A history of 20 years of animated life at my London studio

A history of 20 years of animated life at my London studio - updated occasionally in no particular order...

St. Trinian's Animation Test

On September 22nd I presented a 25sec animation test featuring a St. Trinian's schoolgirl to the creator of those classic British characters, Ronald Searle himself. Searle has had a few bad experiences when it comes to animation -his drawing style is extremely difficult to adapt and apart from a few short pieces of animation done by Ivor Woods in the 70s, he hasn't been impressed by many attempts. Nevertheless, I thought I'd give this a go and am so very happy to report that he approved! He even commented that it was the best he’d seen since Ivor: a truly wonderful compliment.
The original St. Trinian's cartoons are spot gags featuring the terrible killer schoolgirls and their teachers at the notorious, albeit fictional, boarding school. They commit murder, blackmail and extraordinary naughtiness against the backdrop of a supposedly more innocent era - 1945 to 1952.



There isn’t a story. Searle’s anarchic humor works as a single image – not obviously lending itself to animation. Therefore, I picked one of the cartoons and added a little lead-up story.


Matt Jones and I boarded a sequence which was originally longer than 25 seconds and involved a massive crowd scene in the St. Trinian’s dormitory. But I decided to keep it simple - it was meant to be a test after all. Based on the boards, I drew the layouts and posed the shots on 8s and 12s. The wonderful animation is by Sandro Cleuzo, who animated the first shot and Boris Hiestand, who animated the rest.
My job was to keep the whole project in the Searle universe. I drew the BGs onto frosted cel, each one five times to give the environments a slight boil. I then drew the character animation onto frosted cel with a mapping nib and black ink, trying to keep it as loose as possible whilst putting the characters on 'Searle' model. The animation is mostly on ones and I managed to get through 40-50 drawings per day. Helene Leroux, a very talented young French artist, traced the last shot. Loose lines further produced the ‘boil’ effect, which goes well with the Searle style.


The drawings were then scanned and composited by Michael Schlingmann in After Effects. Michael figured out a complex system of mixes to keep the multiple background drawings alive and in style with the lively lines of the animation drawings. We added a mix of existing music to the edit, hoping the composers won't mind since this is not a commercial project. The little film was great fun to put together - a welcome opportunity to remember those dusty 2D animation skills.



Maybe there will be more one day...

34 comments:

  1. He's back! With the ultimate blog post! This beautiful test was part of a really fun summer at your studio. Perhaps it's worth mentioning Ronald's only 'note'? He thought the girl wouldn't rub her nose like that- theSt. Trins girls are too 'well bred' for that!

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  2. Beautiful work. I hope there will be more ?

    I appreciate the behind-the-scenes info on how you made the piece, including the detailed close-up photos of the inking process. You really captured the line work very well.


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  3. Absolutely stunning!! It looks and feels like Ronald Searle. Terrific job.

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  4. Smashing, Uli! Drop-dead great. I'm speechless with admiration.

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  5. LOVE the design, love the line quality and absolutely love it all combined in the animation.

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  6. i'm waiting to see more uli!! don't stop there... :o)

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  7. Really beautiful! Would love to see more.

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  8. Fabulous movement too. Finally, we have an answer to Dick Deadeye showing how to do it right.

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  9. Thank you all, it was great fun to put this together. And thanks to the small but talented crew. Hopefully there will be more one day soon.

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  10. AWESOME!!!! Man, appealing Searle designs with appealing animation-- gotta love it!

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  11. I'm blown away, you did such a great job of this. I love Searle's work and you treated it with such sensitivity and respect. The fact that the man himself liked it is the icing on the cake, the entire crew ought to be very proud of this achievement. Inspiring stuff.

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  12. this is fantastic! theyre moving! great job guys!!

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  13. awesome !! wonderful and appealing animation :)

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  14. wonderful- great to see Searle's line in movement. Mooore!

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  15. Absolutely stunning! Can't wait to see where this leads. :]

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  16. Awesome!! I love it and can't wait to see more

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  17. I can't stop watching it Uli it looks amazing... I really wish you could make a whole feature. The animation on this was perfect too. I miss smooth on model animation. Thank you so much for sharing this.

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  18. This is to good not to turn it into more then a test.

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  19. Awesome as usual! So Good to have found your new blog.. Thank You for Inspiring always.

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  20. Awesome work Uli!(and gang) Truly inspiring!

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  21. Great to see your wonderful animation come to life again Uli!! great job!!

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  22. Uli ,why did you work on frosted cells?
    That music worked so well with the piece.

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  23. Uli, congratulations to you and your crew -- this is fantastic. Everything worked like precision. I like the music, the story boarding, the timing of the gags and animation, the follow through animation, the line work and overall mood. This is truly inspired work! Congratulations.

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  24. beutiful animation i love the ink line



    Jorge Verdugo
    jorge@moonito.cl
    www.moonito.com

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