Viewing entries tagged
animation

Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs - THE SERIES!

Cloudy with a chance of meatballs was a great film. Back in 2010 when it first hit cinemas, I remember being very indecisive about buying a cinema ticket, because it sounded ‘weird’ and out of the ordinary, so it's quite interesting to see that it is now being turned into a series because of its IP being a safer bet for investors than something new and out of the ordinary.

Image: Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs - Sony Pictures Animation

Image: Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs - Sony Pictures Animation

 

The film was great because its story was well structured with a proper through-line, it had really interesting characters that were wacky and eccentric, but also three-dimensional with empathic problems and obstacles.

Image: Logo - Sony Pictures Animation

Image: Logo - Sony Pictures Animation

 

The computer animation done at Sony Pictures Animation was also very well executed. Until that point, nobody was producing such exaggerated cartoony animation in computer animation. In fact, I would go as far as to say that nothing had been that well executed since Tex Avery was still in the business.

 

image: Cloudy with a chance of Meathballs - Cartoon Brew

image: Cloudy with a chance of Meathballs - Cartoon Brew

The film brought in $243 million in cinemas and a sequel was equally as successful. So it's no surprise to see Cartoon Network outputting a series. The series has been produced by Sony Pictures Animation, DHX Media and Corus Entertainment and they have used 2D digital animation techniques. With 52 episodes to complete, each at 22 minutes, you can understand the studio's producers decision to move away from the 3D production process of the film. For one, it would have been incredibly difficult to match the high standards of the feature film, which is naturally what people would have been comparing it with. The animation talent required may well not have been available (or affordable) and the technical wizardry behind the rigs and renders needed to support such wacky animation would probably have been out of the question too. It would have all come down to scale.

 

Whilst Digital 2D animation is not a lesser art form than 3D, it doesn’t require so much upkeep or front end time. There are also a lot more 2D animators available to work on shows like this, the process is not as convoluted as its 3D cousin and the software used is often quick and easy to pick up (if you already have the animation chops!).

 

Image: Beauty and the Beast

Image: Beauty and the Beast

Image: The Land Before Time

Image: The Land Before Time

It's sometimes annoying to see reboots and spin-offs of already existing IP, but there is a good reason for it. People find it easier to invest their time in entertainment when it is something they are familiar with and know they already like (why we have transformers 4, Jurassic Park 5 and The Land Before Time 20 or something.). Children are even worse. They get addicted to single films for months, they get obsessed with characters for years and most importantly they decide which toys, jumpers and bedspreads get bought from shops. This ultimately means that a child who loves the Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs films will be choosing to watch the show when it comes to Cartoon Network in March and all the interest and fanaticism that the films have earned over the years can be further exploited by all of their interdependent stands.

 

Investors will feel their money is safe and their chances of ROI is much higher than a brand new endeavour ever could be. Some consolation for this fact of life, however, is to remember that our industry is greatly stimulated by these safer ventures. Artists continue to be employed and new ideas stand more chance of seeing the light of day in an industry held up by tent-pole series like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

 

To find out more about the Cloudy with a chance of meatballs cartoon series, click here: http://www.cartoonbrew.com/tv/first-look-cartoon-networks-2d-cloudy-chance-meatballs-series-145968.html

Staffordshire Digital

Image: Deviant Art by  Sintonio

Image: Deviant Art by Sintonio

I’ve got a reputation in the office for being an 'old man' despite only being a little under 30! This came about when I started declining invitations to go to late night cinema showings and the pub because I needed to be in bed for 21:30 ready for an early morning start. I don’t mind my OAP reputation (even if it is very clearly false), but what I do mind is Stoke’s ‘Has-been’ reputation (which is also very clearly false)!

 

Image: http://www.express.co.uk/

Image: http://www.express.co.uk/

For those didn’t know: Once upon a time Stoke was a very creative capital of the UK, shipping hundreds of thousands of highly artistic ceramic products across the world and thus we were known as ‘The Potters’. Then our pottery industry bubble burst and the factories relocated abroad, leaving Stoke’s economy, culture and spirit to slowly decay and fall into ruin.

