A steady diet of television cartoons could easily trick an impressionable child into believing he or she lived in the US.
So it comes as a pleasant surprise to find that our indigenous animation industry is alive and well and soon to be honoured by the fourth biannual British Animation Awards.
The awards, funded almost entirely by sponsorship from within the film industry, cover the whole spectrum of animation output, from student films to music promos to cutting edge to ultra-commercial things like Bob the Builder.
The awards received well over 1000 entries from the UK and overseas this year, which has been whittled down to 40 finalists. As well as a jury to administer the main awards, there are four public choice categories, arrived at after screenings of selected entries at 17 cinemas throughout the UK.
Clearly BAA is as intent on promoting its contestants as it is on rewarding them. The awards were set up in 1996 and this is the first year overseas animators have been invited to take part.
‘One of the reasons we wanted to go international was that I felt it was important for film-makers here to see what’s going on in the rest of the world,’ says director Jayne Pilling, who used to run the independent Scala Cinema in London.
Because of the worldwide success of films like Toy Story, Shrek and Chicken Run, the demand for animation is greater than ever. And its appeal is no longer confined to children.
Many of the BAA entries are aimed at a young adult audience, particularly in the music promo and cutting edge categories.
Phil Mulloy, nominated in the Best Short Film category for Intolerance, actually forbids his own children from watching his films due to the sex and violence he routinely features.
Though far from commercial in the Disney sense, Mulloy’s work is shown at film festivals all over the world, and the British Film Institute is bringing out a DVD of 30 of his films next month.
A former winner of the BAA student award, Brian Wood, is now one of the UK’s most successful animators for Cramp Twins, based on his own graphic novels, and the series was picked up by the American-owned Cartoon Network.
‘I never envisaged it as an American thing,’ says Wood. ‘But apart from the characters having American accents, I’ve kept control of it. I did all the designs and story outlines myself. The biggest challenge has been to maintain the quality control, as so many people become involved when something takes off.
‘The writing for Cramp Twins was done in London, the animation in Korea, the colouring in Germany and the voice-overs in Vancouver. But with e-mail and fax, it is possible to hold on to it all.’
To coincide with BAA, the National Film Theatre is presenting a whole range of interactive events over half term, in which children can take part in making their own animations, and hear about how cartoons are created.
There are also screenings of Chicken Run, Help, I’m A Fish, The Miracle Maker and other feature-length cartoons.
For more details go to www.britishanimation awards.com and for details of National Film Theatre events go to www.bfi.org.uk/nft. The NFT holds a mini animation festival from 14-23 February. The awards ceremony will be held on 15 March