Jonathan Hodgson, 2nd June 2015

Jonathan Hodgson wideJonathan is a multi-award-winning figure for his films, TV ads and, more recently, animations for documentaries. In 2008, as Course Director he created the BA Animation programme at Middlesex University.

On the night, Jonathan split his talk in two, talking about his own work in the first half and presenting work by his BA students in the second. He spoke as much about the circumstances surrounding his films and his experience of making them as the films themselves. This gave a very honest insight into his outlook with its successes and frustrations. The second half was an exclusive, as it preceded the Middlesex BA Animation Graduation Private View by three days. The films were screened in HD from a projector rather than from DVD as previously.

Jonathan Hodgson mid

Jonathan began with examples of his TV ads:

1. Saab: “Find Your Own Road”, 1995?, gouache on paper

2. Bell Atlantic: “Wild Things”, 1997-1999, with Maurice Sendak, pencil on paper with colouring on separate layers

3. Persil: “For Love, Life and Laundry”, 2000-2003.

Although he only screened five Persil ads on the night, he actually made twenty-five over three years. Jonathan described how the advertising work dried up for him, partly because tastes changed and the demand was for 3D animation, but mainly because as a commercial animator, you have a shelf-life: a warning for us all.

4. Excerpt from The Age Of Stupid, 2009, Spanner Films, for which he was co-Animation Director with Martyn Pick (no relation).

Jonathan showed a sequence on the historical exploitation of Africa by Europeans, using book illustrations and cut-outs, animated in AfterEffects. After this experience, Jonathan decided he only wanted to work on ethical projects and never to fly again. He added that you never know where your next job will come from. This job had come about because his son was at nursery with the twin daughters of the editor.

5. Excerpts from The Trouble With Love And Sex, BBC, 2011, for which Jonathan was Animation Director. This was the BBC’s first entirely animated documentary and based on genuine interviews with participants describing their own love- and sex-lives, which were all very moving. This was a project Jonathan had to fight to get but it was really what he wanted to make. He had to be creative under commercial pressure and the film was animated in Flash and composited in AfterEffects. 

6. The End Of The Death Penalty, 2012, for Amnesty International. It is the story of Mohammad Mostafaei, an Iranian defence lawyer who was traumatised by seeing a boy hanged in public and ever since has worked to save teenagers sentenced to death from execution.

7. Banana Land – animation excerpt, 2012. The hideous story of the Colombian Banana Massacre. Although Jonathans recent films are animated in Flash, which he hates, preferring instead to work on designs in PhotoShop and hand the actual animating duties to others. Jonathan decided never to eat bananas again.

8. Guantanamo Bay: The Hunger Strikes, 2013, commissioned by The Observer. It was constructed from interviews with inmates, written entirely from memory by human rights lawyers. It is a series of first-hand accounts from prisoners of their agonising force-feeding and constant terrorising by prison guards. Truly terrifying. Absolutely hideous. This film almost moved me to tears.

9. What Comes After Religion?, 2014 Again, you never know where your next job will come from. People sometimes see Jonathan online and contact him with a job: in this case Alain de Bottom, who started following him and contacted him with the message “I really like your work. Will you make a film for me?” Jonathan made it in evenings over two months.

10. Rough House, work in progress Jonathan wanted to get back to drawing, and as a result this film reminds me of Night Club (1983), which he made while a student at the Royal College of Art. A story about bullying, the film is based on a personal experience but, unusually, told not from the point of view of the victim, but one of the bullies. The story is based on his experience of living in a student house and the pranks he and the others played on a housemate.

Then in second half Jonathan showed a selection of films by his BA students at Middlesex University: current first-, second- and third-year graduating students. Apologies in advance if I spell some of the students’ names wrong.

Jonathan Hodgson laptop

For the first years’ one-minute films, Jonathan gives them an hour to think of a childhood memory and then record their narration spontaneously.

