Saturday the 9th of November saw the unveiling of John Lewis’ new 2013 Christmas advert, an event which has solidified itself as one of the most anticipated moments of the festive season each year.

The advert, after initially being debuted online, made its first television appearance on ITV during the X Factor. A whole advert slot was booked up for the broadcast of the advertisement, which reportedly resulted in ITV having to reschedule the whole evening, and even needed to be signed off by Simon Cowell himself.

It follows the animation of a doe-eyed rabbit and his best friend who is a bear, which is opened with the caption “There was once an animal who had never seen Christmas”. Walking through the woods together, the bear steadily gets more tired as it draws nearer to his annual hibernation. The rabbit is noticeably upset at not being able to spend the festivities with his best friend, and as the bear goes for his big sleep, he sneaks in and drops off a little present. On Christmas day, the bear is awoken from his slumber by the present from his friend – an alarm clock. The advert is closed off with the reminder to “Give someone a Christmas they’ll never forget”.

With input from individuals with the likes of The Lion King and Pocahontas on their CV’s, this Disney inspired advertisement was the first in UK history to use traditional hand drawn frames, using stop-motion animation to create the final outcome. Their entire Christmas campaign reportedly had a £7million budget, however only £1million of which was spent on the actual filming of the advert. Special “behind the scenes” footage has been released showing just how much hard work and concentration was put in to creating the 2 minute piece.

Online, the advert has already been viewed over 6 million times, an unbelievable figure especially when it is taken into account that it is not yet even December, and last year’s campaign falls behind at just under 4 million views over a year since its release. John Lewis have stated that they are “overwhelmed” by the response the advert has generated. With the use of social media to create excitement prior the reveal, such as the #sleepingbear preview trend, John Lewis turned the reveal of the advert not only into an occasion, but a signifier that Christmas really is coming soon.

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Over the coming months, there’ll be some big changes taking place in the KD studio.

Sadly, we’ll be saying goodbye to our Storyboard Artist, Scott, as he heads off for the bright lights of London. Scott has worked for Kuro Dragon for nearly two years and will not only be missed for his great work, but for his happy, positive outlook, and health/fitness inspiration! Check out his work here: http://www.scottduncanbrown.com/ we’d be happy to recommend him and think he’d be a real asset to any team.

However, with every end comes a new beginning, and we’re currently looking to fill Scott’s role as “Storyboard Artist”. If you think you have what it takes, please get in touch and we’ll provide you with a full job description. Any applications please send to: kelsey@kurodragon.com.

We’ve been fairly quiet on the blog for a number of weeks, mainly due to travelling to/from client meetings, conferences, and working on pitches for some major clients. So watch this space for updates on what we’re up to!

 Bye Scott! We’ll miss you!

 

 

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We’ve been busy working on a wide variety of projects lately and so here we are filling you in on a few things…

Working with major network channel Al Jeezra, Kuro Dragon has produced  TV titles for the fantastic documentary series Slavery: A 21st Century Evil and also Talk to Al Jazeera. Al Jeezra have been great clients and we look forward to working with them in the future.  Have a squire at the titles, Slavery titlesTalk to Al Jazeera titles.

In late October we visited Manchester for the Renewable UK 2011 conference and recently, EWEA conference in Amsterdam. It was good to see familiar faces and to meet some new ones. It was our first trip to Amsterdam as well and we found it be an interesting and beautiful city. Definitely worth a visit if you haven’t already been!

We were commissioned by our good friends at e-Quality to produce an animation showcasing all the excellent work they do. Check out the animation here.

Kuro were delighted to be asked to create Northumbria University’s Christmas ecard for the 3rd year in a row. It’s not quite finished but stay tuned!

And finally, we’re very excited to be expanding the team very soon and moving offices in the New Year.

© Pictures of Amsterdam courtesy of www.amsterdam.info

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These tips may seem pretty obvious but a few applicants still submit sloppy applications. Granted most are fairly new to the game and so, here are some quick pointers because I want to give you a fighting chance in these ridiculously tough times.*

