To celebrate the launch of our new Claymation Experience in Kent, we took some time to speak to Dan Richards from Animate and Create to find out a little about his career, the animation industry and the experiences on offer.
What was it that got you interested in Animation? Was there one event that stood out?
When I was a kid I spent summers, making basic animations using my friend’s dad’s giant VHS cameras, using toy soldiers. I studied film at University in Kent, and one of my modules was Animation; I ending up spending my final year concentrating pretty much entirely on my animated film over all my other pieces of work – I was hooked! After graduating I moved to Bristol to join the Bristol School of Animation, set up by Aardman to train animators, from which I got a job working on Wallace and Gromit’s Curse of the Were-Rabbit.
Can you remember your first animation project?
After finishing Curse of the Were-Rabbit I moved back to Kent, where I began making my first independent animation film called The Windmill Boy. This way about a boy who is kept as a slave in a windmill, and he manages to turn the windmill into a flying machine to escape. This film was screened at 25 international film festivals and gave my work some great exposure through the media.
What is your favourite part of your job?
I love coming up with new ideas and creative styles; exploring alternative ways of telling a story through animation. I don’t get the chance to get my hands dirty as much as I’d like to, but still sculpt a lot of the plasticine characters we use, which is something I really enjoy and can lose myself in for hours.
What other aspects of animation are you involved with? Any big projects or films?
Animate & Create are a Professional Animation Production Studio, producing short films, online videos and commercials for range of commercial companies, but we also run workshops for schools, community groups and individual members of the public. We love running these community workshops, as they are great fun and its really great to give something back to the community, and see people get as excited and inspired by animation as we do.
How long have the experiences been running?
We have been running animation workshops with schools and community groups since 2007, and as interest has continued to grow, we thought it was time we opened up our workshops to everyone to experience
Why does an animation make a great experience?
Many of us have fond childhood memories of animated characters such as Wallace and Gromit, Pingu, Morph, or Creature Comfort – and our Animation Experiences give you a chance to create your own versions of these animated heroes. Our Plasticine ‘Mini-me’ models mean that no matter what your skill level, every participant can successfully create a unique character; without having to worry about getting structure and proportions right. Participants just focus on the fun bit of customising the model by giving him/her clothes, hair, expressions etc.
What can customers expect from a day in the studios?
Our Whitstable Experience Days are held in our professional production studio – so you will get a chance to work within a professional environment using industry standard tools and equipment. But just because it’s a professional studio doesn’t mean it’s all serious – our sessions are run with a laid back, fun vibe to encourage you to explore your creative side and have a great day learning a new skill.
Can you describe your average customer?
There is no such thing as an average customer on our Animation Experiences; no matter your age or experience, our sessions allow everyone to get their get their hands dirty and get creative.
What can customers expect to do during the experience?
Customers will get involved in every aspect of producing an animated ‘short’; from brainstorming, storyboarding, character design and creation, and then bringing these characters to life using Stop-Motion cameras and software. Everyone gets to take their models home with them, along with a date-file of your animated short – so make sure you remember your USB memory stick to put your film on at the end of the session.
What advice you would give for budding animators?
Get creative, build your portfolio, and get it out there. It is so easy to host your videos online on sites such as Vimeo and Youtube – so even if you are just starting out, experiment with a variety of styles until you find something that works for you.
Are there going to be any new additions to the experiences in the future?
Stop-Motion animation is not limited to plasticine – there are so many different materials and styles to explore and experiment with, so in the future we are looking to introduce a wider variety of animation styles to our list of experiences including cartoon animation, manga animation and cut-out animation.
Do you have any interesting facts about animation most people would be unaware of?
In Wallace and Gromit’s – Curse of the Were-Rabbit, there are 35 versions of Wallace, each with a variety of interchangeable and replaceable parts – to allow the animators to depict the variety of scenes and poses the character is animated in.
That’s great Dan, Thanks for taking the time out to speak to us today! If you, or someone you know would like a chance to make their own animation film, check out the Animate and Create experiences available on Experiencedays:
Become part of the creation teams and help animate your own short film made entirely of clay. With the help of the expert instructors at the centre, you can witness the process from start to finish including the story planning, creating the characters and filming their stop-motion movements! At the end of the experience you will get to take your model and a raw copy of your short film home to show your friends and family.