Wednesday 20 December 2023

December Shmecshmemshber

We've got one last Skwigly Animation Podcast of 2023 before we tap out for the year. In episode 112 we welcome back director Sam Fell alongside producer Leyla Hobart to discuss their much-anticipated Aardman sequel Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget (out now on Netflix). We also welcome back director Robin Shaw and producer Ruth Fielding of Lupus Films to hear about their seasonal adaptation Mog’s Christmas, broadcast on Channel 4 this Xmas Eve.

Also discussed: Feature and short film picks for awards season, technological misadventures at MAF and the enduring legacy of last year’s holiday ‘classic’ The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse. While you're queuing up podcasts for that long, anxious drive back to the homestead, be sure to check out episode 11 of Independent Animation featuring Mel Cionco in conversation with Jasmine Yang of viral hitmakers Glitch Productions and episode 27 of Animation One-To-Ones, where Ryan Gaur speaks with ND Stevenson to learn about the protracted, animated feature adaptation of his graphic novel Nimona. If you're in more of a readin' mood then a listenin' mood, some recent articles to check out include Ryan's interview with Aardman's Suzy Fagan Parr, Martyn Warren's review of Hilda season 3, as well as Larry Fried's review of The Peasants and interview with co-director Hugh Welchman.

Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires, the stop-mo gore-fest on which I animated some retro VFX a while back, is currently available to watch for free over the holiday period. Those of you who have Amazon's Freevee, be sure to gather the kids and grandparents around the ol' tellybox and get 'em nice and traumatised.

Many thanks to all the wonderful folks of the local animation community for coming out to the final Bristol Animation Meetup (BAM) of 2023 last week!

Extra special gratitude to King Street Brew House for having us, our pals at Animation Associates and Toon Boom Animation for the abundance of free drinks and incredible main raffle prize of an annual Toon Boom Harmony license (congrats to winner Elise as well as runner-up winners Olivia, Anna and Mayzey) - not to mention the fantastic Aardman Animations for the bonus prizes, Tova for her hard work keeping everything running organised and on time as well as Luzie for being on hand to take some fabulous photos.

Of course an extra special thanks to our incomparable industry guests Suzy Fagan Parr (Aardman), Jess Brazier (A Productions), Harry Slinger-Thompson (Scribble Room), Erinn Lucas (Sun & Moon) and Joe Wood (Rumpus) for taking their time to offer their insights and advice to eventgoers.We've got some exciting plans for 2024 so be sure to keep your eyes on Skwigly, Rumpus and Sun & Moon for updates and future event info!

Friday 24 November 2023

November Shmovember

There are a couple new episodes of the Skwigly podcast series Independent Animation (the companion podcast to the book of the same name) available to check out. In episode 9 I catch up with the magnificent Signe Baumane to discuss My Love Affair With Marriage, her incredible second feature following 2014's Rocks In My Pockets, a prominent case study in the book. We last spoke nearer to the start of the film's production, and since its release it's gone on to perform spectacularly with a US theatrical release capping off its festival run.

Episode 10 features a new chat with Joseph Wallace on the inspirational coming-together of his latest short film Salvation Has No Name. The film's complex funding journey is another major case study in the second edition of the book (it also graces the new cover), so it was great to follow up on its eventual production and enormously positive reception which culminated in an online release earlier this year.

While you're over on Skwigly be sure to catch up on some of our recent industry coverage by our incredible team, including Kévin Giraud's review of Chicken For Linda, Martyn Warren's Watership Down retropective and Ryan Gaur's The Tale of The Princess Kaguya retrospective, interview with the team from Scott Pilgrim Takes Off and reviews of Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget and Robot Dreams.

It's the most wonderful time of the year - the time when my publisher lops 20% off the retail price of my book. If you've still not let the wonderment of Independent Animation: Developing, Producing and Distributing Your Animated Films into your lives then go ahead and treat yourselves - or the indie animation fan in your life, aching for that perfect gift - while it's marked down. The sale starts December 5th and goes through until January 5th - and did I mention there was FREE international shipping to boot? Well, there's FREE international shipping to boot. There, I mentioned it. 

Skwigly, Rumpus and Sun & Moon have another edition of BAM comin' at ya in a couple weeks, again at Bristol's King Street Brew House. As with our last event, attendees can book in for some facetime with an assortment of local industry professionals who are keen to share their insight, advice and expertise on all things animation. We also have some festive surprises in store, so keep an eye on the event page for updates, info on who will be attending and how to book a slot, and be sure to earmark December 14th in your calendars.