  • Whether you’re enquiring about vacancies or applying for an existing position, put all the bumf (showreel etc) in the initial email/letter.
  • Keep your showreel updated and relevant. Only put your best work in there and don’t pad it out with average stuff. Avoid putting simple ‘exercise’ work in such as somebody walking or climbing a wall.
  • The pace of your reel should be consistant. Try not to linger here and there, you want to keep them entertained as well as impressed.
  • See this article for some excellent showreel tips.
  • Do your research, qualify statements like ‘I really admire the work you guys do’ by picking out some work they’ve done and telling them why you like it. Same goes for saying things like ‘team player’ and ‘enthusiastic’.
  • Spelling and grammer should be impeccable. Goes without saying so triple check your application and cover letter.
  • Don’t worry if English isn’t your first language but you should still display a good level of communication. An obvious language barrier is a big no-no.
  • Make it clear whether you’re applying to come and work in the studio or whether you’re wanting to work distantly. Preempt the questions you think people might ask in your initial contact. Just make it as easy as possible for them.
  • Don’t feel that you need a long cover letter, just be snappy and to the point. The standard of your work will ultimately do the really talking.
  • If you’re struggling to find a job make sure you’re still working creatively, keep practising and producing stuff. At the end of the day, if your cover letter is stinking but your showreel is excellent they’ll still pull you in for an interview because that’s what they want, bloody good animation!

*And I also kind of want to stop shoving my fist in my mouth out of frustration. Although it tends be the ones who do barely any research that submit the truly awful applications, the same guys that probably aren’t reading this.

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On November 14th New York’s Museum of Modern Art honoured Saul Bass with an event celebrating the graphic designer’s life which also coincided with the publication of Saul Bass: A life in Film & Design.

You may not have been aware of his name but you’ll almost certainly recognise his iconic work and most notably his stunning titles sequences for films such as North by Northwest, Pyscho and The Man with the Golden Arm.

His imagery is visually arresting, minimalist and powerful. Bass was born in New York City in 1920 and studied at the Art Students League in Manhatten. He initially produced only print work for films but Otto Preminger saw his potential and asked him to create a title sequence for his 1954 film, Carmen Jones. It was Bass who realised the creative potential of the titles as previously projectionists would only pull back the curtain once the sequences was finished, so uninspiring were they.

From designmueseum.org and allposters.com.

Saul Bass’ career lasted a long and prolific 40 years within which time he built corporate identities for major companies, created brilliant titles as well as timeless print and spawned many copycats. He died in Los Angeles in 1996 .

References

The above video was produced by Ian Albinson 

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Liverpudlian animator, Clive Shaw, currently in his final year studying BA Animation at Middlesex has been recently awarded the Shooting People film of the month award judged by Matt Groening who said “Clive Shaw’s almost dialogue-free ‘Girls and Boys’ plays like a funny and slightly disturbing dream. I love it when animation does this, cramming quick jokes and reveals in a short amount of time. The memorable music by Jude Cowan and Matt Armstrong support the weird goings-on, and make the cartoon great for multiple viewings. Well done!”

The animation uses the smiley angelic characters from Ladybird books but reimagined in a cheeky nighttime adventure.

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Nick Park in the Aardman Animation in Bristol. Photograph: Sam Frost

British animation institution Aardman is considering shipping their operations overseas in light of the Government’s refusal to grant the industry a 15-20 % tax credit. This of course would be a huge loss to our cultural heritage and so I thought it would be apt to take a look at their most famous clay-tinker and stop-motion extraordinaire Nick Park.

Park made his first animation in his parent’s attic at the tender age of 13 using cotton bobbins with the help of his mother a dressmaker, and at 15 entered the BBC Young animators competition with a film named ‘Archie’s Concrete Nightmare’. Encouraged by his father he studied Communication Arts at Sheffield Polytechnic before studying animation at the National Film and Television School where he began making his first Wallace and Gromit film, A Grand Day Out.

In 1985 Park joined Aardman Animations in Bristol after meeting the founders Peter Lord and David Sproxton and one of his first projects was working on Peter Gabriel’s award-winning (and a personal favourite) music video, Sledgehammer. On finally completing A Grand Day Out at Aardman, Park made Creature Comforts in 1989 as part of a Channel Four series called “Lip Synch” which ended up winning an Oscar in 1990 for Best Animated Short Film whilst A Grand Day Out earned Aardman a BAFTA.

Wallace and Gromit were originally characters devised by Park when he was a student in 1982 with Wallace reportedly based loosely on his own father who was, in his spare time, an amateur inventor. Elements from other film genres are frequently referenced in the Wallace and Gromit films and Park has said he is heavily influenced by a range of filmmakers from Chuck Jones to Hitchcock.

Following on from A Grand Day Out Aardman released The Wrong Trousers in 1993 and A Close Shave in 1995 which cemented the studio’s reputation for outstanding animation. Both films went on to win Oscars and countless other awards. Since then, Park and the rest of the Aardman team have released a slew of charming films that have consistently been funny and heartwarming in equal measures including the hugley successful Chicken Run and Wallace and Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. This coming Christmas sees the release Arthur Christmas featuring James McAvoy and Jim Broadbent and in 2012, The Pirates.

