Drawings revisited

Turning illustrations into animated films brings the opportunity of reimagining characters, delving deeper into their worlds and developing new dimensions. Yolanda Zappaterra explores the illustration-to-animation process

Philip Hunt, director and creative director of animation company Studio AKA, on his Bafta and Annecy award-winning Lost and Found, adapted from Oliver Jeffers’ children’s book about the friendship between a boy and a penguin, and Ah Pook is Here, a short film interpretation of recordings by William Burroughs.

’Even in a broadly experimental narrative like Ah Pook is Here, there is structure I always look for the thread of sense and cohesion,’ says Hunt. ’Burroughs’ fondness for modifying his own text when performing his material live led me to combine a set of recordings that were not previously connectedto create a new narrative.

’With Jeffers, we tried to leave the book “un-animated” and rebooted the idea to fitthe format a bit like creating a stage version or a live-action film of a book. We set the film apart visually, but retained recognisability and tried to delve deeper into this world.’

For both films, says Hunt, ’I took liberties, but only those I could imagine each author also taking and that’s the key, to remain inspired by that original voice and not lose the way.’

Siri Melchior, co-founder and director at Trunk Animation, has worked on self-originated personal projects and commissioned work for the likes of Hot Chip and Red Bee Media. Her film The Dog Who Was a Cat Inside won a British Animation Award.

’I’m not sure whether I’m an animator who illustrates or an illustrator who animates, as I am not really a very good animator and not really a very good illustrator, but when I put my skills together, I can sort of pull through,’ says Melchior.

’I’ve often animated other designers’ characters, but I prefer to make up a story and create my own film, like with The Dog Who Was a Cat Inside and Whistleless.’ Graphic style is central to both films, with The Dog being a Cubist-inspired piece about how canine personalities have many facets. ’For Whistleless, I wanted to tell a simple story and use a simple style so I used potato prints,’ says Melchior.

The usual flow of authored book to adapted animation is not set in stone. ’While I find animation much more fun than illustration, because you have so many more tools to tell a story with than in an illustration, I would also love to make these films into books,’ says Melchior.

The best adapted animation isn’t created by simply bringing time and motion to illustration, it is made using unique perspectives to ’interpret and develop rather than just mirror the starting point’, says Philip Hunt of animation company Studio AKA. Here, Hunt and other award-winning creatives discuss the process of using source material as diverse as William Burroughs’ work and Paddington Bear to develop and create work that stands out from the crowd.

Daniel Greaves, co-founder and creative director at animation studio Tandem Films, won an Oscar for Manipulation in 1992, since collecting further international awards for a body of work that includes personal work and ads. Flatworld, made using cardboard cutouts and traditional cell animation, deals with the concept of 2D.

’A designed character is considered in terms of appeal and the medium in which it is to be animated,’ says Greaves. ’In the case of Flatworld, the initial concept of a flat world suggested the use of card to reflect the overall concept. It can be considered as a film about animation, in that I made a feature of the technique by demonstrating that the characters are literally two-dimensional.

’Using my own characters means I can create my own rules, which is very liberating,’ says Greaves. ’If designing a character myself, I try to keep it simple, so it is easier for other animators to maintain consistency. If a character is designed by someone else, I will establish whether it has been animated before and replicate the style. With Paddington in the Marmite ad campaign we scrutinised footage of the animation from the original series, and tried to reproduce its charm and individuality.’

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