Famous Flying Films

I recently had the fortune of attending a talk at CSM by David Johnson, one of the founders of a stop-motion animation studio based out of Manchester. David went through his work from starting out in the 80s in Australia, to his work on the ‘Cabbage Patch Kids’ and ‘Koala Brothers’ series, to showing us a pilot for another show he is hoping to gather the funding for.

It soon became evident that David was far more humble than the quality of his work spoke for. Getting very quickly into the nitty-gritties of what went into the creation of his work. Talking about artistic decisions such as beads being used to look like bubbles in a pipe or the choices in camera angles and lighting.  He shared backdoor knowledge about the industry, how he handled the studio and pitched ideas in the industry. Probably my favorite takeaway was him talking about how he had realized that viewers paid most attention to the little quirks and gestures of a character and that most tv series studios strapped for time or budget tend to cut these moments out first, but it is something he places most emphasis on.

The next day he returned to the studio with some of the puppets he uses in his work. He talked about their construction, the ideal way he has discovered to make the amateur, the materials used, how he tries to build in a unique movement into many of his characters. He also showed us production stills and clips to better understand the process of post-production. He answered my far too many questions about his work. And finally he looked at the work of some of the students and provided articulate and valuable feedback.

His frank and honest nature hid the through knowledge he has amassed about the animation process and animation industry over the last few decades. It was a pleasure to meet someone whose love for creating animation shows through their work.

55 years of Mainzelmännchen

Since the lauch of the Second German Television (Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen – ZDF) in 1963, the Mainzelmännchen have appeared daily on German TV screens. Up until today, they have starred in more than 55,000 (!) episodes, each between 3–6 seconds long.

The Mainzelmännchen, which take their name from the channel’s headquarters in Mainz and the Heinzelmännchen tale about little house gnomes that do all the work of others during the night, appear at the beginning of TV ads as a law requires .

Over time they developed into six distinct characters: the lazy Anton, the industrious Berti (green shirt), the musical Conni (blue cap), the clever Det (glasses), the mischievous Edi and the athletic Fritzchen. Given that they have been on air since the early 1960s, the characters also saw a series of makeovers. While their initially melon-shaped heads that reminded me of a teenage version of Stewie Griffin from Family Guy have become rounder and rounder, they have kept their distinct hats. They seem to occupy a similar place in German society as the Cabbage Patch Kids did in the United States. Given that they have lasted for so long they have come to reflect the aspirations of each successive generation in Germany. I’m curious to see if and how the characters will develop further in the future and if they will continue to be drawn by hand as they still are today.