 

Well I have been delighted to find that as a region we are starting to write one of Stokes next chapters; as a part of Staffordshire's overall digital presence. Staffordshire already has a great number of ‘Digital Businesses’ who are healthy and actively operating across the west midlands. We’re building websites, making videos, programing apps, selling computers and of course creating animation, but we are doing so, very separately.

 

Image: British Flags

Image: British Flags

An idea I found interesting from a meeting had last week, was one of uniting the whole area under a single umbrella brand: Staffordshire Digital. Of course the idyllic picture would be that people across the UK will think of Staffordshire as being on the forefront of digital services and innovations and although I like the idea, I don’t think it is something we as a town or region can just choose to label ourselves with. It is, however, something that we will become known for, something we’ll earn in time. To become known for something, we must first be noticed, we must stick some seriously noteworthy flags into the ground and sing from the rooftops about them. Flags like the feature films and television work Carse and Waterman are doing right now in federation house. Flags like the scientific innovations Keele university are achieving and flags like the ambitious City of Culture title which Stoke city council are boldly marching for. If we keep doing these things, keep bringing new exciting projects to the area it won't be long before the rest of the UK start to notice us again.

Image: Stoke-on-Trent city of culture banner

Image: Stoke-on-Trent city of culture banner

We’ll never get to choose what we’re known for, that's up to the rest of the country, but we can work hard in getting noticed as a town and as a region. This OAP is working on some noteworthy flags of his own, here at C&W and hopefully in time (and with effort), the rest of the UK will actually brand us as 'Staffordshire Digital'.

 

Thoughts by

Gary

The right studio for you

 

I'd like to chat a little bit about what to consider when shopping for animation. Often you know your budget and you may know what you are looking for, but how can you differentiate between, and choose the right animation studio for you. And is bigger always better when it comes to animation studios?

Animation studios have strengths and weaknesses.  

Most animations have a speciality, a way they got started, a style of animation they are renowned for or simply a trademark type of animation. Aardman, for example, are world renowned for plasticine animation. So if you’re a marketeer with a big budget and a need for a stand out style, you would start with them. My own company is well experienced and equipped to produce 3D computer animation, for corporate purposes or for entertainment and we also have a strong infographic portfolio. You wouldn’t go to Aardman for high end photo realistic animation (the likes that WETA digital champion) and you wouldn’t come to us for a full scale motion capture film project unless we specifically offered it. It really helps to know roughly what you are shopping for, so do a bit of research and look for a studio that has a range of experience in that particular style.

 

Image: WETA digital

Image: WETA digital

Image: Aarman Animations

Image: Aarman Animations

 

Pick a studio close to home.

Strange as it may sound, picking a studio close to home is a wise choice. Animation is a creative process, excellent for communications and marketing, but very, very bespoke. Picking a studio closer to home means you can stay involved with the process (if you are so inclined). You can pop into the studio to join the creative discussion, you can look over the shoulder of the artists and see what they are doing and you can influence the project in a way you simply cannot achieve via phone or email. Some clients pay us to solve their problems and deliver a finished piece, which is fine, but other clients benefit greatly from being just down the road from the studio they've hired.

 

Image: quotezone.co.uk

Image: quotezone.co.uk

Don't fall for the cheapest deal!

Animation is not priced the same way as any old commodity. You are paying for the time a studio can spend on your project, which has many variables, i.e. number of people, number of hours and ultimately the quality they can achieve. So when you barter with price you are ultimately bartering on quality too. We never discount costs, we'll simply tailor our service to fit a budget, so come with an established budget and we'll give you realistic options. Often youngsters can offer incredible low prices for animation because their overheads aren’t very high yet and the experience is more important to them. Sometimes video production companies offer cheaper animation as a side service, but this too will normally be outsourced to a young startup studio or a freelancer, which may be fine for quality, but is unlikely to buy you great customer service.

Image: Only Fools and Horses

Image: Only Fools and Horses

The London premium.