UPDATE: More event info and full list of industry guests is available here.

Friday 20 October 2023

October Shmoctober

The fabulous Manchester Animation Festival is less than a month away, so if you've not yet checked out the schedule then get your arse in gear. Of course, you won't want to miss such standout events as the Skwigly Screening featuring a cavalcade of incredible recent short films that won't be seen elsewhere at the fest, nor the nail-biting adrenaline rush that is the Skwigly Quiz, and for your convenience they'll both be happening on Wednesday November 15th one after the other (7pm and 8:30pm respectively in the HOME event space). Head over to their website and have yourselves an anticipatory peruse of the ol' schedge. Hope to see you there!

My publisher Routledge is having itself a sale, so if you'd been um-ing and aah-ing about treating yourself to a copy of my big sexy book Independent Animation: Developing, Producing and Distributing Your Animated Films - Second Edition, loaded though it is with insight from the indie animation crowd's best and brightest - then why not go ahead and do it now while there's a whopping 20% lopped off the price? And if you buy two or more books from them, they crank the discount up to 25% - dayum, yo. Free shipping on top of all that? Hells yeah.
Here are a few recommendations of other Routledge titles you might want to pair my book up with, benevolent soul that I be:
But of course if you really want to give yourself a treat then just go ahead and buy two or more copies of my book. Or pair it up with the First Edition and see how many differences you can spot; there's literally no better way to spend an evening!
Whatever you decide, the sale lasts until the end of the month so act fast. 

In episode 111 of the Skwigly Animation Podcast we welcome back Charles Huettner and Sean Buckelew as well as Benjy Brooke of Green Street Pictures, whose new adult animated series Scavengers Reign kicks off today on Max.
Also discussed in this episode: MAF highlights, Chicken Run and Rick & Morty recasts, mutual Mutant Mayhem enthusiasm, the evolution of Bristol Animation Meetup, upcoming projects from the NFB and the worrying dearth of animation at this year’s Encounters Film Festival.

While you're over in Skwiglyville, I'd urge you to check out some of the wonderful pieces from our fantastic team of contributors, including Mel Cionco's piece on the fear of trans stories in animation, Larry Fried's editorial on audiences' relationship with - and expectations of - Pixar, and Ryan Gaur's interview with the team behind The Spider Within.

Speaking of Max, another show headed to the Network-Formerly-Known-as-HBO is the fifty-fourth (crikey) season of wholesome Muppet extravaganza Sesame Street, which kicks off November 9th over in the States. I spent a big chunk of this past year as comp supervisor on some of the animated segments directed by the always wonderful Jo Hepworth and it's a massive privilege to have been involved in such a long-standing cultural institution. Can't show or tell that much else about it but you can catch a few glimpses of the segments in the trailer below:

Friday 22 September 2023

September Shmeptember

Following the overwhelmingly positive response to our Summer edition of BAM, Skwigly Online Animation Magazine, Rumpus Animation and Sun & Moon Animation will be returning to the King Street Brew House for our next Bristol Animation Meetup on September 28th.

This time around things will be a little different, as eventgoers can schedule in one-to-one chats with local animation professionals spanning a variety of industry roles, who will be on hand to offer any advice, feedback, guidance or just have a friendly natter.

10 minute slots are available between 7pm and 8:30pm on a first-come, first-served basis and can be requested via email:

Otherwise it’s business as usual, so come on over to catch up with friends new and old, clink glasses, mend rifts and spin yarns. BAM welcomes all members of the Bristol animation community, professionals, students, hobbyists and enthusiasts alike.

See you on the 28th!


Creative Director, Sun & Moon Studios

Louis Jones is the Co-founder/Creative Director of Sun & Moon Animation, an award-winning and creative-led, full-service animation studio, that has been producing animation with character since 2008. Louis has worked in animation for over 20 years, starting out as 2D generalist for the likes of Aardman and A Productions. Louis oversees all of the younger audience content at the studio and helps guide the studio strategically and showcase the company at industry events and markets.

