Roper gained early experience in productions, such as Fantastic Mr. Fox, Frankenweenie, and Shaun The Sheep. Much of his early work was in stop motion, and that remains a key focus. Setting up Yamination Studios has given Roper the chance to spread his creative wings and work on commercial projects for some well-known brands. He has been the recipient of several awards including one for the animated short, The History of Denim.
Roper’s eclectic tastes and sense of style go beyond animation and this has been noticed by production companies and advertising agencies. For example, his company was recently contracted to build a physical set for a CocaCola commercial. As the pictures show, it involved a lot more physical effort than constructing an animation! This hands-on approach is emblematic of Roper’s way of creating art.
These days, Yamination Studios is combining stopframe, traditional animation, CGI, and motion graphics in an entertaining short film entitled "Atissue".
It was during a trip to the MIFA Festival in Annecy, France in 2009, that the idea was born for the film. On the train ride back, one of his friends said, "Wouldn’t it be cool to do something innovative and different?" His friend continued, "In animation, you never see all the mediums mixed in together. What if you had a character that changed every time he sneezed?"
Looking back, Roper jokes, "Now I realize why it’s not been done. It’s so long and annoying, it’s a bloody headache!"
Receiving support from Sky Academy and IdeasTap was key to starting production on Atissue. The hard-working crew at Yamination Studios designed and built the sets, props, and puppets for this innovative film. The effort is starting to pay off as Roper has recently been asked to submit an application for the BAFTA Breakthrough Brits award.
Animation is one of Roper’s favourite mediums, but for the Atissue project, he wanted to do something a little different. He explained, "I still wanted the oldschool way of drawing frame-by-frame rather than drawing a shape and tweaking it with the puppet tool. I wanted that Digbeth, Birmingham, handmade feel to the entire film, which is why I linked the two styles together."
Favourite features of Toon Boom Harmony for Roper include the ability to close gaps when using the paint bucket, how lines of the same colour remain as separate entities on the same layer, and the ability to use bright colours and colour pick shades.
Besides taking on such a cutting edge and timeconsuming project with Atissue, Roper was busy moving his studio into a larger location. The new location provides a more spacious studio in the heart of Birmingham, England. Yamination Studios now has a large designated space for the workshop area and a specialized area to create props and make models.
Mixing mediums brings its own unique set of challenges and Roper had a reason for having these designated areas. "We are involved in fumey work when we mix resins and chemicals to make molds and casts. With these designated areas, it’s now safer than it ever was before, and allows us to work more efficiently."
Yamination Studios also houses a large space for video, stop motion, and photography shoots. The larger space also comes in handy when they bring in Toon Boom animators, visual effects animators, and other professionals.
The move has proven to be a huge success for Roper. Now he can concentrate on bringing in bigger projects that will help cement his reputation as an innovative company that can really mix it up!
Drew Roper is animator and owner of Yamination Studios, based in Digbeth, Birmingham. His talent, innovative style, and mixed medium techniques have really put his studio on the map. His latest short, Atissue, is the most recent example of his mashup style. This is the first of a two-part interview by Shelley Jacobson.