In the Beginning....

It's been just over 6 months since PandaHorse embarked on the CycleCities journey. The task at hand was to create a short animation that would engage a European audience to the benefits of cycling. We have now crossed the finish line, but this only marks the very beginning for the CycleCities film itself, which will be screening online from 27th May 2013.

The CycleCities project was commissioned by The London Borough of Merton as a project partner in the European project “European cities for integrating cycling within sustainable mobility management schemes (CycleCities). Funded by the INTERREG IVC interregional cooperation programme, financed through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). And, Transport for London, under the Biking Borough Programme.

Burning the candle at both ends. PandaHorse worked solidly on the story for 2 weeks to get it just right.

Burning the candle at both ends. PandaHorse worked solidly on the story for 2 weeks to get it just right.

Needless to say that when we first discovered this opportunity we jumped at the chance to make an animated film that encourages people to cycle - be healthy, save money, be social, be less stressed, and help the environment! So we put together our proposal and presented it to Merton Council. It turned out they were equally as excited about our idea and awarded the job to PandaHorse.

Our story followed the life of an unhealthy man, hypnotised into his routine, who drives to work alone each day, wasting time and money. When he realises what’s wrong, he finds the will to change his car into a bike. As he joins other happy cyclists, he kicks off a chain reaction amongst other car users.

The lead character was designed as an ‘everyman’, who could come from any of the partner cities (Piraeus, Lisbon, Genoa, Gorenjska, Gdansk, Leipzig or London).  Middle-aged, slightly overweight with an average job, our character was soft, rounded, and likeable. We saw this character type as one of the hardest to reach, but as a result, he would be an inspiration to others. Everyone has a family member, friend or work colleague similar to this chap - so we felt he would be easy to relate to.

The animation technique we proposed was 2D hand-drawn animation and After Effects compositing. Painted textures would be used for colouring figures, objects and backgrounds.


Here is an initial character sketch of the lead character who soon became known as 'George'.

The next series of posts will endeavour to capture the various stages involved in making the CycleCities animated film and shed some light onto the work processes at PandaHorse.

Poser Re-scored

Last October I picked up a leaflet from my local cafe and discovered a new form of cinema-going. It was called Making Tracks, a combined effort between two cinematic collectives that champion filmmaking talent and original live music. I was excited to find that this collaboration, between Whirlygig Cinema and Cabinet of Living Cinema, was creating an original fusion of film and music, to be experienced in the moment, for one time only!

Having just spent the past year working with 1927 theatre on their production of The Magic Flute, I was already aware of the magic that live music and animation could conjure together. So I placed the leaflet in constant view on my home studio desk. I'd just missed the October 2012 screening and was determined not to miss the January session. Unfortunately circumstances would eventually see that I'd miss out on the January screening as well, but I kept my eyes peeled out for the next and kept my head over my lightbox, working on an animated film commission.

Making Tracks April 2013.jpg

This commission had kept me constantly busy (and still does), however there were a few moments to come up for air. In such times, I decided to make a short animation based on an idea that had popped into my head not too long ago. At the time, it gave me a much-needed creative outlet to work on something different! Once I finished the film I sent it around to a few of my friends who, luckily, loved it. I named it 'Poser' and asked my very talented friend Robert Ashbridge (who is also composing the score for the commission I'm working on) to compose a score for it. He gladly agreed and would make it once he had the time to do so. 

I went back to my commission, feeling somewhat energised by my short. Some time after I found myself scrolling my way down my twitter feed and discovered Making Tracks were calling for entries. My film 'Poser' hadn't yet found a soundtrack and I thought how incredible it would be to hear it scored live! Plus it would give me a chance to break my tight schedule, because 'I had to be there'. Not too long after I submitted my film I got the news back that 'Poser' had been accepted. Now all I had to do was wait…..until last Friday night when the time finally came to make my way with a bunch of friends across to Rich Mix. It was an extra special evening for Making Tracks as well, the second film of the evening would be the 100th short they'd scored since 2010.      

All the ground floor cinema seats were filled and the audience greeted the evening with a buzz of excitement. As each film flickered on, the Cabinet of Living Cinema plucked from a wide range of instruments and foley to bring the individual films to life. And, with every successfully scored film I watched, I became increasingly curious to hear Poser with the soundtrack they had devised. The moment came in the second half of the show, a stream of light-hearted mid-tempo music filled the room as Poser played through with a comical beat at the end to send the film home. Their interpretation was quite different to how I had imagined the music might be, but what they came up with worked well and gave the film a lighter and more comical feel. Initially I'd been concerned they may find it difficult to create an interesting track for such a short film, but they managed to bring out the character in the film and enhance the story. For most part throughout the evening I found myself forgetting that the musicians were playing live and let myself become enveloped by each of the films. I think this was actually a really great sign of how brilliant the musicians were, using their combination of foley and music, in making the interaction seamless.

The evening closed with a brief Q&A with the directors and musicians, and a round of applause went to the efforts of Katie Steed from Whirlygig cinema who has tirelessly co-ordinated Making Tracks since it's inception in 2010. Altogether I found Making Tracks to be just as it had promised - an exciting new space where groundbreaking music and filmmaking talent fuse to be lived in the moment - one at a time.

Poser will be available online once paired with it's score. For the meantime a still from the film will give you a taster on what to expect.

You can see some pictures that feature the making of Poser in an earlier blog post Workstation Panda Horse.