Using Animation as a Storytelling Medium

"Animation can cut across all subjects. My education work makes me a better professional animator." — David Bunting, Producer, Story Artist and Educator

Using Animation as a Storytelling Medium

David Bunting is one of those rare people who, by their generosity, creativity and kindness, has created and driven some very special animation projects. Along the way, he's touched a number of lives.

Based in the United Kingdom, David is an award-winning animator, producer, story artist, and educator. As a young boy, he felt hypnotized by animation and was completely drawn into the lives of a story's characters. He quickly understood the magic of animation and its power as a storytelling medium. Starting his career as a junior animator at King Rollo Films, home of Spot the Dog and Mr. Ben, an internship followed at Walt Disney Feature Animation France with film credits that include The Tigger Movie and Thunderbirds as a visual effects animator. Storyboard credits include Aardman Animations BAFTA-winning Shaun the Sheep. As an educator, David finds amazing uses of animation for students who see the world in a different way and develops their creativity as individuals and as a group. "Animation can cut across all subjects. My education work makes me a better professional animator," stated David. In the past two years, David has been involved in three fantastic school projects that could very well call for a walk down the red carpet.

The first one is Driving Inspiration - Light Up the World. This short animated film depicts the journey of the Paralympic torch from the birthplace of the Paralympic movement at Stoke Mandeville Hospital to London 2012 and its handover to Brazil in 2016. Driving Inspiration won Best Animation at the star studded International Family Film Festival in Hollywood, award ceremony early May 2013, shining the spotlight on youth activities. David said, "For our young people to win Hollywood recognition is the film equivalent of winning Gold. I am immensely proud of them. Making this film really was a feat of inspiration, determination, courage and equality, the Paralympic values we were striving to communicate". Working from March to the end June 2012, this huge collaborative project was created by 497 disabled and non-disabled young people from 24 schools in Bosnia, Brazil, France, Germany, Israel, Nepal, San Marino, Singapore, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom, and United States. An official Cultural Olympiad project, the film premiered at the Flame Lighting Ceremony at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, as part of the official opening celebration of the London 2012 Paralympic games.

Boy Dinosaur hanging

The overseas schools produced drawings, storyboards, and music ideas through online workshops with internationally renowned animators. Young people in the UK developed this work into the final animation, working with another five animators and meeting their overseas partner school over the Internet to agree on ideas. "It was a remarkable journey for everyone, using the Internet to work together from the most cosmopolitan to the most rural areas of the globe," explained David, acting as director on this production.

Driving Inspiration partners Paralympians with disabled artists, and every tutor working on the film had some form of disability. For David, it's dyslexia. While the film was made using multiple techniques, all of the linking shots showing the Paralympic flame travel from country to country were animated in Toon Boom Studio by a very talented young person, Kaya Oldaker. Kaya also animated the Turkish Dance sequence, inspired by live action footage from Sign Dance Theatre, a company of deaf and hearing-impaired dancers who have developed sign language into a form of dance. She was 18 when she worked on the film. She has autism spectrum disorder, but is high functioning. It's certainly not held her back. She just finished her A levels when she worked on the film and is now studying Foundation Diploma in Art & Animation at Leeds College of Art. "Kaya one of the most talented young people I've had the pleasure to meet. She wants to train in animation and hopes to one day become an animation director," shared David.

Another key member of the UK tutor team was Andy Sykes, a freelance illustrator and filmmaker. He worked with special needs primary students at Horsham Special School, using Flip Boom Draw HD, producing animation for the Turkey sequence.

Boy Dinosuar in Storyboard Pro

In addition, David used Toon Boom Animate Pro with students at Stoke Mandeville School who combined live action footage with animated characters for the Brazil sequence. "Probably the most technically complex scene in the film, we had to match animation to a moving handheld camera to bring ideas to the screen, such as a parade of statues playing sport!" concluded David.

The second project is another unique creative venture, which combines an animated sequence for a very British institution, the Pantomime, with live-action actors. The Customs House invited the University of Sunderland students to help intensify the madcap mayhem and drama for its interpretation of Dick Whittington, using their creative talents and clever green screen technology usually seen on the big screen.

The sequence features a prerecorded underwater scene projected onto a screen curtain on stage, with two of the South Shields theatre's long-standing pantomime's characters, Dame Dotty and her son Tommy. The characters, played by Customs House director Ray Spencer and local comedian Bob Stott, escape from a ship's trunk and are chased in comic fashion by monsters of the deep. All the character animation was created using Toon Boom Animate.