The London premium price is a strange phenomenon, where by you pay a London company a much a higher price than you would pay an equivalent company based elsewhere for the exact same time and service. This is of course down to overheads and liabilities being much more expensive in London, but this shouldn’t really influence a client's choice of studio, yet it does. Well I am here to tell you that buying animation in London, simply because it is London, is the same as paying a premium to buy River Island Jeans instead of shopping around for a reasonably priced pair of jeans. Yes, London is essentially a brand in itself, but like most brands, bigger isn’t necessarily better, but its always more expensive. Big companies are notorious for being rigid operators, time is money and creativity can be suffocated by the strict schedules and multiple projects a bigger company has to juggle. Which brings about another disadvantage, if you’re one of many clients and if they have bigger budget projects than yours, you won’t necessarily get that personal service a smaller business can offer.

Image: http://www.keyword-suggestions.com/YmlnIGJlbiBjYXJ0b29u/

Image: http://www.keyword-suggestions.com/YmlnIGJlbiBjYXJ0b29u/

 

The personal touch.

A personal touch can really make a difference, (which is why so many brands strive for personality in their marketing) so judge a studio on just that, the personality of the people you are dealing with. Are they prompt? Are they well presented, professional and do they do what they say they will? In a large company this can be emulated well, but in a smaller studio the people are the business so you can really can judge a business by its people. When buying animation you often aren't just looking for a one off video that looks flashy, you probably have a marketing plan. Animation is a long term game plan and so will probably require multiple videos as time goes on, which means it's a good idea to think about the relationship you’ll have with the studio and its people, and not just the video at hand. Find a friendly local animation studio that can create what you are looking for and who you think you'll enjoy working with time and time again.

 

Thoughts by

 

Gary



 

 

 

Creativity!

The reason we are the most successful species on the planet is down to our ability to join things together and get creative. Creativity is a massive topic with loads of angles and areas I could dig into, so I will cover only my basic thoughts here today!

Credit:   Archive Films

Credit: Archive Films

Let's talk about what creativity is, how to nurture it, how to kill it, how to allow it to take place at all and how to let it help you in any area you’re in.

To Paraphrase James Dyson, creativity is a new ‘thing’ that is formed by connecting two currently existing other things together. It’s saying things like, "let’s take animated Penguins and cross them with that paratrooper scene from Godzilla" (which is how we came up with out Christmas animation in 2016!). It can also be, "let's take that woodchip suction cyclone machine and cross it with a domestic vacuum cleaner to get a bag-less vacuum” (Dyson's billion dollar idea). Or it can be as simple as saying, "hey, rather than having a picnic before climbing the mountain, let's take the food up the mountain and have a cool hilltop picnic, instead!".

Loui the Penguin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V36rgew1hmM

Loui the Penguin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V36rgew1hmM

The important thing to note is that creativity doesn't have to involve a trumpet or a paint brush or anything we typically associate creativity with. It can be applied anywhere in life.

Creativity is not a skill or a talent, it's a way of thinking and we all have it. All it requires is an open mind that is willing to connect things together freely, without dismissal or fear of judgment. It requires you to have confidence in your own judgement and accept that your way is as individual and bold, not better or worse than any other human being, past, present or future. Dickens, Dawin, and Einstein were all ordinary men once, until they connected the dots together and had the courage to show the world.

What counts when being creative is feeling pumped by the idea that has just come to mind. When you feel excited and stoked up it's important to act immediately (which should happen anyway if you like the idea enough!). We all have great ideas, I would almost say they are common. The thing that separates the good from the great, is the will to act and implement your idea. It takes a degree of faith and the tenacity to say "this could be great and I am proud to say it out loud" and to start to gather together support. Which brings us to our next point, how others respond to it.

A lot of people keep ideas close to their chest because they are afraid others won’t like them. The truth is, you really don’t need everyone to love your idea, you just need enough people onboard to help you make it a reality. The world is full of subjectivity and diversity, and a lot of people won’t like your idea, but a lot of people will love it too. This is why it’s important to be true to your own vision, don’t dilute your colours to try and broaden your approval with others, this simply leaves you in an average Grey place. Let ‘Blue’ be ‘Brilliant-Blue’! And all those that love ‘Blue’ will flock around you and those that prefer ‘Red’ can look elsewhere.

Bounce the ideas around with someone you know will 'get it'. It’s really important to do this, because by not sharing it, you miss out on all the things you simply wouldn't think of yourself. Inspire others, let them react to your idea, then they will inspire you and enable you to react to their thoughts.


