Animated Exeter Festival 2013
Going strong since 1999, Animated Exeter is an independent festival celebrating the beautifully diverse world of animation, where everything from stop motion and CGI, to shadow puppetry and live animation, can be enjoyed at venues across the city.
With a focus on showcasing both local and international animation talent through film and live performance, the festival also has a strong educational remit and offers workshops for both adults and children. Whether you’re curious to gain a better understanding of animation techniques at a professional level, or simply want to have a go at the basics, all ages and abilities are catered for.
This inclusive approach may explain why Animated Exeter attracts an audience of about 20,000 people each year but, according to Susannah Shaw, Festival Director, an inclusive approach towards creativity is also high on her remit and the decision to include puppetry within the festival programme reflects this.
“The main aim of our festival is to be as inclusive as possible and this includes showcasing animation in its absolute broadest sense,” Ms Shaw told Animations Online. “For some time, I did not include puppetry because, of course, puppetry is viewed as a separate discipline to animation. But I believe the skills of the puppeteer are similar to those used in stop motion animation.
“Although puppeteers are usually more physical in their work, both disciplines are very much based on observation and an understanding of movement. Both forms are also based on how you make these movements theatrical. It’s about considering what the essential skills of animation are, and we have tried to put as many elements of this into the festival programme as possible.”
Highlights include Folded Feather’s ‘Nice’, a show for families with children over the age of four. A merging of rod and string puppetry, shadow puppetry, object theatre, live animation and music, ‘Nice’ promises a show that makes innovative use of different medias to create mystique.
There’s a shadow puppetry workshop on offer for children with Don Newton, who performs under the moniker Rough Magic at primary schools across the South West, sharing his fairytale puppetry and storytelling skills. At Animated Exeter, Don will teach participants how to make their own puppets and perform for a special version of Philip Reeve’s ‘The Exeter Riddles’, which is to be filmed for the Animated Exeter website.
Alan Gilbey's Writing Workout, to be held at the Exeter Phoenix venue, offers a three-hour crash course covering the basics of screen storytelling with a fast paced approach, including light-hearted games, group writing exercises and even watching the odd cartoon for inspiration.
As Ms Shaw confirmed, this workshop is an important addition to the programme, as sound writing skills are at the core of all great animation: “From my experience in industry and knowing how important good writing is, I believe the idea behind a project is by far the most important thing and working to hone ideas is the first step to any production.”
Stop motion is an integral part of the festival, with film screenings such as Wes Anderson’s ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ (2009) and ‘Ray Harryhausen: Special Effect Titan’ (2012) – a documentary in which great directors, including Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson and Nick Park, share how the stop motion pioneer has influenced their work.
Related workshops include a BAFTA Masterclass on stop frame cinematography with Tristan Oliver (whose credits include Aardman’s ‘The Wrong Trousers’ (1993) and the 2012 comedy horror ‘ParaNorman’) and a British Film Institute session, where children and adults can learn the art of stop motion through the silent movie genre.
In addition to her work with Animated Exeter, Susannah Shaw has worked on stop motion titles such as ‘A Close Shave’ (1995) and the music video to Peter Gabriel’s ‘Sledgehammer’ (1986) and, as she told Animations Online, it’s a gratifying experience to pass animation skills onto a new generation of creative minds: “Children are drawn to our animation workshops and find them fun and absorbing. It’s rewarding when a teacher approaches you after a workshop to say they had no idea a particular child in their class was so artistic.
“We’re providing an opportunity for students and young people to learn about animation and also providing inspiration for those looking to start a career in the field. The great thing about our festival is that so many animation experts are here – you can sit down in the bar with people who have incredible skills, talk to them and get inspired. It’s rewarding to see adults who attended our workshops when they were children, who have now built their own successful careers in animation.”
Initiated in 1999 and developed by Exeter City Council, Animated Exeter is now an independent, annual festival.