Dick Whittington

David and Ros Allen, a university animation lecturer, co-directed the animation and created a storyboard for the sequence. Once the storyboard was complete, Ray and Bob as Tommy and Dotty filmed their scenes at the green screen facilities at the Media Centre, Sir Tom Cowie campus at St Peter's using a professional camera operator and the assistance of animation students, who worked on various animated characters and prop designs. The footage was then compiled by media students and passed on to Ros who sketched rough placements of the animated characters over Ray and Bob`s performance in Toon Boom Animate. Award-winning multimedia graduate Chris Lavelle then removed the entire green screen, added backgrounds, lighting, and animated thousands of bubbles. A soundtrack incorporating a musical score from Pantos musical director Dave Bintley added the final touches along with sound effects for the animated characters by sound designer Dave Dunn-Birch.

"This was a hugely challenging project due to the tight deadline, but an extremely rewarding experience for the students who delivered creative work that was of a highly professional standard. Students used Animate to create absolutely all the character animation and it's not overstating it to say, utilising Animate vastly raised the potential of what we were able to achieve both in terms of quality and the constraints of a busy schedule. Bringing live theatre and animation together on stage is really exciting. It provided a huge opportunity for the students and the university; it enables us to create a new form of spectacle for the audience," commented David.

Last but not least, the third project is a special educational initiative between Germany and the United Kingdom. Titus Salt School in Bradford and Amandus-Abendroth- Gymnasium in Cuxhaven began working together in November 2010. This is the first European Comenius funded exchange project using filmmaking as a tool for learning and it sets out to tell a story that embraces both cultures. In March 2013, 22 students and three staff from the German school are paying a return visit to Bradford for 10 days, where they will be joined by professional animators and musicians to complete the film they started when the Titus Salt School students visited Cuxhaven.

Inspiration for the storyline came from regional folk tales, and in particular a north German tale called The Musicians of Bremen. The script was written by the students, who have updated the story to incorporate elements of the history, culture, music and language from both places while adding their own creative style to the animation. The final project is titled The Young Musicians of CuxAire.

Acting as lead animator, David said "This is a fantastic way to teach the students about the language, culture and history of a different country. The students are bonding and forming lasting friendships through the process of film making."

The core focus of the project for both schools is to improve student language learning in both German and English, and to enhance student knowledge of other cultures.

Cuxaire Premiere

In early March, The Young Musicians of CuxAire premiered, and was a big hit. Seeing the film play on the big screen with feature film really was an incredible experience for everyone. After the film finished, students sat glued to their seats for quite a while. They were awed by the experience of it all!

"The power of Toon Boom Studio came into its own in this film, allowing us to use a number of techniques. Early on, a few students asked if it would be possible create an animation in the same technique as the 80's classic pop video Take On Me by A-ha, which uses rotoscoping techniques to striking effect. They felt it could help them show the difference between the internal and external world of the characters. So we used Toon Boom Studio to create rotoscoped footage that combined live action and animation elements in each drawing, requiring us to also create painted mattes. It was a labour intensive process, but one that yielded an incredible effect. The film also incorporated full traditional character animation with hand-painted backgrounds, lip sync, and abstract animation of music, all animated in Toon Boom Studio using Wacom graphics tablets, so students got a wide overview of different animation techniques," explained David.

To top it off, David is co-creator of Boy and the Dinosaur, a preschool series from 1461 Ltd about an ordinary Boy and his extraordinary friend, Dinosaur. He completed the storyboards for the pilot episode using Toon Boom Storyboard Pro and hopes it will get the green light very soon. This high-quality television project brings together an incredible roster of UK talent, potentially adding another shining star to David's lineup of wonderful projects.

UPDATE:

The Young Musicians of Cux-Aire picked up the MEDIA Award for Special Prize for European Collaboration in the Creation of Educational Media. MEDIA Awards are Europe's most important competition in media and education. Supported by the European Commission through the Lifelong Learning Programme (LLP) for the MEDEA:EU project (2008–2011) and the MEDEA2020 project (2010–2012), this prize highlights the value of cross-border collaboration and aims to recognise the impact such collaboration can have in increasing understanding and enhancing the European dimension.The European Collaboration Prize specifically recognizes excellent examples of media in education resulting from the collaboration of institutions or organisations in two or more European countries. Congratulations to David Bunting and to all the students in both schools for this wonderful accomplishment!

About David Bunting

David Bunting's unique skills and generous nature have produced some fascinating school projects combining the skills of disabled and non-disabled young people from 24 schools around the globe. David recognizes that animation can be the driving medium for creative people who see the world in a different way.