This week, the Year 5 and Year 10 students have been working with the extremely talented Jim Parkyn, a Senior Model Maker at Aardman Animations. Jim has worked with Aardman for nearly 20 years and has played a part in most of the studio's productions including Wallace & Gromit, Chicken Run, Shaun the Sheep and Creature Comforts.
Taking three strips of studio clay, Jim showed the students how to stretch, roll, twist and mould them into wonderful versions of the loveable Claymation characters, Gromit the Dog or Morph.
Year 5 children will use this experience to create their own clay work for their Sci-fi adventure later this term. Wallace and Gromit's Grand Day Out, which was aired to students and parents after school, will also support Year 5's creative writing, which links to their Space Topic.
The Film Studies Department used Jim's visit to launch Year 10's animation unit, where their coursework assignment is to create a walk cycle.
In a short interview with Jim, we asked him about his experience and why he enjoys sharing his skills and with schools:
How did you become interested in the world of clay modelling and animation?
When I was about 10 years old, I loved watching Morph, and started to create my own characters from playdough and plasticine. At college I attended an out of hours animation class which opened the opportunity to study product design at degree level.
Which is your favourite character?
I do like Gromit, but to be honest, I love bringing the background characters to life. Making funny animals is what I excel at!
Do you have lots of models of the same character?
We do. Sometimes we can have up to 16 models. For Shaun the Sheep, we had models that stood on all four legs, some on two legs, stunt sheep. We also have several versions of different body parts, for example, different mouth shapes for talking. The time to make one character can vary too, from 1 hour to 1.5 years!
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Right now, I really like touring schools and introducing the different characters to the students. We have a phrase at Aardman – "Funny and thummy". Students find real inspiration in seeing the fingerprints in the clay models of those who have created these iconic characters. It's wonderful to share my passion for model making. We've had some students that I've spoken to in schools come to Aardman on work experience, who have then gone on to become animators.
What do you think the future of clay making is?
At Aardman, we have several projects on the horizon. I believe people are harking back to craft. It may be more crude than other art forms, but it's accessible to everyone. I think there will always be a place for stock motion.
What do you hope Tanglin students will take away from your visit?
You don't need to be an expert at model making. I was good at art at school but had to practice sculpting over many years. Working with clay helps to develop fine motor skills and resilience. You can start over and over again without any consequences. These topics within the Tanglin curriculum provide a window of opportunity for students to try this different art medium and if they enjoy it, to have a go at making their own animations.
I also hope to give insight into the industry. There are many different roles involved in creating a film. For example one film can have over 300 people working on it, including cinematographers, producers, writing teams, carpenters, voice talents, sound engineers, editors, costume makers and more!
The students have thoroughly enjoyed this unique opportunity to work with Jim and to learn about such a fascinating industry.
"It's cool to meet someone who has experienced the industry. I didn't know much about animation, but it's been fascinating to hear about the role of animators." Year 10 student
"Being an animator must be hard work, requiring attention to detail and focus. The number of people it takes to make one film is incredible!" Year 10 student
"I've loved moulding Gromit's feet and making all the individual body parts." Year 5 student
"It's difficult to do, but I've enjoyed making something out of clay." Year 5 student.
A huge thank you to the TTS Foundation for supporting this memorable experience.