About Animation and me
An animated film about the students and their work from the animation department, Liverpool, 1981.
The film ‘Animation’, is made using 3d computer programs. I have been experimenting for several years to try to make a 3d moving image which gives the feeling of the same energy as the drawn animation from 1981 in Liverpool. Back then, we might have talked about, amongst other things, the dexterity of hand held camera’s. Today, the quality of hand held paper, might be more appropriate but, I have tried to use the new technology, in my own way, to reclaim the images made by ‘animation’.
True to Liverpool, I used no story board and sketched my ideas into movement. The film was more demanding than I expected, with more memories than I cared to recall and difficult to make the film as if I were 21 again.
The images are inspired either by memory of the films made or, memories of films being made.
Many people will know the films. What they might not know is they were made by a few students in Liverpool over a very short time, 33 years ago.
Perhaps my film might just bring new interest to the Liverpool animation films and might just re-light the spirit behind, intuitive, spontaneous, person made animation.
Very long Synopsis : Or a personal reflection of Animation
Before Animation, I had a background of painting, or rather I started at such a ‘free’ foundation course that no one noticed until it was too late that I missed the term allocated for Graphics by just not moving from my place in the painting studio. It was actually a traditional; purpose built Art school with north facing ceiling windows and I loved it. Everyone had a knowledge of super 8 (8mm film) and of course we were all young, into music and it was 1977.
From Mansfield to Liverpool
How I got into Animation in Liverpool just over a year later is one of those accidents in life but I am sure it was meant to be, the introduction to animation was a trip to Wales at the beginning of what was supposed to be a graphics course. Oil pastels, spontaneity, feeling and colour, it seemed like a good idea that I should follow a lead which came from the animation department. Until then , for the first year I was supposed to study illustration but as is my want, being young and total disregard and devoid of knowing what was good for me, I spent most of my time filling huge sheets of paper which I taped to the wall just outside the principal’s office. Starting animation was something magical and is the reason I am writing.
I have just finished a short animated film about the animation students and the work they did in Liverpool 1981. The vision is like this; It starts with a view of the Protestant Cathedral, much the same as the beginning of a film Jonathan Hodgson made and then, with a view of the city, zooms in to the windows of our small animation studio. Arthur White is seen through the window and then inside everyone is quickly picking up drawing boards and as they take them to the door, the next scene is in the all important life studio. We did a great deal of life drawing, all kinds of drawing but, drawing from life. Drawing with feeling and all important intuition. Rather that Walt Disney, Roger Hilton and Len Lye would be in our conversation and I have always worked standing up.
There was a spirit, enthusiasm and motive to capture life in bold exciting marks from the soul. As a concept, nothing new, Art colleges throughout Britain have generated young Artists with feeling, expression and then abandon them again but, animation that considered spontaneous and feeling equivalent to the experience of life that gave us a very different education to the norm in animation. After all animation is a process and even technique, of repetition, a succession of nearly identical images drawn carefully. How could it be spontaneous?
Take any group of young people and they will quickly form a pact or collective but, we were actually all very different. Arthur (White) was the only one from Liverpool. Jonathan (Hodgson) was from Birmingham, although his strong ascent seems to have completely disappeared these days. Tony Collingwood was straight from school in Hull and from the first year, he and Fiona Macvicar were together (and still are now).
Energy and Anarchy
I included Susan Young in the film, she was actually in the year bellow us but the studio was split in two by a large chipboard, separating the two years and as she also came from Birmingham, knew Jon, from much the same ‘swell maps’ type background and she made films as close to my films as anyone so I include her. We were a defined unit when in the same room or theatre as animation students from any other course and we mostly went to the same parties. Jonathan at that time was in the ‘cult figures’, and even the life model played bass in a punk band, but his band was a focus point. (Jock appears in Susan’s animation and Gary (the singer) was in painting and one of his guises a comedian, I heard he once said that Jonathan was a classically trained musician who, when discovering punk rock, painted his violin and fitted a electric ‘pick up’.
Liverpool in 1981
You have to remember the time all this took place. There were countless places to see and go in Liverpool and then there were the riots and chaos, mostly in the areas where we lived and we were also very much a part of an art school. ’Eric’s ’the music venue, was shut down by politicians, in retaliation to rebellious attitude, one of the coldest winters ever and a bread shortage. All this and we were in a small department, controlled by men in suits who seemed to disassociate themselves from ‘Art’ and were there in full glory to judge, assess and crucify us. I believe they actually sat in a row in a room in the same building; I was warned by the principal, that he was the one that expelled John Lennon several years earlier. (the highlight of his career) Politically, they were hard times but I still believe that the administration in charge at Liverpool was a methodical system, still running and ruining the organization of art education even today.
We as animators, collectively screened films onto Jah Wobble when he played in a large nightclub. Janet should also get at least a mention, not only for ‘colouring in’ for Jon but for being one of us and a great artist (and still is). Also James Howrie, a painter that was not only my friend but, helped make the sound for my degree film and this one.
Back to the film ‘Animation’
Inspiration from memories of film, working space and Liverpool itself make up most of my new film. It’s a kind of revolving, moving recollection. Images reminiscent of Jon’s ‘Dogs’ ‘nightclub’. Sue Young’s ‘thin blue line’. Tony and Fiona’s first films and Arthur’s ‘Light’ films and optical sound all work themselves together. The one factor that connects the work and Liverpool Animation is in its origins; observations of life, either sketchbook or experience. I only wish I had more time to include more memories, to this point I have been working on the film for two years and the same as painting I wouldn’t want anyone else to make the images, to be the inspiration is enough help. I have been in touch with all the animators and they have agreed to me representing their work through my own animation and memory of the films. Those films are an expression in themselves of the course and1981 and then I added memories of Liverpool in a journey with a man and his dog, from the Art College to Sefton Park, via princes road and then an indoor world, which could well be reminiscent of Jonathans ‘Nightclub’.
The spirit lives
These days, we are all still making animation. Jonathan Hodgson has his own animation company and is head of animation in Middlesex. Tony Collingwood is married to Fiona Macvicar and has ‘Collingwood O’Hare’, making lots of the children’s animation on our televisions. Fiona is a part of Collingwood O’Hare but is also an independent illustrator. Arthur White is still making experimental film and working in 3d with moving light source. Susan Young has recently finished a PhD in Animation therapy.
Myself, I am making animation here is Sri Lanka. I have been living here for about twenty years and over the years have shown films at many festivals. My degree film from Liverpool was shown in the ‘Prix de la creation’ at Clermont Ferrand in around 2004 and my last film won two awards. What we shared in Liverpool all those years ago was not only a commitment and belief in what we were doing but, we were all compulsive image makers, story tellers and all with the need to express more than we would if we had done what we were told. I hope to carry on making films for many years. If you get the chance please look out for my ‘Animation’ on the big screen and also any other animation. Contact and shared views are welcome.