As well as employing the services of out of house animators the Share A Story campaign also gives in house animators a chance to get in on the fun. Jardine Sage has directed and animated two shorts for the share a story campaign in the past and returns for a third this year with A Dinosaur Who Ate My Homework based on the original idea by Molly MacKeown. In the film a short tempered teacher has to deal with a child who has a homework evading excuse of monstrous proportions. We asked Jardine about, working with the kids who come up with this stuff his influences working on the short and all the other references and detail he managed to cram into the minute runtime.
So Kids enter Share a Story and win! You then find yourself having a child as a client or at least having some say in the animation, how do you accommodate them during the animation process?
It is a strange one, but usually the kids come into ITV with a parent and we treat them to a full day of fun making sure they have the best time they can possibly have and make everything about them, we fill all the walls with their artwork and plaster their names everywhere. We give them the option to change the colours or design of some aspects of the animation, sometimes you get someone who loves it and does not want to change anything and sometimes you get someone who can be more specific. Last year the girl who won came in, the story was about her but when I designed the character I had not seen a picture of her and had given the character long hair and she had short hair, but her friend had long hair and I had given that character short hair so we swopped those around. It’s more about trying to make sure the kids get a stamp on there as it is there project after all. In this one there is a Sunderland top in the kids room because Molly’s dad asked for it whilst they were here, so I asked Molly and she approved! The name of the child is her brother and the name of the teacher is her mother maiden name so all these little touches from the child go into it. I also stick all my own silly things in it like Jurassic Park references a map of Pangaea and Gertie the Dinosaur. You don’t get the opportunity to do that very often, put a minute under a microscope and keep feeding it different things so its great fun.
The work on A Dinosaur Who Ate My Homework is very graphic and the animation is very fluid and well put together, did you have any references you worked from whilst designing the look of the short?
Theres a bit of Mr Magoo, I like its heavy linework, same with other UPA shorts and there is also a bit of Warner Bros that I looked at as well because I wanted them to have that simplistic look but be able to really stretch the characters and change them at the same time, the more I messed around with the design and look the more I wanted to make it like a proper cartoon.
How did you approach the individual character designs?
I drew all kinds of dinosaurs from realistic to silly, dinosaurs with funny hats off to a kind of Disneyesque dinosaur. To look at his shape I looked at bears to see how they stand and thought they would make nice poses for it so he’s kind of based on a bear instead of a lizard.
The teacher is made up of some sharp angles but I looked at the demon headmaster and Anton Ego from ratatouille, but then I went the opposite way making him smaller and everyone seemed to like it because he’s kind of cute and kind of cool but at the same time he looks like he could be aggressive which I think is the important thing about the character.
How does working on Share a Story differ from your work done during the rest of the year
Its not completely different, I’d say Share a Story is almost the accumulation of everything we do on the day job put together, what we usually work on during the day are promos, interstitials and idents branding the channel. We do a few interstitials which is what Share a Story is those interstitials could be kids talking about what their favourite invention is and I’d animate the wall behind them or it could be a kids drawing that we would bring to life keeping the “for kids by kids” vibe of the channel going.
Last year you won a Children’s BAFTA is the pressure on this year?
I think there is! Its more of a mental pressure than an actual pressure. When we won it last year we were not really aiming for it and we had naturally upped our game from the year before. A lot of the out of house teams are creating such amazing stuff so they’ve upped their game and we’ve upped our game so its almost like a gentle rivalry everyone is trying to create the best they can possibly do. I think this animation is the natural progression of the two I have done before as the first one was very illustrated but not very animated and the second one was animated but not very illustrated and now I’m trying to bring the two together into one uniform style.