Get animated about animation

Simon ParkinWhether it be sketchy line drawings or complex stop-motion, the British Animation Awards feature some of the country's best upcoming animators and Norwich filmgoers are being asked to vote for the best. SIMON PARKIN reports.See the full list of public choice filmsSee the original Simon's Cat filmSimon Parkin

Whether it be sketchy line drawings or complex stop-motion, the British Animation Awards feature some of the country's best upcoming animators and Norwich filmgoers are being asked to vote for the best. SIMON PARKIN reports.

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Filmgoers in Norwich are being handed the chance of discovering the next Nick Park or Tim Burton and vote for their favourite new animated films as part of the British Animation Awards 2010.

The biennial awards will be held in London this April, and an integral part of the ceremony are the public choice awards. The three awards - for best short film, music video and commercial - are voted for by the cinemagoers in a series of screenings which will be held across the country, including here in Norwich.

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With over 35 films to choose from, a series of three special programmes at Cinema City on February 8, 15 and 22, will offer audiences a feast of films from the nation's most talented animators.

'The public choice awards allow the film-loving public to have a say about which animations have captured their imaginations,' says BAA director Jayne Pilling. 'We've put together a shortlist which reflects the best and most innovative talent that the British animation industry has to offer.'

Amongst those hoping to catch viewers' hearts in the film category is Norwich-born animator Simon Tofield, whose Simon's Cat: TV Dinners, about the misadventures of his pet, became a YouTube sensation and has spawned a whole series of films, a spin-off book and even an iPhone app.

Another entry with strong local links is Norwich to Sheringham, a charming short film from French animator Bali Engel. Bali first visited Norwich on a trip to the Aurora film festival, and couldn't resist the opportunity to get on the buses and discover the Norfolk landscape.

On one of the these early morning trips she overheard a pair of elderly gentlemen making small talk about buses for two hours. This conversation has become the framework for the film, and her many trips to Norwich have given her a genuine fondness of the region.

Also set in Norfolk is Rabbit Punch, a powerful animated feature by Royal College of Art MA student Kristian Andrews. His graduation film captures the growing pains of a 14-year-old Norfolk teenager, wrestling with sexual identity, the responsibilities of adulthood and an overbearing friend.

The film pulls no punches in its treatment of adult themes and of adolescent boredom in a quiet rural setting. Tough talk and killing of a rabbit form part of an adolescent rite of passage that many boys will probably identify with.

'All of my films feature myself in some way,' admits Kristian. 'In Rabbit Punch I have sought to capture the growing pains of a 14-year-old Norfolk boy. I enjoy unconventional narratives in my work: I don't like neat closures, but I do like recalling various non-events from personal experience. I feel drawing suits these anecdotes perfectly, as it communicates honestly, making no attempt to conceal its imperfections.'

Kristian's sketchy, ink drawing animation style is backed by a superb cast, including Norfolk actors Carl Prekopp and Ben Conway providing regional accents.

They will be up against 19 other entrants including Swiss-born Rafael Sommerhalder, shortlisted for his film about missed opportunity Wolves and Manchester animator Philip Bacon for his film Yellow Belly End about a man who meticulously records the deaths from an enormous cliff edge.

There are also works by Brothers McLeod with their take on a Brothers Grimm-like tale in Moon Bird, and Welsh animator Rhiannon Evans whose film Heartstrings asks: if falling in love means being tied together, what happens when you discover the length of string?

Within the music video category animation for Coldplay, Midfield General and Gravenhurst are among those short-listed, while meerkats meet multinationals in the advertisement category with nominations for, Coke Zero, Nokia, Hershey and Domestos.

t British Animation Awards Public Choice, Cinema City, February 8/15/22, 0871 7042053,


Norfolk-born Simon Tofield is the brains behind Simon's Cat films, some of the most watched online animated videos in recent years.

Featuring a frisky rascal, based on his experiences with his own cats, his personal animation project eventually turned into an internet that garnered millions of views on YouTube and led to a book.

Simon first taught myself to animate by making flip-books, but his big break into animation came as a surprise. 'The idea of the first film came from me being at home trying to learn some new computer software. That morning Hugh, who was a kitten at the time, was jumping all over me trying to wake me up for his breakfast and I thought what a brilliant idea for a story. So I sat down and started to animate the bed with Hugh jumping up and down. I had always drawn cats, so it was a perfect way of getting into film really.'

He then discovered his homemade film had been put on to YouTube. 'By the time I found out it had got about three million hits,' he said.

'I would say that my style of drawing is quite sketchy and I like to keep it quite loose and spontaneous. The animation is down before the sound, which is quite rare in animation. The miaow sounds don't come from real cats, I make them all, and they are then dropped into synch on my animation. Then the scratches and the claw sounds are all added afterwards as well.

'I had no idea it would become this huge phenomenon that it has I feel very honoured that it has.'

See the full list of public choice filmsSee the original Simon's Cat film