During his career, he has directed hours of animated content for BBC Bitesize, Saturday Night TV spots for BBC One, Global TV adverts for Clarks Shoes and bumpers for Fisher Price on Channel 5’s Milkshake. In 2018 he directed the 2D animation for 52 x 5” episodes of CBeebies’ Kit & Pup. Louis also directed the 2D animation across four lost episodes of Dr Who: The Macra Terror and helped to gain the studio a 2020 Best Animation RTS Award.

Louis wrote and co-directed a series of tips and advice animations for BBC Tiny Happy People. In 2022 he directed a series of 15 animations to help teach Phonics to EYFS school children for BBC Bitesize, writing several episodes, including two songs.

Louis has been a professional voice actor since 2005 and has supplied the voice of many characters across TV, short films, games and educational content, most notably as the lead character of Timmy the Lamb from CBeebies/Aardman’s Timmy Time. Louis was on the panel of judges for 'Best Voice Performance' at the 2022 British Animation Awards.

Key discussion areas:

  • Portfolio/reel feedback
  • Voice reels

Director, Aardman Animations

Jane Davies is a freelance animator and director who has been working in the animation industry for over 27 years.

Jane has worked on long-form and short-form projects for Aardman Animations, A Productions, Sun & Moon Studios, Rumpus Animation, BBC, BBC Worldwide, Reflective Films, TedED, World of Arthur Cox, Disney, The Brothers McLeod, Wonky Films and Daily Madness to name a few.

Her work has included The Tweenies, Robbie the Reindeer Hooves of Fire, Frankenstein's Cat, A Liar's Autobiography, Dr Who - Shada, and a music video for Anna Meridith.

More recently she has worked at Aardman as the Co-Director and Voice Director for Lloyd of the Flies, Aardman's new CG and 2D hybrid series that is playing on ITVX and around the world.

Jane has just completed a short series for Aardman as the Director that is due to premiere on YouTube in October.

Key discussion areas:

  • 2D animator, editor, storyboard artist, animation director, director, and voice director as well as budgeting and scheduling long-form and short-form projects.
  • Jane has also hired crew for many projects so can also help with any questions about the best ways to market yourself to companies.

Editor in Chief, Skwigly Online Animation Magazine/Animation Freelancer 

Ben Mitchell (hey, that's me! Who'da thunk it) is a multi-disciplinary animation freelancer, independent filmmaker and industry writer. Alongside 15+ years of freelance experience in character animation, motion graphics and post-production (for CBeebies, Channel 4, WildBrain Spark, A Productions, Rumpus Animation, Shy Guys Studios, Slurpy Studios, Plymptoons, Animortal and Wonky Films among others), as an independent director he has made six multi-award-winning short animated films that have been screened at 200+ festivals and touring programmes across the world.

As an animation industry writer and researcher, Ben is the Editor in Chief of the UK’s largest animation industry resource Skwigly and author of the book Independent Animation: Developing, Producing and Distributing Your Animated Films (Taylor & Francis/CRC Press), whose Second Edition was published this year. Ben has also worked with and alongside many international industry events (including the British Animation Awards, Encounters, ITFS Stuttgart, Animafest Zagreb, Manchester Animation Festival, Cardiff Animation Festival and Fredrikstad Animation Festival) in a variety of capacities spanning preselection, jury participation, panel hosting and programming.

Key discussion areas:

  • Skwigly is always on the look out for established and aspiring writers; Ben is happy to discuss the workings of the magazine and opportunities available to those interested in getting involved.
  • Being self-employed in the animation industry
  • Independent film production and distribution
  • Navigating the contemporary animation festival landscape

Director, A Productions

Joanna Hepworth has worked in the animation industry for 16 years, initially as a freelance 2D animator for studios including Aardman Animations, Sun & Moon Studios, World of Arthur Cox, Wildseed, Calling the Shots and Wonky Films. 

For the past several years she has worked as a Director at A Productions in Bristol, with recent projects including the half-hour television specials Furry Friends Forever: Elmo Gets A Puppy and the 2023 Best Animation RTS Award-winning Sesame Street's the Nutcracker Starring Elmo & Tango as well as two series for Sesame Street with Sesame Workshop for HBO Max. 

Working as a director, Jo is involved in all aspects of the pipeline, from scripts to music and everything in-between. Her daily roles see her working closely with all departments to guide the team and keep everyone on track creatively. 