It's important to note that creativity is not a final idea that forms in your mind and simply needs to manifest itself into reality. Creativity is the first mark in the sand, that leads to a moat surrounding a castle with a flag. Your first idea is the first stage of the evolution that leads to your masterpiece. You and your like minded team build upon the inspiring idea until it reaches its potential. Notice I didn't say final form. There is no final form, you can always make changes to something to the point where it turns into a completely new thing, which is why it's important to line things off with a schedule and deadline. If you don't schedule a project, you won't finish it, because you will never stop making improvements. Fact: passion is not infinite. You will get tired, your attention will go elsewhere and your project will come to a holt. So schedule it and get it done before you get swept up by your next great idea.

 

Thoughts by

 

Gary

An animation career in Stoke-on-Trent?

Is an animation career in Stoke-on-Trent possible?

Well, I have one (I co-own an animation company in Stoke) and so do five other people I know (they work with me), but for the average animator in the UK, the realistic answer is “no”.

Funny really, because ask the same question 39 miles North of Stoke (Manchester) and the answer is “Yes, of Course”. Or perhaps try 40 miles to the south in Birmingham, where the answer also is “yes, absolutely”. And of course further south in Bristol the answer is also a confident “yes” (and London is a no brainer). So above and below Stoke-on-Trent there is an abundance of animation careers, but in Stoke there is not.

Screen Shot 2016-12-13 at 17.28.58.png

Rather than asking why not, let's just skip to the solution. How can we make it possible to have an animation career in Stoke-on-Trent?  

Well, the first answer is people need to start up creative businesses in Stoke. There is no real reason not too. The internet makes the global stage accessible to us all, despite geographical location. Staffordshire University, Stoke Sixth Form and Stoke-on-Trent’s colleges are all providing talented students to employ, and the train station is about 30 minutes to an hour from plenty of key cities in the UK. The area is offering support for start ups and there is a real gap to fill here for creative entrepreneurs. The more people there is ploughing this land, the better the harvest and a talent pool of artists will begin to grow, as well as a reputation.

That's the second thing Stoke needs, a talent pool. There are 20+ talented students graduating from Staffordshire University Animation course each year and at the moment most get right back on the train they arrived in Stoke on 3 years earlier. That needs to change. They need to have options in Stoke, they need a sustainable job, with contracted employment that doesn't end after only 6 months and they need the option of choice and the motivation of a career path that leads to promotion, responsibility and personal fulfillments. They have a right to expect what other artists in thriving creative hubs can take as standard.

The future is bright for Stoke-on-Trent, mark my words. We will be employing creative people much more frequently in the years to come. People will start coming to Stoke for creative careers, high-quality products and a competitive service. Television shows, films, advertising and marketing will be made here and we will have a thriving digital economy that the innovative thinkers of Stokes past would be proud of.

I’ll see you there!

 

Thoughts by

Gary

 

How Animation is Priced

I wanted to chat a little bit about how we price our projects to help people understand what information to supply animation companies with when requesting a quote. 

You’d be amazed at some of the requests we’ve had. People have come to us saying they don’t know what they want yet, but would like a rough quote anyway. People have asked for an animation akin to Avatar for the price of a pair of Shoes! People have called us on a Wednesday and asked if they can have a 5 minute animation done by the end of the week.

There are two main things to know. First, buying animation is like buying a car. You can look around the showroom to decide what you want, but really you should have a budget in mind and you should expect a Rolls to cost more than a Corsa. But you don't need an MOT or insurance to buy an animation,  and all our animations are brand new, there are no second-hand animations for sale here!

Secondly, there are three standard questions which will always need answering before we can give you an accurate quote. They are 'what is the duration? The style? And the schedule? I’ll go into more detail on each below.

The Duration. Catching a taxi to the local supermarket should cost you less than catching one from London to Manchester (I know someone that's done that before!) Animation is exactly the same. Two minutes of animation will cost less than 10 minutes and knowing how long your animation will be is a key piece of information when requesting a quote.

