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An Interview with Stick Man Producer Michael Rose

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The animated Christmas special is now a long established feature of the holiday season. Every year whilst the family are all together we get a little something special that everyone young and old can enjoy.

Past favourites include the Wallace and Gromit shorts but in recent years we have been treated to the work of magic light pictures and their translations of the work on Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler first with the much loved The Gruffalo, followed by the The Gruffalo’s Child and most recently Room on the Broom.

This year Magic Light Pictures return with Stick Man, their most ambitious short to date. It tells the tale of Stick Man who lives in the family tree, with his stick lady wife and their stick children three and what happens when Stick Man goes missing and his perilous journey back to the family.

We spoke to Michael Rose, producer of the past shorts and the new one which airs on BBC 1, Christmas Day at 4.45pm.

What do you think makes a Christmas film

Stick Man has lots of snow and Santa Claus in it so it is decisively a Christmas film! But we really set out to make event family viewing; we wanted to create a moment where the whole family can watch something together and certainly in the UK the time for that is Christmas on the telly. What really makes it is a great story, great characters and something that can appeal to the whole family.

Tell us who stars in the film

We’ve a fantastic voice cast, we’ve been very fortunate in all of these films, we have Martin Freeman as the voice of Stick Man, Jennifer Saunders as the narrator, Hugh Bonneville as Santa, Russell Tovey as the dog, Sally Hawkins plays stick lady and a variety of other female roles and Rob Brydon returns for the fourth time playing the snail, the frog and a bunch of other roles.

Stick-Man_3533875b

He seems to have become a bit of a good luck charm!

I hope so, he’s wonderful, we ring him up in trepidation every time because he’s massively busy and he’s been great at making time to do them, he’s an amazing actor and a versatile artist it’s great fun having him in the cast.

Even though these famous names have short screen time there’s a lot of enthusiasm goes into the performances, Russell Tovey’s dog in particularly is my favourite

Russell Tovey is a huge talent but he’s a fan of dogs, he actually brought his won dog to the recording with him, which barked inappropriately various times! He’s a great dog enthusiast and you can hear that in his performance. I think its because they don’t have many lines that the quality of the voice is more important what these performers do, even with a few lines is take you on a characters journey and that’s the skill of actors.

From one set of actors to another, the animators! Tell us a little about the team who animated the production.

The film has been directed by Jeroen Jaspaert, who is based in Lodnon and co-directed by Daniel Snaddon they are based at Triggerfish Studios in Cape Town in South Africa, so all of the animation was done in cape town it’s a dynamic, emerging animation industry there with a lot of great talent.

Am I right in saying the previous films were made in Germany?

That’s right we make the previous three in Studio Soi just outside Stuttgart.

There’s a nice international handshake going on there.

For us it is about making the films all in one place, control is important to ensure we get that quality we aim for and we go where the talent is and where we can make the budget work. Stick Man is the most ambitious of these films, there are lots of sets and characters, lots of water, snow, ice and effects so we decided to make the whole film in CGI, the previous shorts were a mix of CGI with live action model sets whereas this one is CGI though we aimed to get the “modelly” look and feel that we had in the previous ones.

stick-man_3515983b

I was looking out to see I there were live action model sets, it’s very close though and you keep that established signature look

It’s really nice you should say that as the team worked like crazy to get everything to work and look like that. The found themselves fighting against the computer all of the time, most computer programmes ant to smooth everything out whereas we wanted the blemishes, the feel of the grain of wood guided by asking ourselves “how would we do this is model” or “how would we do this with sets” and then trying to approximate to that look and texture.

Would you want to work with Julia and Axel again on future films?

We have built up a great relationship with Julia and axel over the years and they are the leading children’s picture book team in the UK now, they bring out a new kid’s book every year or every other year and there’s something about their work, the way they connect with children and families so we would love to do more with them in the future.

Well if you could do another my nephews favourite is “The Smartest Giant in Town” so if you fancy doing another I’m sure he’d like that one.

That’s a wonderful title!

Stick Man airs on Christmas day 4:45pm BBC One. You can listen to the full interview on the Skwigly Animation Podcast below, also available to download

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