Key discussion areas: 

  • Jo is happy to discuss any aspects of working in the industry regarding animating or directing, for those who are just starting out or interested in specific insight into various roles within animation. 
  • Jo is also available to discuss/look at showreels and portfolios.

Producer, Rumpus Animation 

Stef Bowskill began her animation career in Bristol at Aardman Animations in 2005. Working across stop-motion broadcast, commercial and feature productions, she has worked in feature development, model making and art departments. From Runner to Production Assistant and Coordinator, her credits include Creature Comforts USA, Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death and Pirates! in an Adventure with Scientists

In 2012 she joined the Art Department and VFX team producing the long running pre-school series Chuggington. Production was an international operation with teams in Shanghai, New York and Bristol.

After project managing a creative arts incubation programme at Falmouth University, Stef joined Rumpus Animation as Creative Producer in 2019. She manages client communications, proposals, budgets and schedules across a range of sectors. Her most recent work includes animation for Greenpeace International, Disney’s Illusion Island and Cbeebies YolanDa’s Band Jam

Key discussion areas: 

  • Routes into production. 
  • What you can bring to different roles. 
  • CV review and interview preparation.

Thursday 31 August 2023

August Shmaugust

Bought a house, went on vacation. That was basically this month. Enjoy this very blurry photo of a groundhog.

Wednesday 12 July 2023

July Shmuly

The biennial British Animation Awards has opened the first categories of its 2024 call for entries. I'm proud to be working alongside the team again for its next edition, which will take place in March of next year. The BAAs are now accepting entries in the categories Best Undergraduate Student Film, Best Postgraduate Student Film and Best Short Film, so if you've got a film burning a hole in your pocket then be sure to get submittin'.

In the latest episode of the Skwigly Animation Podcast we welcome Peter Sohn and Denise Ream, director and producer respectively of the latest Disney/Pixar feature film Elemental.

Also discussed: Annecy highlights, MAF developments, the return of Futurama and the strange new phenomenon of animators being spotted in the wild. Check it out below or download it forevs.

Wednesday 21 June 2023

June Shmune

A solid half-decade after it originally made its festival debut, I've finally put my fifth animated short Sunscapades online. It's a film I was initially quite proud of insofar as it came out exactly as I pictured it in my head, which is a rare thing indeed, but I grew a little conflicted about it for a few reasons I won't bore you with here. It had a nice chunky festival run either way, with stops including the BFI London Film Festival, LIAF, Encounters, LSFF, Just For Laughs, Sydney Film Festival, MIAF, Cardiff Animation Nights (twice! What a lovely bunch), Anima Brussels and a whole lot more. It was also an opportunity to work with the wonderful Weird Eye Collective talents Laura-Beth Cowley (producer and voice of Lily and Milly), Fiona Viani-Pericchi (voice of Billy) and Hannah Stevens (background paintings) and boasts some fantastic painterly contributions from Carwyn David, plus some spooky music courtesy of Phil Brookes. So give it a watch and let some sunshine into your lives:

Tomorrow night (June 22nd) I'm putting on another Bristol Animation Meetup (BAM) with my pals from Rumpus Animation and Sun & Moon Studios. This time we're congregating at the King Street Brew House from 7pm and I'll be shamelessly using the opportunity to have a quasi-launch of the new book.

You can have yourselves a merry little thumb-through and if you conclude it's a book you need in your life (as any rational person would) then I'm offering a special BAM-exclusive, mates-rates discount. As with every edition of BAM, all animation professionals, students, enthusiasts, fans and hobbyists from Bristol and the surrounding area – really anyone who fancies making the trek - are welcome.

Back to the book, check out the video above for a cheeky peek at what it looks like in hardback. Then spit coffee at your screen when you see how much the bloody thing costs. Ah well, some things just aren't in my control.

Things are busy as ever in the land o' Skwigly, so be sure to swing by and get caught up. On top of some great coverage from the team on indie hit Lackadaisy, Estonian masterpiece Old Man Cartoon Movie: Lactopalypse!, Star Wars Visions: Season 2, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, and Genndy Tartakovsky's new project Fixed, in the lead-up to the summer I've put out a trifecta of National Film Board of Canada coverage, looking at new work from Thao Lam and Kjell Boersma (Boat People) and the welcome return of previous Skwigly interviewees Janet Perlman (The Girl with the Red Beret) and Janice Nadeau (Harvey). Some other fun stuff coming up, so keep 'em peeled and be sure to follow us on our Twitter, Insta, Facebook and YouTube so you have a better chance not letting that pesky algorithm hide our goodness from you.
Okay, that's enough. Now be off with you.

