Framed Film Festival – Barbican
I have some very exciting news! My films will be screened at the Framed Film Festival for children at the Barbican on 21 November. Three shorts will be shown – including my new film The Tie – as well as two episodes of 64 Zoo Lane. The screening is entitled ‘Animal Magic with animator An Vrombaut’ and is the first such screening dedicated solely to my work. There will be wolves, whales, kitten, tigers, elephants – and giraffes of course!
The Tie – Special Mention at Berlinale Generation 2015 and Amsterdam Young Audience Award at KLIK! 2015
Little Wolf – my graduation film from the RCA
When I Grow Up I Want To Be A Tiger – animated short
64 Zoo Lane
I will be at the screening to talk about my animal creations, and during the rest of the day I will be in the cinema foyer to sign books and run a free ‘animal-ears’ workshop. I will be joined by artist Shelly Wain who is designing hats based on some of the other films showing at the festival.
64 Zoo Lane animal ears and Shelly wearing a Red Plane hat
The screening is on Saturday 21 November at 1:30 pm. You can book tickets here: Animal Magic with animator An Vrombaut screening. The Tie will also be shown on Sunday 22 November as a short with The Adventures of the Red Plane feature. I won’t be there on the Sunday, but another artist, Sarah Page, will run the free animal ears/hats workshop.
I hope to see lots of animal fans at the screening!
Exhibition in Bruges
Two years ago, my friend Inge Daveloose asked if I would be interested in displaying my work as part of a group exhibition in Bruges. I’ve known Inge for a long time. Although we are both Belgian and studied at the same art school in Ghent, we first met in London at Richard Williams’ studio where The Thief and the Cobbler was in full production. I worked on Richard Williams’ feature for just three months as a special effects inbetweener drawing swirling clouds, but Inge ended up working there for two years as a background artist. She has kept in touch with many of the artists she worked with over the years, and it’s these friendships which inspired her to organise the exhibition in Bruges.
‘This exhibition reunites a group of animators and illustrators who worked on The Thief and the Cobbler, which has become known as “the greatest animated film never made”. It was in production, in one way or another, for around twenty-eight years, but was never completed by its director, Richard Williams, also known as the animation director on Roger Rabbit. Despite us only working together during the final few years of production on The Thief and the Cobbler — between1989 and 1992 — we remember that time as being pivotal in our creative lives. Animation professionals collaborate with many new people on each production, and the nature of the work is truly peripatetic and global. Because of this, we have extended our remit for this exhibition to include others from within the industry to present a fun, interesting, and above all, varied show. We all continue to work in the animation industry as well as create our own films and projects, many of which have gained critical acclaim. This is an opportunity for us to show some of our more personal creative endeavours alongside our commercial work.’
The exhibition will show a wide variety of work from oil paintings to quirky glass sculptures and even drawings on napkins. I will display some of my oil pastel illustrations.
Illustrations from my picture book ‘The Lost Acorns’.
Visitors to the exhibition will also be able to watch animated films.
The exhibition also includes work by Michael Schlingmann, Zoe Schelfthout, Charlotte Houwing, Karel Dhondt and Claire Wright. It is supported by DOK Brugge and the City of Bruges, and runs from 2 to 7 September at the Garemijnzaal in the historic centre of Bruges, Belgium. I will be there all day on Sunday 6th September. For more images and updates check out the Facebook Event Page.
Many thanks to Inge for all her hard work in organising this exhibition, to Sharon and Michael for transporting the artwork and to everyone else who helped along the way.
The Tie at Berlinale Generation
I went to Berlin last week where my new animated short The Tie premiered in the Generation competition of the Berlinale. Here is the trailer for The Tie:
The Tie was screened five times during the Berlinale. I only managed to attend the first screening at the ‘Haus der Kulturen der Welt’ in front of an audience of almost a thousand children. There were several other animated films in the programme including my friend Isabelle Favez’s ‘Messages dans l’air’, Leila Khalilzadeh’s ‘The Fried Fish’, Martin Smatana’s ‘Rosso Papavero’ and Lena Van Doehren’s ‘The Little Bird and the Squirrel’.
The screening itself was enough enough excitement, so imagine my delight when the Children’s Jury gave a special mention to The Tie! The Crystal Bear for generation Kplus went to ‘Gift of my father’ by Salam Salman from Irak (short film) and to ‘My skinny sister’ by Sanna Lenken from Sweden (feature film).
With my producer Annemie Degryse
The Tie – new animated short film
I made a film: an 8 1/2 minute animated short, my first computer animated project. I was planning to blog during the production process, but as tends to happen during an intensely creative phase, I just kept on delaying my blogging plans. I suppose I needed to concentrate on making the actual film.
And now The Tie is all wrapped up! It was produced in my home town Ghent (Belgium) by Lunanime and animation studio Creative Conspiracy with support from VAF (the Flanders Audiovisual Fund) – Thank you VAF! I was lucky to work with two people I have known for a very long time: Annemie Degryse, the producer at Lunanime who I went to college with, and Inge Daveloose, who I know from a long time ago when we both worked on Richard Williams’ The Thief and the Cobbler in London. Inge did the colour studies and backgrounds for The Tie.
So what’s the new film all about? As the title suggests, it’s about a tie. In fact it’s about two different types of ties: the kind of tie that you put around your neck and the kind of tie between people – or rather giraffes, because it has no people in it.