First years’ one-minute films:

1. Little Shoplifters by Sofja Umarik

2. Runaway Kid by Giulia Riva

Second years’ two-minute films

3. More Than A Game by Adara Todd

4. Mr Frosty by Kate Balchin

5. Introducing Allen by Ida Melum. A stop-motion animation in which Ida auditions a puppet actor for her film, with a voiceover by David Holt.

6. Her And Hubbub by Kyle Xuereb Cunningham

Graduation films:

7. Kaffeen by Zulfaisal Zulkipli

8. Hunger by Shadeque Abdul Khaleque

9. Mediterranean by Antonia Diakomopolou

10. The Storyteller by Eleanora Quario

The films were all introduced by the students themselves. These are all remarkably strong, authored works, each with an identity and sensibility of its own. All the students were young, beautiful and remarkably talented, to the extent that I almost wanted to give up animating myself.

He is justly proud of all his students and of the course he created.

A massive thanks goes to Jonathan and all his students.

London Animation Club returns on Tuesday 7th July with our guest Tim Hope.



London Animation Club on 5th May 2015: the Halas & Batchelor 75th Anniversary

Vivien and Aaron Wood.

I was delighted to welcome Vivien Halas​ and Jez Stewart of the BFI as our special guests at London Animation Club on Tuesday 5th of May. This event celebrated the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Halas & Batchelor studio, the exact date of which is today.

The last few years have been particularly busy for Vivien: 2012 was the centenary of the birth of her father John Halas and 2014 the centenary of her mother Joy Batchelor. Last year Vivien produced a book about Joy and a digitally restored version of the 1954 film Animal Farm was released on BluRay and had a limited theatrical release. Later this year a compilation of H&B animated shorts will be released and her parent’s illustrated version of Orwell’s novel republished. So I was delighted when she chose London Animation Club for a screening event to coincide with the 75th anniversary.

Vivien and Jez and a dummy for the new DVD of Halas & Batchelor shorts.
Vivien and Jez and a dummy for the new DVD of Halas & Batchelor shorts.

Vivien introduced a selection of lesser-known Halas & Batchelor shorts, two of which have scarcely been shown since they were released. She showed:

1. For Better, For Worse (1959). This is comedy about the effect that the new-fangled television has on home-life and could just as easily have been about tablets and iPhones. It is very ambivalent about television and was designed in a very modernist style. Interestingly, it features Maurice Denham as the narrator, Matyas Seiber as composer and Harold Whitaker as animator: so in a funny sort of way it is a reunion of the team behind Animal Farm. It was particularly nice that Matyas Seiber’s daughter Julia was in the audience.

2. The Owl & The Pussy Cat (1952). One of the more famous H&B shorts, this was originally made in 3D and its Matyas Seiber score is very much foregrounded in the action.


3. To Your Health (1956). This medical information film about alchohol and alcoholism is really not what you would expect. It is brilliantly informative, visually sophisticated and not at all partonising. It has a very grown-up design and drawing style, with an atmospheric use of shading. It reminded me of George Dunning’s 1973 film The Maggot. It was very apt that we screened it in a pub!

Jez Stewart describing the new blog

After the break, Jez Stewart told us that according to Companies House, the studio’s launch date was 18th May 1940 and although it is uncertain which their first film was, it may well be Train Trouble, an ad for Corn Flakes in which a squirrel needs a proper breakfast to operate his railway.

Jez is launching a new blog today to coincide with the H&B 75th anniversary and wants to invite people to contribute:

Jez finished by screening a beautiful advertising film, Fable Of The Fabrics (1940), in which a tiny cupid and a gypsy girl extol the virtues of Lux flakes and in a bucolic idyll. However, by the time the film was completed, Britain was at war and washing powder rationed, so a new ending was added in which the cupid announces that the product will not be available until after war has ended. So it was an advertisement for something you cannot buy.