Back in 2010 our very own Stuart met the Aardman team including Peter, David and Nick and was thrilled to be invited to tour the famous headquarters. It would be a shame to lose all of that and it would be a sad indication for other animation studios. Currently films made in the UK receive tax reliefs which is a fantastic step towards keeping talent on these isles but not animated films. Support and sign the petition here.

Watch an interview with Nick Park talking about his earliest animations.

References

Nick Park on Wikipedia

Aardman Official website

Portrait of the artist: Nick Frost in The Guardian

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Shops full of tat and cobwebs and kids stockpiling on eggs means only one thing, Halloween! And so in spooky spirit here are some recommended animated offerings to get you in the mood. Feel free to add your own suggestions!

Tim Burton has Halloween written all over his face and not only are his films dripping in the macabre but they’re an excellent source of costume inspiration. The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride come highly recommendedVincent, although not as well known, was Tim Burton’s first stop motion picture and it’s just as eerie as his usual stuff…

Another great Halloween flic is the excellent, Coraline about a young girl who discovers a sinister world directed by Henry Selick.

Jojo In The Stars, a recommendation from Mark Jobe @quayanimation “Not your typical halloween film but it is spooky.” This 12 minute film won the 2004 BAFTA Award for Best Animated Short Film and tells the story of Jo Jo the trapeze artist who is admired from afar by a mystery figure.

This recommendation comes from Satish Shewhorak @asianastroboy who describes Monster House as being “like an 80′s kids movie. Great characters and motion capture.”

This creepy animation was co created with Louis Hudson @LouisHudson  of Dice Productions Enjoy!

Numb was created for Seattle International Film Festival in 2007 and is  an amazing mix of animation and live action.

Happy Halloween!

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via www.alexross.com

If you want to draw Bugs Bunny, just learn to draw a carrot and hook a rabbit on to it. Chuck Jones

In a career spanning 60 years, Chuck Jones made over 300 animated films, won three Oscars and countless accolades including lifetime membership from the Directors Guild of America. He prospered during the Golden age of animation directing famous cartoons such as What’s Opera Doc? and co created the characters Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd and Porky Pig. He solely created the characters Wilie E. Coyote, Marvin Martian, Pepe Le Pew, Road Runner and many others.

Born in 1912 in Spokane Washington Jones drew from an early age. He attributed his ability to his father who was an unsuccessful businessman. With each new business venture Jone’s father would buy new stationary and pencils branded with the company’s name and logo and w hen the business failed to take off he would offload the stationary onto his children, urging them to use up the stock.

On graduation from Chouinard University (now California Institute of Art) Jones took up various low paid jobs including a cel washer in 1932 for former Disney animator, Ub Iwerk where he met his future wife, cel painter Dorothy Webster.

In 1936, Jones was hired by the Leon Schlesinger studio (later sold to Warner Bros) and assigned to work in Tex Avery‘s team, nicknamed Termite Terrace. The team were pioneers producing fast-paced, tongue-in-cheek animation, quite apart from their Disney counterparts.  He rose from assistant animator to director in just five short years. His early cartoons were “cute” and Disney-esque in the general style of the time but Jone’s broke with convention in 1942 when he made The Dover Boys which happened to be one of the first films to use stylised animation rather then the more realistic approach of Disney. Jone’s claimed The Dover Boys was when he “learned how to be funny”. He worked with the likes of Avery, Bob Clampett and Fritz Freleng until 1962 when Warner Bros closed the studio. Interestingly Jack Warner had such little regard for his animation division that he was convinced his team produced Disney’s rival character, Mickey Mouse. Jones claimed on more then one occasion that Warner closed the studio when he learnt that this wasn’t the case.

After Warner Bros, Jones had a stint at MGM Studios where he worked on classics such as Tom and Jerry and Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Later he established his own production company, Chuck Jones Enterprise, producing 9 and half films. His career was long and rich and his film, What’s Opera Doc? was even inducted into the National Film Registry for being ” among the most culturally, historically and aesthetically significant films of our time”. In later life Jones spent time painting and directing the odd animated sequence, working periodically on Loony Tunes. Charles Martin Jones died in 2002 and was active all the way up until a year before his death.

An interview with Chuck

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnk228Ti3WI&feature=player_embedded#!

Resources

Wikipedia

Official Website www.chuckjones.com 

Senses of Cinema article by Bill Schaffer 

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