Jack Cunningham is a London-based animator, illustrator and director at Nexus Productions. Recently Jack was approached to direct a short animation for Google Play’s California Inspires Me, a series of recollections from local artists and performers commissioned for the California Sunday Magazine. So far the series has included films based around the musings of Reggie Watts, Jack Black, Kim Gordon and Brian Wilson among others, with Jack brought on board to animate the reflections of writer and performer Rashida Jones (who is presently at work on the screenplay for Toy Story 4 with Will McCormack). We caught up with Jack to learn more about his experience on the project.
Can you tell us a bit about your animation background and how you came to be involved with Nexus?
I studied animation at Kingston University and after graduating I moved to the East End of London and started to freelance. Nexus was a company I really admired while at Uni so it was a dream come true when I got to animate on a job for Nexus director, Johnny Kelly. I felt like I was in the right place at the right time and I’ve been here ever since.
Outside of this project what are some of your personal highlights from your time at the studio?
I think it would have to have been working on my Vitra commercial at the beginning of this year. I felt like it was the first job that I had complete creative freedom on. It was also a great opportunity to experiment with the possibilities of 3D, which for me has always been very exciting.
The Google Play project is a very interesting concept, how were you approached to be one of its contributors?
I was approached by the California Sunday Magazine and was asked if it was something I would be interested in as they really liked my work. Weirdly, I was watching an interview with Rashida Jones when I got the email! I guess it was fate.
The other films in this series take on a fairly wide gamut of design styles. Were you solely responsible for the look of this film or did Google Play have a say in it?
Luckily BBH LA, Google, and the guys at California Magazine have a great amount of trust in the animators they work with. They understand that sometimes it’s best to let directors do what they do best without interfering. I think all the films in the series benefit from this approach and have a very honest vibe to them.
James Hatley and Joe Sparrow are fantastic artists in their own right and both create amazing work that I’m a huge fan of. We’ve all worked together a few times and I’ve been collaborating with Joe as far back as Uni; because of that I was able to match them to the scenes that I felt they could bring their own unique style to. I was just very lucky that they said yes to helping me out. A four minute animated film is a huge amount of work and we had a very tight deadline. I couldn’t have done it without them.
The musical component of the recollections in these films is especially appealing to me, is that an area you have enthusiasm for as a creative artist?
I love music with animation! I truly believe it’s a huge part of what makes great films. I wish I’d had the time to produce the music myself, because I often have a very clear vision of what I want my films to sound like. Shannon Ferguson who made the sound on this was a great collaborator. He was fantastic at capturing the laid back Californian hum that was super important to the film. We quite often have the characters on minimal backgrounds, so the music really works at expanding the films scope. It adds something quite special.
To learn more about other films in Google Play’s California Inspires Me series (including work by fellow Nexus director Nicolas Ménard) visit g.co/cainspiresme
Visit Nexus at nexusproductions.com and Jack Cunninham’s site at jack-cunningham.tumblr.com