We then screened a new version of Vivien’s and my documentary Remembering John Halas (2012/15), which launches online today. It features a new score by Tanera Dawkins​, a sound mix by Tom Lowe​ and is narrated by Zoe Wanamaker.

Vivien then finished the evening with an encore, The Shoemaker And The Hatter, an animated morality film which extols the virtues of export and free trade: 

Many thanks to Vivien and Jez for a fantastic evening. Captain Zip’s video record of the event will be available online soon.

Details of Edwin Roston’s forthcoming talk at London Animation Club

Our special guest will be experimental animator Edwin Rostron, a London-based artist and animator (, who also runs Edge of Frame, a blog about experimental animation (

‘Our Selves Unknown’ (2014) by Edwin Rostron

At our event, Edwin will be presenting a selection of his own work, alongside some work by fellow experimental filmmakers from around the world, including Alexander Stewart, Caleb Wood and Al Jarnow. Edwin has sent me these details and links about them:

Alexander Stewart
Alexander Stewart’s short films have screened internationally, including at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, the Tribeca Film Festival, and ImageForum in Japan. He is co-director of the Eyeworks Festival of Experimental Animation, and teaches animation at DePaul University in Chicago.
A film by him here:

Edge of Frame interview with him and Lilli Carre about their experimental film festival Eyeworks here:
An interview with him here:
Edge of Frame will be featuring an interview with Alexander about his film work in the future

Caleb Wood
Caleb Wood is one of the most talented and hardworking young experimental animators around today. Since graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2011, Caleb’s work has been shown widely around the world in numerous festivals. He was chosen for the prestigiousJAPIC Animation Artist in Residence Tokyo programme 2012-2013, he is part of the international animation collective Late Night Work Club and was the 2014 Festival Guest at Eyeworks Festival of Experimental Animation.
Edge of Frame interview with Caleb here:
A film by him here  

Al Jarnow
Al Jarnow is an animator, artist, sculptor, and filmmaker, whose video and animation works encompass sequences for Sesame St, including the legendary Cosmic Clock, and more personal explorations of light, shape and form. His work has influenced a generation of artists and animators, and his work has been shown at museums, festivals, universities, schools, and televisions around the world.
Documentary on Al’s work here:

Al’s website is here:

Jez Stewart talks about George Dunning, 5th November 2013

I have had some interest in the George Dunning event that Jez Stewart of the BFI gave at London Animation Club on 5th November 2013, so I have put the write-up for it up here:


Dear Fellow Drinkers and Animation Lovers,

On Tuesday 5th November, Bonfire Night, our guest speaker Jez Stewart of the British Film Institute delivered an excellent talk about the work of Canadian animator George Dunning (1920-1979). You can see a video of the talk filmed by Dennis Sisterson here:

<p><a href=”″>Jez Stewart presents the films of George Dunning</a> from <a href=””>Martin Pickles</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>



Dunning is best known for having directed the feature film Yellow Submarine but has otherwise been rather passed-over in animation history. Jez set the record straight by presenting a beautiful selection of Dunning’s short films, which ranged from thoughtful comedies, to industrial films, to experimental films.


The films that Jez showed were:

1. The Apple (1962)

A thoughtful line-drawn comedy written by Stan Hayward.


2. The Flying Man (1962)

A beautifully painted Surrealist film. The scenario for this film was written by our old friend Stan Hayward and you can see him talking about the film and George Dunning here:


3. Hands, Knees And Bumps A Daisy (1969)

An industrial film for the National Coal Board, yet one which employs some of the beautiful painted techniques of The Flying Man.

This film is not easily available online but you can see images from it here:

Try also

4. Thud And Blunder (1969)

Another film for the National Coal Board, this time much more in keeping with the line style of The Apple

5. The Maggot (1973)

An unsettling anti-drugs film which avoids cliche.

6. Damon The Mower (1972)

A personal project of Dunning’s, drawn entirely on index cards.  We liked this film so much we showed it twice!