Monday 8 May 2023

May Shmay

will screen at the recently-revived Melbourne International Animation Festival as part of their 'dependably depraved' Late Night Bizarre programme, taking place May 13th 9:30pm at the Treasury Theatre. Really glad to learn that this event is still a going concern after the knock it took last year, especially considering that they've been gracious enough to feature my work in the past. So if Melbourne's within travelling distance this weekend be sure to grab your tickets here.

It took a fair while but I finally got my complimentary copies of Independent Animation: Developing, Producing and Distributing Your Animated Films (Second Edition). I'm kind of drowning in them, so if anyone fancies one then go ahead and hit me up and we'll see if we can sort out some kind of mates-rates deal. Have a watch of the video above (or click here if your browser's being a bellend) to get a little peek inside as well as some more info on what's new in this edition.

If you'd rather get your mitts on a copy direct from the publisher, you can knock 20% off the retail price for a limited time by entering the promo code 23W4JPZVR at checkout (with free shipping to boot). Don't say I never do nothin' for ya.


Saturday 1 April 2023

April Shmapril

It's with some sadness that I have to announce my book Independent Animation: Developing, Producing and Distributing Your Animated Films will, as of this month, no longer be in print. Ah well, we had a good run and it was nice to be a *sniff* sort of real author for a while.

APRIL FOOL'S. Ah, we have fun. I'm delightful.

It won't be in print because a brand-new, updated second edition will be coming out on April 11th. 

In essence this is the same book at its heart but it was a welcome opportunity to condense elements of it and keep it more up-to-date, as well as adding in a bunch of brand-new case studies and expanding on certain areas that have become more invaluable to indie artists in recent years, such as navigating the festival landscape and getting films out in the world and seen by the right people. As with the first edition, it is loaded with exclusive insight into the working processes of some of the industry’s most noteworthy indie animation talents, including Signe Baumane, Adam Elliot, Don Hertzfeldt, Kirsten Lepore, Robert Morgan, David OReilly, PES, Bill Plympton, Rosto, Chris Shepherd and dozens more; not to mention curational perspectives from the folks behind Ottawa International Animation Festival, Animafest Zagreb, Manchester Animation Festival, Cardiff Animation Festival, London International Animation Festival, . It also boasts a new cover model courtesy of the incredible stop-motion talent Joseph Wallace, whose pictured film Salvation Has No Name is smashing it at the moment (be sure to catch it at Annecy if you've not seen it yet). It's a little sad to bid farewell to the original Ernie Biscuit cover, but rest assured the areas of the book that cover Adam Elliot's work have remained untouched.

You can preorder now - and if you buy it directly from the publisher you get free shipping to boot. PLUS if you buy it at any point throughout April you get a freakin' massive 20% discount. We spoil ya, so we do.

It'd be nice to get a new film of my own off the ground at some point in the near (or at least not horribly distant) future. In the meantime I'm still riding the magnificent Laura-Beth's coattails all across the magical land of Wales with Crafty Witch's CAF on Tour inclusion. Next stop will be the Taliesin Arts Centre in Swansea, Monday 24th April at 7:30pm.

Circling back to the subject of shilling my wares, the extraordinarily short run of the My Head is Too Small for My Body physical CD editions is nearly depleted; there are just four copies left so if you don't want to miss out (just imagine the unbearable, wide-reaching shame) be sure to hit me up on Instagram or Facebook and we'll sort you out.

That's enough now. That's enough.

Friday 24 March 2023

March Shmarch

In episode 109 of the Skwigly Animation Podcast I speak with thrice-Oscar-nominated directing duo Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby, whose body of work includes the incredible NFB short films When the Day Breaks and Wild Life, speaking about their career and their latest project The Flying Sailor, loosely based on real events.

We also welcome back Turning Red director Domee Shi speaking with Skwigly contributor Ryan Gaur about the film’s positive reception and road to the Oscars. Download here or stream below:

Speaking of recent site contributors, you might also want to check out Penny Whitehouse's conversation with Alex Davy of Blue Zoo as well as Mel Cionco's interview with Rich Magallanes of Nickelodeon

That's all I got. Get on outta here, you.