I was born and raised in London, and am forever grateful to my parents for encouraging my interests in art. It led to my enrolment in an animation course at West Surrey College of Art and Design. Not being aware of what animation was at the time, I pursued my passion for painting there before "accidentally" falling into animating, creating an 8-minute animated film as a requirement for graduation.
Contrary to what the attached picture might suggest, I did not start out with the intention of becoming an animator. My earliest artistic memory was the fascination I had playing with a paintbrush and a glass of water. This led to endless hours of my youth trying to emulate real artists such as Vermeer, Dante Gabriel Rosetti and Salvador Dali. I was seduced by how Vermeer captured light with his paint, the eerie sensitivity caught in Rosetti’s Beata Beatrix and the weird, unbridled, and imaginative world of Dali. My heart was set on one day being a painter like them, with the goal of reaching out and capturing something just as incredible and imprisoning it, before sharing it with others... But, as luck would have it, I discovered something that reached out and grabbed me instead.
My college years were spent aiming for this artistic goal, but after my Foundation Course at St. Martin’s School of Art, I applied to all the wrong courses and subsequently all rejected me. However, thanks to a friend’s suggestion, I found myself at last accepted into a relatively new animation course. I had no idea as to what kind of course this was, and though it had been running for a few years, there was no one there who knew enough about animation to teach it, save for a few one day visits from some British animation greats, like Bob Privitt, Jeff Goldner and Bob Godfrey. So, I continued to paint until the final year, when I was told that if I did not make an animated film, I would fail the course... and so began my journey into the extraordinary world of animation.
Within a day of leaving college, I was privileged enough to be given a chance to work for Oscar Grillo in the thriving London commercial industry. Three months later I was designing and directing commercials for many top London studios, crediting my early rise in the business to my late and great friend Len Lewis for his help and encouragement, and for launching my commercial career.
My time with Len was a wonderful experience, allowing me to meet and work for the first time with the diverse talent in London. There was a great collaborative spirit at that time and when Pop videos and MTV came into being, opportunities abounded, and the business blew wide open in terms of ideas and design expression.
After spending a year in Paris animating on a film for Gaumont Studios and meeting a rich vein of talent from across the globe, I returned to London where I was offered work directly from advertising agencies and was encouraged by them to open my own commercial shop.
I named it Felix Films, after one of my favorite characters in animation and because it was Latin for happy and fortunate. I deliberately set up Felix to be a creative ‘umbrella’ studio and it quickly grew a reputation in London for being ahead of its time. It was the first animation house in London, and perhaps the world, to represent a roster of animation directors, each in control of their own reels and allowing them creative control over their own projects. The studio encouraged greater collaboration not only with our in house talent, but also with the diverse talent at large across the London, Europe, Canada and the US.
During my time in London, I worked on short films with Geoff Dunbar, Paul McCartney and the grandfather of British animation, Bob Godfrey. I also continued to find creative space working on MTV network ID’s and music videos for such artists as David Byrne, Donald Fagen, Grace Jones and Queen.
Amongst the many commercials I made while in London, were Carling Black Label (Best Irish Commercial) and Levi’s ‘Roger’ (Clio Award), as well as spots for Coke, Pepsi, Nike, ESPN, Wrigley’s and the BBC.
In1991 I found myself lured to the United States, relocating to San Francisco, where I designed and directed for first Colossal Pictures and then Wild Brain. My first US based commercial was the Nike ‘Charles Barkley’ commercial, which won a Silver Hugo at the Chicago Film Festival, followed by Coca-Cola ‘Supermom’, which won a Clio award.
I also designed and directed animated sequences for the Oliver Stone feature ‘Natural Born Killers’, United Artists’ ‘Tank Girl’, as well as spending some time on Francis Ford Coppola’s vineyard in Napa Valley, storyboarding on his proposed ‘Pinocchio’ feature. It was a wonderful experience having the chance to work closely with my friends and great talents, Dave Spafford and Andy Knight.
Sadly, Andy has since passed away far earlier than he should have. I count myself lucky to have had special times with him and for having had the privilege to benefit from his friendship and learning from his incredible depth of talent.
After my great and valuable experiences in San Francisco, I then moved onto Hollywood where I worked on developing feature film projects for Turner, Warner Bros. and Nickelodeon.
In addition, I produced and directed a 20-minute opus, ‘1001 Nights’, which was projected above the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra as part of a series of live performances at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and the Hollywood Bowl.
While developing on features is a highly collaborative experience, 1001 was of special interest to me, allowing me to rekindle relationships across the world, with the production spanning individuals and companies in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto and London.
In 2002, I moved to Portland, Oregon, joining Vinton Studios, where I helped to develop feature films and contributed to the creative reshaping of the studio as it became Laika Studios, a name I came up with for the owner, Phil Knight. During this transition, I directed the short film ‘Ananda’ for Sony. It supplied an opportunity to bring together the varied talent and mediums available at that studio, and helped continue my particular interests in the combining of different mediums in animation to create fresh cohesively designed worlds.
In 2006, I traveled to Pasadena to work with long time friend and ex-Disney animator, Ken Duncan, who had set up a west coast house for Dallas based ReelFX Studios. There I worked with a small team helping ReelFX to develop ideas for features. During this time I co-directed with Ken a two-minute 3D opening sequence for Walt Disney’s ‘The Wild’.
While with ReelFX I directed ‘The Tales of the Black Freighter’, a 20-minute film for Warner Bros. This was a departure from my usual way of working, taking me to Big Star Studios in Seoul, South Korea for 8 months. There I was challenged by an animation process that felt new and somewhat limiting to me, but having said that, the passion and eagerness of some of the animators and art workers there was just as relatable to the enthusiasm I saw in my early days in London and the various studios I have been lucky enough to work with along the way. My overwhelming memory of my time in Seoul was how kind and giving the people were.
Over my travels, I have been struck with the common bond that ties many people that work and express themselves through animation. A genuine wish to explore, create and support.
From my beginnings in this business, I realized that the possibilities are endless and one could never stop learning something new about animation, experimenting with new techniques and ideas, or discovering in fellow animators new passions and ways of approaching the art of animation.
I am still as excited today, as I was that first time I ran my very first line test on the Steenbeck. I may have ‘fallen’ into the business of animation, but I have discovered animation still to contain a rich vein of creative diversity, an exciting world of interesting and talented people, all of whom share a similar passion and a great interest in each other.
I continue to strive to achieve in my own goals within this business, but still look forward to participating and contributing on all forms of productions that may fall my way as well as working with others to help achieve their goals.