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Posted 17.05.19

Animation students meet Wallace and Gromit

By Phillip Buchan

Thirty BA (Hons) Animation students from Plymouth College of Art recently visited Aardman Animations in Bristol for a day of workshops with the internationally-acclaimed animators.

The first workshop of the day was led by Jim Parkyn, a Senior Model Maker with almost twenty years of industry experience. He taught students the process of how to model the Aardman character Morph, first seen on television in the 1976 BBC show Take Hart. Model maker Jim Parkyn has worked on animated movies including Shaun the Sheep, Chicken Run and The Pirates!

The second workshop was led by Neil Pymer, a Creative Director at Aardman working on the studio’s interactive and immersive projects. Neil, whose past clients include Square Enix and Atari and who was nominated for a BAFTA for his work on BBC’s Escargot Escape Artistes, taught students how to build and prototype their own interactive stories.

BA (Hons) Animation students who took part in workshops at Aardman included second-year Kyah Coles, from Essex, and third-year Elliot Rowe, a former carpenter and boatbuilder from Elburton, Plymouth, who was so enthused by the hands-on skills offered by Aardman that he returned to Aardman Academy soon after for further model-making training.

Kyah Coles said: “The workshop with Neil Pymer focused on paper prototyping for interactive storytelling, looking at storyboarding and writing narratives, breaking the process down to basics. It was incredibly insightful, teaching us to get all of our ideas down on paper and have fun with it. Neil was so encouraging, showing us that we can make even the wildest ideas work by persevering and running with them.

“We were given a tour around the Aardman workshops, where people were building models, with shelves and shelves of clay in every colour imaginable. It was so cool. Being in the same room as models that were used in famous Wallace and Gromit features was really inspiring, helping me to see the possibilities waiting for me when I graduate.”

“Before coming to Plymouth College of Art I never really considered animation as a skill that I’d be able to study. I was torn between drama and art, then one of my friends suggested that animation would cover acting through drawing. I watched as many award-nominated animations that year as I could and realised that this is what I want to do.

“I’m originally from Harlow, in Essex, and Plymouth is such a lovely place to live in comparison. When I came for an Open Day at Plymouth College of Art I saw how intertwined all the different disciplines can be, that I can animate using oil on glass, lino prints… I have the freedom here to animate anything. More than that, I’m living with other students from the college who study BA (Hons) Film, BA (Hons) Costume Production & Associated Crafts, and BA (Hons) Illustration. We all help each other out and share skills and tips, it’s so great!”

Elliot Rowe said: “I’ve been a fan of Aardman Animations since watching Morph on Art Attack as a boy. Visiting the Aardman studios was a dream come true for me, particularly when Senior Model Maker Jim Parkyn led a workshop on how to make our own Morph models. Aardman offer such incredible opportunities, because not only do they teach you these invaluable skills, you’re also getting a chance to work under and network with respected figures in the animation industry. I feel like I took a part of Aardman away with me that will be with me for the rest of my life.

Senior Model Maker Jim Parkyn with Elliot Rowe

“Growing up I struggled at school because of my dyslexia and my family felt like I needed a practical trade, so as a result I became a fully qualified carpenter and boat builder. But I’ve always had a passion for art and animation, and Plymouth College of Art have helped me discover the worlds of stop-motion animation, set and prop fabrication. I’d been working in carpentry since I was 14 years old. I’m 27 now, preparing to graduate in BA (Hons) Animation, and because of the skills I picked up along the way I feel like now I can design and build anything.”

Tim Pattinson, Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader for BA (Hons) Animation, said: “One of my first teaching jobs in North America involved bringing a studio pipeline model for animation into a Higher Education environment - creating a pipeline for creating and delivering animation assets to deadline, in the same way that students will be expected to when they go on to work in the industry.

“A layout artist from Disney features came to visit us and was blown away by how successfully we’d implemented that live studio model within the classroom. That’s what I’m putting into practice now at Plymouth College of Art, preparing students for work at the big animation studios, which is why we’re so fortunate to have an internationally-respected studio such as Aardman based in Bristol, so close to us. We’re very grateful to everybody at Aardman for making us feel so welcome and giving students such an excellent opportunity to network and learn invaluable skills.”