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Tell a Great Story

Anyone with children knows that one of the best ways to keep them quiet (for more than five minutes) is to read them a story. A well made book with great illusions will always help, but with my little girl I find that I can also make up stories (using trick-of-the-trade storytelling formulas) that keep her equally as engaged. Well told stories in any form, moving image, music or written will have this effect.

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(Image -

It doesn't stop with children either. Recently I had the pleasure of attending the Staffordshire Business Festival which had loads of wonderful events and speakers that gave talks about their businesses. Now some did give sales pitches, some were more engaging than others, but the ones that really stood out, told great stories.

(image - Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce)

(image - Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce)

One man in particular, told a compelling story about how his business started up, how it grew, how it almost fell and how they saved it in the knick of time, with risky choices and brave decisions; resulting in the success it is today. It wasn't until the end of his presentation that I broke my attention and began to appreciate what he had done. The room was watching, listening, and engaging with this man. He didn't give us any more or less information than the previous speakers had, we just heard every word this time, because he told us in a storytelling format.

Good stories always have one key thing in common. They always show a journey of change. They go from good to bad, then back to good again. They show a normal day, throw in a problem, then show the audience how that problem was overcome, resulting in an improved situation and a learning curve that we can understand.

(Image - /

(Image - /

We love this familiar format because we learn easily from it because that’s how we have been learning since the dawn of time. We sat around campfires and heard about how Dad got bitten by a saber-tooth cat, but managed to escape with his life after doing something clever. We learned about how when the crops started to inexplicably die, somebody had the courage to try something new and saved the town from famine. We read about how even in her darkest hour, the entrepreneur didn't give up after losing everything and how the unassuming friend she had shown kindness to years before, saved the day, turning the situation around through trust and good teamwork.

(Image -

(Image -

Stories were the original lessons, the original form of education and we as humans instinctively engage with them. This is why my daughter loves stories so much and this is why the key to effective communication, education, marketing or even sales is to figure out what information you need to get across and then do it with a great story.

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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!


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.


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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 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:


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!

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Business Showcase

Monday 7th November brings the start of Staffordshire’s first ever business festival ran by our friends at the Staffs Chambers of Commerce.  

With our animation studio being in Stoke for the past nine years it has always felt like local business festivals have been missing.  The best options until now involving traveling to Birmingham or Manchester.

Events like this are so important for local networking opportunities which will lead to growth and awareness of what is on our doorstep.  Stoke has so many great companies that create important work on an international level, yet they are practically unknown on their home turf.

Many people will not have heard of our animation studio and the fact we have worked with ITV, Channel 4, United Nations, NHS, Michelin, Pathe and Mccann Worldwide (England, Germany and Australia).

I like to showcase what we do and learn a lot more about what others do.  I hope I can inform people that high-quality, creative animation is available on their doorstep.  There’s no need to head to Manchester, Birmingham or London, reducing the need to pay big city price premiums.

Our first event next Monday will be the Chambers of Commerce networking breakfast and later on the Festival Launch in Stafford.

Who else will be going?


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Daniel Waterman

Monsters Inc is 15

Today Monster’s Inc is 15 years old. I celebrated the anniversary by watching both films recently (Inc and University) to see how animation has changed in the past 15 years.

The technology has of course improved. Pixar are using vastly more advanced computers and software now, their render farm will have no doubt quadrupled in size and their overall experience and knowledge will have developed a great deal as their staff stay hungry and keep learning.

The ‘graphics’, as most people would say, have improved. Most notably the fur generation is way more advanced today. From having around 1 million strands of hair in 2001, in Monster's University Sully had up to 5.5 million strands of hair.

The rigs were clearly a limitation back in 2001. If you look carefully (and I do!) you can see that Pixar’s skin weighting was limited by the poly-count their computers could handle. It also wouldn't surprise me if they hadn't quite perfected the ideal model topology for a clean, flexible mesh that deforms beautifully when bound to a rig. Put that together with the fact that interactive paint weighting, dual quaternion weights and heat map binding weren't around and you start to appreciate how well they did with the 'state of the art' technology they had in the day. Mr Waternoose stood out in particularly, because he had such a jowly face that really would have benefitted from today's rigging advancements.

Even the animation performance has improved. Back then, Toy Story was only 6 years old and computer animation was still considered ‘clunky’ in comparison to traditional animation. It certainly wasn’t an art form like stop motion can be. But the guys at pixar we’re seriously improving their performance skills shot by shot. They knew the essence of a great film was story and emotion and they did everything they could to make their characters stand up as actors. The likes of Doug Sweetland, Glenn McQueen, Scott Clark were pushing the boundaries of their CGI medium, looking at the principles left by Disney’s Nine old men in traditional animation and battled with the rigs to make them work. You can see they used a layered approach on a lot of their shots, the stark character poses of the ‘Pose-to-Pose’ work flow method are not always there. They probably weren't using video reference material very much either (like they did on Finding Nemo), so the essence of acting wasn’t as potent in every shot as it would have been today. I’m not saying it wasn’t good animation, though -it was! The scene near the end where Boo is terrified by Sully's scare demonstration, almost makes me cry every time.


Something I find interesting is the fact that Mike and Sully are the iconic characters of the film and are the first thing you think of when somebody say’s ‘Monsters Inc’. Why isn’t Boo the first thing you think of? Normally baby characters are hugely popular in animation, they often outshine the adults, even if they arent lead characters - but not in this case. Is it because boo is only ‘human’ and we prefer/ expect exciting characters in animation? That's another blog topic. 

Anyway, despite officially being an older film now, Monsters Inc is still one of my Pixar favourites. Peter Doctor made sure the most important ingredients, the story and the characters, were the best that they could be. Stories and emotions are timeless, technology doesn’t play a part in those areas.

Twenty years from now people may look back at Monsters University and realise how dated the render and animation looks, but I bet they enjoy Mike, Sully and the story just as much then as I did last night.

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Gary Carse


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.

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