This film is unavailable online, but you can read Jez’s piece on it here:

You can find the full text of Andrew Marvell’s poem, on which it is based, here:


Afterwards Jez sent me some links for further information:

You can read some of Jez’s articles on animation here:

Vicky Dale has also posted that you can see a couple of clips of Dunning’s films for the coal board in this BBC programme:

And you can also see the animation tests for Dunning’s unfinished film of Shakespeare’s The Tempest here:


In the second half we showed work which audience members had brought along on the night.

Win The Game by Anna Savva

A marvellous stop-motion plasticine animation of an evil game show and Anna’s Arts University Bournemouth graduation film. You can see part of it here: I hope Aardman is listening.

Stark by David Davis

A 3D Surrealist film based upon a dream David once had. It was a real treat and to our shock David told us he had never screened the film. I hope this showing and the reaction he had will encourage him to commission a new score and start sending it to festivals. You can see David’s showreel here:

We had a very healthy audience of 25+ people and a thoroughly good time was enjoyed by all.

Thank you very much to Jez and also to Dennis who filmed the talk.

We return a week early on Tuesday 26th November with our special guest Peter Firmin.

See you then.

Love from Martin

Phil Mulloy, 3rd February 2015

Photo of Phil by Dana Dill Tasker.

I have wanted Phil to come and show work ever since he visited us at the Dog & Duck in June 2010 during a massive rainstorm and so I was delighted when he agreed to come again. I expected a fascinating evening of scatological mayhem and social comment: what we got was something even more profound.

He started by telling us how he started as a live-action filmmaker and came to animation late, when he saw the success that Aardman was enjoying in the early 90s.

Although he kicked off the screening with Intolerance (1999), Phil focussed mainly on his Christies films (2006-present) and told us that for all the Christies shorts and feature films he uses a set of 120 drawings which he made eight years ago – although he admitted he often makes this figure up. If you watch the video I shot of him introducing The Christies: Dead But Not Buried at LIAF 2011, you will hear him say it was 108 drawings:

Of his working method and outlook, he said he wanted to work continually and not be beholden to anyone. He can make the Christies films at home for nothing – apart from his time – and this frees him from the need always to be raising finance in order to make a project. Their minimal animation gives the Christies a visual and emotional remoteness, requiring the viewer has to work harder; the very opposite, he explained, of the Pixar films in which all of the work is done for you. Their mask-like profiles and synthesised voices make for a greater suspension of disbelief and even empathy for the characters. On the one hand, we can all too easily believe that Mr Christie is a suburban Nazi; and on the other, sincerely pity him for having been kept as a sex slave in a cupboard in Tunbridge Wells.

The Christies films Phil showed were:


The House Painter

Mister Yakamoto

Mr. Christie’s Sex Manual

The Sex Slave Of Tunbridge Wells (a London Animation Club exclusive)

You can see all of these films at I cannot give individual links as the embedded videos are invisible on Vimeo and not on YouTube.


Phil then showed a selection of his recent Sleepwalker films, which are intended for gallery exhibition as triptychs. They are experimental films which comprise live-action video of a variety of locations, with a 3D animated man planted in the foreground of the frame. This human figure came free with the animation software Poser, yet Phil consciously messes up the figure to avoid the seamless perfection to which that 3D motion graphics artists generally aspire. This search for glitches, like the crudeness of the Christies drawings, illustrates Phil’s comment that “when things don’t work, they can make something which is intrinsic to the medium.”

The Sleepwalker films are deeply unsettling visions in black and white. Despite being undeniably cinematic, they contain no plot or resolution as such and the relevance of the figure is decidedly unclear. Phil says the presence of the figure serves to create a dramatic tension in the films and indeed, without the figure, the films would merely be back-projections of different locations; and with the figure they are visions of a nightmare space. As he says, “films in which I don’t know what is going on are more interesting than those in which I do. Resolving the narrative is a let down.”