Here is an official bit of blurb:
‘The Tie was inspired by an early memory I have of being lifted high up in the air by my father. The film deals with the ties between people: the meetings, partings and reunions that affect us all. I wanted the purity of the story to shine through, which is why I decided to pare the film down to its essential elements: a tall giraffe, a small giraffe, some other giraffes, a tree and, of course, a tie.’
Lunanime held a preview screening in the Sphinx cinema in Ghent. We printed posters and I even made giraffe ears for the children. Here are some pictures from the screening:
And now for the REALLY exciting news: The Tie has been selected for the Generation Kplus section of the Berlinale – WOOHOOOO! This will be the world festival premiere. The Berlinale is one of the world’s most prestigious film festivals, so I am really looking forward to going there. Here is the screening schedule for anyone who is interested in coming along:
11th February 10:00 Haus der Kulturen der Welt Kino 1 – I will be present at this screening.
12th February 10:30 CinemaxX 1
13th February 09:30 Zoo Palast 1
15th February 10:00 Filmtheater am Friedrichshain
Shortly after the Berlinale The Tie will be screened at Anima in Brussels. To keep up to date with festival screenings and news about The Tie please like the Facebook page www.facebook.com/thetiefilm or follow @TheTie on Twitter. Now that the film is finished, I am planning to do some retrospective blogging about the different stages of the production process. In the meantime, here are a few more stills from the film:
A few favourite animal films
In my last blog post I wrote about the traditional animal stories which inspired me to create 64 Zoo Lane. It is not just books that influenced me though…
Here are a few of my favourite films and TV programmes featuring animals. Some are very well-known and others obscure. First, two animated shorts I was introduced to when I was a student:
Caroline Leaf ‘s tragic ‘The Owl who married a Goose’. This film was animated using sand on glass.
Yuri Norstein’s atmospheric ‘Hedgehog in the Fog’. This is a slow, absorbing film, a simple tale masterly told. I also love Norstein’s ‘Tale of Tales’ which features a wolf cub.
The Jungle Book is one of my all-time favourite Disney features. This is the Kaa hypnosis scene.
The Lion King was released at around the same time I started work on the pilot episode of 64 Zoo Lane. Suddenly, savannah animals were ‘in’. This is one of the few films I have seen three times on the big screen. My daughter likes to do a ‘Simba’ with our geriatric cat. This involves holding the cat aloft while singing “Ingonyama nengw’ enamabala”.
And finally, a Dutch language clip of a pre-school TV programme I used to watch every evening as a young child in Belgium: De Fabeltjeskrant ‘The Fables Times’.
There is no doubt this programme influenced me. The storytelling format of fables is similar to that of 64 Zoo Lane. However, I was not my favourite programme when I was a child; that honour must go to Colargol. And as an adult I still feel ambiguous about De Fabeltjeskrant; I find the morals rather overpowering.
64 Zoo Lane- A sort-of-anniversary
64 Zoo Lane turns 20 this month. TWENTY? Well yes, sort of …
Lucy and her menagerie have been on TV since 2000 – so that’s just over 13 years. However, I created the concept seven years earlier in 1993 when I was a student at the Royal College of Art. I had just completed my graduation Little Wolf (music by Rowland Lee who went on to write the music for 64 Zoo Lane). I knew I wanted make children’s TV, so I started thinking of an idea for an animated series…
There were two things I was sure of from the start:
Firstly, my TV series would have animals in it. I grew up in a household with lots of pets, so animals are what I enjoy drawing the most. Here’s a drawing of a tortoise I did when I was five. Can you see the resemblance with Toby from 64 Zoo Lane?
And secondly, this series had be something that would really engage me . The idea of doing 26 episodes with the same characters and settings terrified me slightly. What if I got bored after episode number 3? I needed to come up with a concept that would keep me captivated , a format I could expand on… So I decided to include lots of animal characters that live in different environments.
A zoo was the first thing that came to my mind. I took inspiration from Antwerp zoo in Belgium which I visited regularly as a child. It’s in the middle of the city right next to the central railway station.
Then I got the idea of a girl living next door at number 64. Each night Lucy would make a clandestine visit to the zoo via the long neck of Georgina the giraffe and one of the animals would tell her a bed time story.
My original plan was to use traditional animal stories. I started by researching Aesop’s fables. I recently discovered these excellent BBC School Radio recordings of Aesop’s tales (narrated by Richard Briers, Jane Horrocks, Alison Steadman and others).
I read Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories before moving on to Inuit raven legends, the traditional African tales of Anansi the Spider and the mischief maker Nogwaja the Hare and the Igbo story of the flying tortoise.
However, the more animal stories I discovered, the more I realised how difficult it would be to re-use characters from one story into another. So I abandoned the plan of using characters from traditional tales and decided to create my own instead. I wanted my characters to be like real people : Each would have its flaws and obsessions, and each would relate to the others as if they were members of one large extended family. I started to write stories about a giraffe with a very long neck. A little crocodile who can’t help being cute. A zebra with go-faster stripes. A kangaroo who can’t jump. A lonely polar bear. A hairy hippo. And of course many more… I couldn’t possibly write all 64 Zoo Lane stories myself so I work with a small team of talented script writers. It’s great fun!
We’re up to episode 104 now. Thankfully I’m still not bored with it and neither are the writers, voice artists, story-board artists, composer etc.
So Happy 20th Anniversary to 64 Zoo Lane! (And also to Lucy who’s forever 7)
Series 4 of 64 Zoo Lane is currently showing on CBeebies Sunday to Thursday at 18:10.
Watch episodes on the iPlayer (UK only)