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


Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Stromae's Carmen

Over the past few months I've had the pleasure of animating on a new music video for megastar Stromae, directed by Sylvain Chomet, and produced by production company th1ng in London.

It's just been released today onto Buzzfeed and you can watch it by clicking HERE!


Sunday, 8 February 2015


Artwork from The Last Belle - black lines photocopied from ink drawings onto
cel, with hand-inked shirt pattern, and cel paint on the reverse.

Long time - No blogging...

The usual excuses apply: I'm in the middle of drawing a fun, but time consuming job. But the interesting thing about this project is that it could prove to be (possibly?...probably?...) the final traditional pencil-on-paper job I ever get paid to do. The Cintiq, and software like TVPaint, are spreading through the 2D animation world at a rapid pace, and almost all the London animation production companies are now operating paperless.

Of course I'll always have pencils, pens and a stack of paper at home for my personal work - old habits die hard, and I can't think of a more immediate way to connect my imagination to the outside world. But in the working environment the noise of a room full of flapping sheets of paper is being replaced by the low hum of computer fans, and the sound of scratching, swishing pencils is being supplanted by the silence of nylon nib sliding over glass. Only the muttering, sighing, and outright swearing as you try to get your drawing just right remain the same as they always were.

One of the upsides of non-digital work is that you're left with actual, tangible pieces of artwork you can hold in your hand, or stick up on your wall. Over the years I've collected (or rescued from the bin) bits and pieces from various films and commercials (and due to my connections with the Richard Williams Studio, many are from there). Looking at them up close can give you a real insight into the craftspeople who produced them, and how they worked.

So with that in mind, here's a gallery dedicated to an almost lost way of working...

An original cel from a Harlem Globetrotters commercial animated by Richard Williams
and (I think) Tom Roth. Soft waxy pencil on frosted cel, cel paint on the back.

Here's a close up of that head. Bear in mind that this commercial
was mostly animated on ones, so 25 of these 'drawn-paintings' would have
to be produced per second of screen time! 

To see the final commercial (unfortunately very low-res) Press Here!

Another insane amount of work, this time for a commercial animated by Richard
Williams and Simon Wells. The style had to mimic the work of famous
newspaper cartoonist 'Kal'.
Here's a close up of all that cross-hatching. You can almost smell the late nights
spent at the studio producing this commercial!
 Here is the final commercial, once again in appalling ultra-low-res, but better than nothing...
Artwork painted (in guache?) directly onto cel by Richard Williams. I love how
delicate the brushwork is - this really can stand up to being framed and mounted
on the wall!

You'll find this piece of artwork about 47 seconds into these Titles.


Wax and soft coloured pencils on frosted cel, cel paint on reverse. This commercial
(for breath freshener!) was animated by Russell Hall, assisted by Bella Bremner.
Up close, I love the different textures here: sketchy, but controlled, linework;
rendered light and shade; hot and smelly looking smoke, shaded and smudged.  
Here's the final commercial, which I remember being a big success with audiences at the time. 
Personally I'm excited to see where the new technologies will take us. Taking the best of the old, and mixing it up with the best of the new, should open up all sorts of fresh avenues. But I love to have these little fragments of artwork around me. Etched into their surfaces, trapped for all time, are the brushstrokes, penstrokes, and sheer skill of the amazing artists who created them. 
I'll have more goodies from the archive in the next post. Stay tuned...