In focus: Putting UK animation on the map

What's next for UK animation? We spoke to three industry experts to find out.

A man lies unconscious on the floor. There are two sets of feet standing either side of him.

Roughhouse (2018) directed by Jonathan Hodgson.

Embracing innovation and fuelling imagination

Helen Brunsdon

Director, British Animation Awards

I have a deep love and respect for the British short animated film and its creators. Like most of our creative industries, UK animation has stood the test of time. Despite several decades of funding fluctuation, where more money could always be invested in the arts and film, our animators have continued to create, even under challenging circumstances.

Animation is an imperative and significant part of UK culture, its achievements contributing to the country’s identity, fuelling children’s imagination and helping to promote the UK globally. Animation as an art form encourages creativity, self expression, communication and deep craft skills and techniques. It has impact across the social and economic landscapes, throughout our communities and across all regions.

Animation is consistently at the forefront of emerging technologies, embracing innovation with risk taking and pioneering creative techniques. Animation is fundamental in the current landscape of contemporary arts – in galleries and its use in the performing arts, as part of dance, theatre and opera.

UK animation is a wonderful and welcoming industry. While we still need to lobby and advocate to see more dedicated funding and strategic investment grow, there are always independent British animated films that are evidence of the determination of artistic talent and resilience!

Inspiring gems from the UK animation scene

Chris Robinson

Artistic Director, Ottawa International Animation Festival

In my 27 years or so with the Ottawa International Animation Festival, many things have changed (countries, technologies, the increase in animation schools, film production and my age), but thankfully there have been a few aspects of festival programming that have not really altered all that much. One of those is the consistent quality of animation short films from the UK.

Year after year, whether it’s student work from the Royal College of Art or the National Film and Television School, narrative and experimental works, or even TV work; whether it’s dramatic, comic, absurdist, or abstract, there are always gems to be discovered that will be inspiring, unique and groundbreaking.

Triumph in the face of adversity

The diversity of work been astonishing – especially given the sparsity of funding opportunities for indie animators in the UK. Just look at the all-star roster of talent that UK animation has produced over the last 30 years: Joanna Quinn, Barry Purves, Paul Bush, Jonathan Hodgson, Phil Mulloy, Ruth Lingford, and some guys named Peter Lord and Nick Park... And it hasn’t stopped there: newer UK talents like Daisy Jacobs, Elizabeth Hobbs, Peter Millard, and Ross Hogg are garnering worldwide acclaim for their inventive and provocative work.

It’s a remarkable achievement that UK animators have trudged through those murky financial waters to create some of the world’s finest works of art.

Female creators in UK film

Abigail Addison

Producer and Programme Director, Animate Projects

I am constantly looking to champion female talent in the UK, both as an independent producer and programmer, and as a member of the shorts selection team for Underwire Festival, the UK’s largest film festival celebrating female talent.

It’s always a thrill to discover work by women that offers up a fresh perspective, as can be seen in the provocative, confessional, and chimerical shorts included in the British Council's 2019 animation catalogue.

There has been a noticeable shift over the past few years. Women animators are defiantly reclaiming their bodies on screen and sharing the authentic experience of being female. Demonstrably more and more films by female students are presenting a strong sense of self, of sensuality, and of physical delight in their bodies.

Representation matters

In 2017 I programmed Female Figures, a special event for London International Animation Festival, that grew out of recognition of the under-representation of female animators. A way to spotlight some of the talented animators making work today, it also presented an alternate view of women from the sexist representations that still persist. The event sold out – the appetite for women’s stories is clearly strong.

Given that almost half of the animators working in the UK today are women, it seems only just that their work, and the stories that reflect on their experiences of the world, are illuminated on screen.

This article was first published as part of our 2019 animation catalogue.

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