A for Animation workshop with Helen Animate – let’s get animated!

Make it short & snappy’

A for Animation.

Through volunteering with the Ministry of Stories, I ended up on a fun and engaging workshop with Helen Piercy from ‘Helen Animate’. Working in teams, in just a few short hours we had moved from creating a character on paper, constructing it in 3D, forming a plot, writing a story board and producing a finished film. Impressive indeed!

‘Just the facts please’

  • Helen Animatehttp://helenanimate.com/ @Helenanimate
  • Animation workshop created and run by the amazingly talented Helen Piercy. With a published book  to her name, you’re in the best hands for a workshop or party whether for children or adults. She also has an interesting blog full of tips, insider knowledge and animator interviews.
  • My experience was documented here, I even feature through the twitter comment at the bottom and the back of my head!

‘I’ve got a cup of tea, tell me all about it…’

Ministry of Stories are very good to their volunteers and put on a series of treats throughout the year to thank us. This was my first, and it was a great start!

Helen Piercy from Helen Animate welcomed us into the MoS headquarters where a series of highly technical looking computers set up with cameras greeted our nervous looks. To ease us in, Helen explained her animation background and how she ended up with us to reassure us we were in expert hands.

The lady herself (taken from her website)

The lady herself (taken from her website)

To start with she has a published book! Not only was I impressed by this fact, but the book, or rather activity pack was really impressive. It would make a great gift for any young or older person interested in story telling. There’s a diverse range of backgrounds and characters available to start you off on your animated journey.

Helen's Animation Studio book and activity set

Helen’s Animation Studio book and activity set

She introduced us to her tried and tested method of starting with a character paper, thinking about what our monster – for we were in the Monster Supplies store – was to be called, where he or she was from, what they liked, disliked and so on.

Having drawn them, we then moulded them out of plasticine.

Introducing squiggle!

And a smiley Squiggle in 3D!

Ah the smell of plasticine – one that sucks you straight back into a time filled with pipe cleaners and peeling PVA skin off your finger tips!

As you can see, I selected a young timid monster called Squiggle who liked nothing more than to hide under a large fashionable fedora, gain compliments for it and avoid the rain. Not all made it into the film, but it was good to get to know him anyway!

Working with a team, we introduced our monsters to one another and devised a plot that could be told in a very short space of time.

Our team!

Our team!

Something we were made aware of pretty quickly by playing around with the camera equipment, was that to get any action and without it looking jittery, there is a lot of patience and slight of hand needed. Although speech bubbles were permitted, you had to be careful about shadows and give enough frames per second that the viewer could actually read it. Also, due to our speedy manufacture of these monsters, some weren’t too stable on their feet – or tentacles in some cases – therefore there was a nifty feature of seeing the position your figure was last in. A lot of dextrous manoeuvring followed to make sure you could seamlessly pick up from where your character left off.

Hard at work directing.

Hard at work directing.

The hours flew past and before we knew it we had to wrap up our tale of misunderstanding and friendship, and sneak a peek at the others’ handiwork. Very impressive stuff… in just a few short hours we had gone from clueless amateurs to mini Aardmans. Ok, that might be pushing it a little too far, but we were all pretty proud of our little masterpieces!

Helen neatly wrapped up the sessions and promised to send the features to us to share with friends and family which was a nice touch.

It was great fun and I can see as something that would really suit anyone wanting to spend a few focussed hours of packed creativity producing something tangible at the end. Helen started off catering for children, schools and birthday parties, and after the success with our rabble has branched out to adult groups and is being called upon internationally!

On final note, with Shaun the Sheep hitting our screens shortly, having seen only a snapshot into the process, it really gives me a lot of respect for those animators out there whose patience and attention to detail produces such entertaining work. Keep up the good work guys!

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One response to “A for Animation workshop with Helen Animate – let’s get animated!

  1. Pingback: Full on February Alphabet Challenge – Complete! | MishMashTash·

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