When deciding the duration consider the audience (and their attention span), consider the platform (youtube, facebook, live presentation), and consider your budget too!

iMePlayButton.png

The Style. Claymation, computer animation, infographics are all examples of animation Styles. Bugs bunny is 2D animation. Shrek is computer animation. Wallace and Gromit are primarily claymation. They are priced differently because they each require different skill-sets and some take longer to make than others.

We’re used to people calling us and saying they would like a cartoon, or 'something like morph'. That’s enough for us to understand, a lot of people send us youtube links to animation they like as well, which is also very helpful.

 
They all have their individual advantages in the market, it just depends on your cause. It may sound counter-intuitive, but there is a lot of substance to be had in a smart style choice.

(Image: Bugs Bunny - Warner Brothers)

(Image: Bugs Bunny - Warner Brothers)

(Image: Shrek - Dreamworks)

(Image: Shrek - Dreamworks)

(Image: Gromit - Aardman Animations)

(Image: Gromit - Aardman Animations)

The Schedule. The amount of working days this will take our studio to complete, AKA the project deadline. We have a wonderful production manager (who literally herds cats for a living) and she will work out who is needed on the project, for how long and what that’ll cost.

Ultimately, your best bet for a high quality, enjoyable and satisfying project is to allow enough time for things to be completed at a normal pace. We will give you an estimated schedule along with your quote.

That’s it! Come to any animation studio with that information to hand and 9 times out of 10 you will get a quote that very same day.

 

Good luck with your projects and for more information on this topic or other animation related topics, email us and ask for a copy of our animation myth buster guide.

info@carseandwaterman.com

 

Thoughts by

 

Gary

Making A Great Mascot

I think brand mascots are brilliant! They are a great way to engage with the public and are a very effective form of communications and marketing, b2c and b2b.


The best mascots are the ones that literally embody a brand and become a walking, talking representation of their business. If you saw an image of Mickey mouse and the Michelin man (Bibendum) shaking hands, you would instantly know that Michelin are making tyres for Disney, or Disney are making a film about Michelin, or that the two companies are definitely doing something together because those two mascots represent those two businesses.

(Image: Micky Mouse - The Walt Disney Company)

(Image: Micky Mouse - The Walt Disney Company)

(Image: Bibendum - Michelin)

(Image: Bibendum - Michelin)

So let me tell you about what goes into a good character design and hopefully you’ll pick up some helpful tips and tricks that you can do by yourself before going to a designer for the final mascot. Character design has a lot more to it than I can cover with a simple blog post, but my aim here is just to help you think about the right things before going into it.

In the film and television industry you start by answering key personality questions that have been written specifically to bring out defining personality traits, hobbies and factors that build a well-rounded character. It's no different when designing corporate mascots, at least not with the best ones. I recommend you grab a cup of coffee and take yourself through these character-defining questions (provided by our industry friend and mentor Ed Hooks http://www.edhooks.com/) to work out who your mascot is and how he behaves. This is a process that requires creativity, so take your time, have fun and enjoy the task! You can see the questions below, filled out about our own character mascot, Ime:

Questions

Physical Attributes: Blue, Square head, fully plasticine.

Defence Mechanisms: Can change shape

Locomotion: Bipedal

Age: 11

Lifespan: 150 years

Diet: Pot Noodles, Coke, Crisps, Chocolate

Physical Health: Good, occasional cold

Procreation: Mixing plasticine with a significant other. Offspring are sculpted then brought to life.

Relatives: Aunts, Uncles, Mum, Dad, Siblings (all back on his own planet)

Sense of Humour: Physical Humour

Fears: Fire

Goals: To be a superhero

Culture: Alien

Intelligence: Good with art, bad with maths. Practical guy, not academic

Education: First school, Communications Apprenticeship

Relationship to the business: Adopted by founders

Source of income, Livelihood, Industry: Lives at C&W where he is fed and taken care of.

Name: I-me

Normally, you would write paragraphs for each heading, but even after answering those questions quickly, you should have more of a picture in your head now of who your mascot is, what their personality's like and how they would react to, or approach, different scenarios. For example, how would your mascot approach a video advert job? Is he confident in front of the camera like Mazuma mobile is? Or does he get distracted easily and cause trouble like Aleksandr. meerkat? Remember your mascot can change as time goes by, this is just a foundation, a starting point.

