system!

We're honoured to be one of only 8 films selected from over 900 entrants, screening at the Gala Selection, on May 7th.  

For information on ticket sales, or to check us out on the 2016 Sizzle Reel, click HERE. 

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

The Future Has Arrived

Happy Back To The Future 2 day everyone!

Having been lost in time myself (I haven't blogged here for nearly 6 months) I can't resist adding my own little piece to the worldwide celebrations.

The first Back To the Future film is, as far as I'm concerned, the greatest narrative screenplay ever written. Beautifully structured, superbly paced, and with flawless internal logic. And most importantly, it's just damn good fun.

When I got my big break to work on the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit I was excited to get to meet director Robert Zemeckis and watch how he works. And having heard (this is back in 1987) that he was going to direct two sequels to Back To The Future as soon as he'd wrapped Roger Rabbit, I couldn't resist being an annoying little nerd and cornering him at a Christmas party to try and prise out some information about the upcoming movies...

"Well," he said, "the first one's set thirty years in the future, and the next one's set way in the past - it's gonna be a western."

An enigmatic smile. A long silence. "And that's all I'm gonna tell you."

And despite a bit more prodding, he wouldn't budge. Like everyone else I had to join the cinema queue 18 months later and find out for myself.

But these three films remain my favourite trilogy ever. Had Bob Zemeckis been born Jean-Luc Zemeckis, and had Back To The Future 2 been subtitled, critics would have raved about how it plays with Cinematic Point Of View And Self Referential Reflexivity - or somesuch - but being a 'commercial' film this was pretty much overlooked. Whatever. They made a load of money, and spread a lot of joy, and people are still celebrating today.

So, if you're a fan, have a great day. The Future has arrived. (Sadly, minus the flying cars.)

Robert Zemeckis directing Michael J Fox on Back to the Future 2


Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Big Screen Adaptation of Kensuke's Kingdom

It's an exciting day, as finally I can reveal some concept art from the forthcoming animated feature production of Kensuke's Kingdom - an action adventure film based on the much-loved and best-selling book by Michael Morpurgo (War Horse).

The project was brought to me and fellow director Kirk Hendry by producers Sarah Radclyffe, Barnaby Spurrier and Anna Webster, and it's a story we immediately fell in love with. It's a perfect mix of action, adventure, high emotion, and fun, set in a dazzling - and sometimes deadly -tropical paradise.

As the producers work hard to raise the financing for this project, Kirk and I have developed concept paintings working with the multi-Oscar-winning production company Framestore. These images are now exclusively up at Cartoon Brew