(Image: Mazuma - Mazuma Mobile)

(Image: Mazuma - Mazuma Mobile)

(Image: Aleksanr - Compare the Meerkat)

(Image: Aleksanr - Compare the Meerkat)

Sometimes companies play mascots safely and always deliver things professionally (to reflect well on their business). Other times mascots can be a little crazy and leave an equally important, memorable first impression (‘The Animal‘ pepperami comes to mind!).

(Image: The Animal - Pepperami)

(Image: The Animal - Pepperami)

It's important to research what others around you are doing, particularly competitors. You're lucky because very few businesses have a good mascot, so just having a character mascot at all will help you stand out.

If one of your competitors does have a mascot, great! You have something you can criticise! What do you like about it? What would you change? And are they making the most it? How does it work in conjunction with their brand?

Now that you know your mascot's personality and you know what others are doing around you, it's safe to start drawing (omg drawing?!). Look at your character's personality sheet and draw them doing the things you've alluded to. If you said he likes fishing, draw him fishing. If you said he is a wimp, draw him getting shocked by something silly.

Draw them with the company logo close to hand, because the mascot will need to work hand-in-hand with it. As your drawing keep asking yourself, with a little polish, would this character work for your brand?  And a final few tips - Keep the design simple and remember it needs to be visible when it's scaled down for use in the corner of a web page or letterhead. It's important to start colouring your character in sooner rather than later, so you can determine whether your brand colours work with the design or not.

I know some people are not natural drawers, but you can still make a rough impression and do at least 50% of the thinking work before you pass the baton onto a professional. They will appreciate the work you've come to the table with because it makes their lives easier and it enables you to set the stage for the creation of your company mascot. 

Good Luck!

Thoughts by

Gary

Space Jam is back!

I very often state animation is a marketing tool and is not just about kid's films. Today I want to make it just about kid's films because the 1997 classic animated film "Space Jam" is coming back to cinema (In US so far) for a special 20th Anniversary screening on November 13 & 16th.

This will include a special screening of Looney Tunes short "I Tawt I Taw A Puddy Tat ".  Space Jam plays a crucial part in my love of animation and what brought me to be in the position I am now (head of an animation studio).

It's also incredible to think about how unique (back in the 90s) a film like Space Jam was.

I hope to check it out but so far on US cinemas are advertising it, We hope we can convince some UK cinemas to make this happen so we can have an opportunity to see this classic animated film on the big screen, If not Trolls and Storks are still on cinema and I enjoyed both.

Thoughts By

Daniel

 

 

 

 

Cave Paintings

It’s clear to us everyone is looking for the best way to communicate to a mass audience.  With most businesses setting their sight on a global market problems can arise.

Thanks to software like Skype, communicating internationally is now quite easy.  However, the task of communication isn’t just about the ability to speak different languages but the ability to manoeuvre the nuances of different cultures.

 

When we think about the international communication challenge, we simplify it to a presentation in a room full of ten people. It’s incredibly useful to visualise your target market.

In business presentations no-one wants walls of text accompanied by someone reading bullet points directly from the presentation.  You could have all the charm of Robert Downey Jr but the audience’s attention will be lost.

Look towards the master of presentation, Steve Jobs and his Apple keynote addresses (check them out on YouTube).  Watching his keynotes you can truly appreciate the phrase “a picture's worth a thousand words”.  Text is kept to a minimum and it relies on stills and video.

This method might seem new and exciting to many businesses but it’s not new at all.  If you could go back in time thousands of years ago you'd find yourself in a dark cave along with a caveman looking at the wall.  On the wall a story is being told about a successful hunt in which three men caught two deer.  The incredible thing about this is that in modern day those old cave paintings require no translation.

When the Lascaux caves in southwest France were discovered in 1940 they were seen as a wonder to modern man.  All the simplified bite-sized stories on its walls told us so much about the people that came before us.  When you look at Steve Jobs presentations technology is clearly present but the core of the presentations are simple images that sell his product.

Using animation to communicate is not a new gimmick but merely a technological upgrade.  Animation has opened the door to primitive, universal communication and create an incredibly powerful marketing tool - a tool with no cultural limits.

 

Thoughts by

Daniel Waterman