The Sleepwalker films he showed were:

Bird Of Paradise

Kansas Hotel


Once again, you can see them at

He then closed the evening with one old film and one very new one.

The old film was Sex Life Of A Chair (1997): scarcely-animated chairs perform a variety of sexual acts while the title of each is read out by an unseen German narrator, whose voice gets lower and lower with each successive word, to the point that it becomes inaudible. Once again, a conventional interpretation is impossible and somehow the film resonates far beyond its simple comic premise.

The new film was Preparing To Fly (which is not available online), in which an instantly recognisable Phil Mulloy character appears four-fold on the white screen, swooping and swirling like four dancers in an evil Busby Berkeley routine. Gradually the figures recede into the distance until they appear to be little more than flies on the horizon: an appropriate scene with which to finish the evening.

Many thanks to Phil for a fascinating and very thought-provoking talk. I hope to put a video of it online soon.

Thanks also to Captain Zip for filming the event, to Dana Dill Tasker for taking photos (you can see them here) and to newcomer Jon Fitzsimmons who told us of his plan to develop his children’s book “The Prince, The Fairy And The Fouly” into an animated film.

We return in a month with Edwin Rostron. See you then.


Lizzy Hobbs at London Animation Club, 6th January 2015

Lizzy with one of her artist's books
Lizzy with one of her artist’s books

Our first guest of 2015 was Lizzy Hobbs, whose work I first saw at Animafest Zagreb 2006 with The True Story Of Sawney Beane (2005), a beautiful folk story of a 16th century Scottish cannibal. I was lucky enough to see it on a 35mm print and the effect was devastating. The texture of each image is as arresting as the story it tells, with all the rubbings out and redrawings building up a trail that follows each character like a ghost as they walk across the screen. It was an ambitious film and produced in Montreal with the National Film Board of Canada.

A still from The True Story Of Sawney Beane.
A still from The True Story Of Sawney Beane.

Two years later I saw The Old, Old, Very Old Man (2007), again at Animafest Zagreb: a far more minimal film in which blobs of blue ink dance on a single ceramic style and tell another historical story, this time of the oldest man in England. It is a much more intimate film – so much is told with so little – yet it is easily the peer of its predecessor; and it seems apt that a film made on a single ceramic tile should have been made in Lizzy’s bathroom studio.

Lizzy with Matt Lais at Ottawa International Animation Festival last September
Lizzy with Mait Laas at OIAF 2014.

Last year at the Ottawa International Animation Festival, I saw Lizzy’s latest film Imperial Provisor Frombald (2013), in which she had actually carved her own rubber stamps to stamp the animation directly onto strips of 35mm film. Her filmmaking clearly comes from a love of working directly with materials (as well as her choice of eclectic historical mysteries), so it was no surprise to discover that her background was in printmaking and making artists’ books.

Some frames from Imperial Provisor Frombald (2013) showing images stamped directly onto the film. The fingers – to show the scale – are mine.
Some of Lizzy’s hand-carved rubber stamps.
LAC regulars Stuart Pound and Rosemary Norman examine the minutiae of Lizzy’s craft.

Lizzy started by showing some of her artists’ books whose drawings seemed to anticipate her animations.

Then she showed some films:

1. Glenda

2. Overexcited

These two early films were made at Edinburgh Video Access Centre, when Lizzy had access to a rostrum camera and some Fuzzy Felt.

3. Last Regret Of The Grim Reaper (1999). This film was made while Lizzy was a student at Dundee and is the film in which her “trails’ style begins. She sent Reaper to Animate!, which led to her making her next film for this scheme.

4. The Emperor (2001). The story of Napoleon’s pickled private parts which uses a more advanced watercolour style. The Waltz scene in particular is exquisite. Lizzy told us that she had to do up to seven goes on each scene before she got it right. This is Lizzy’s favourite of her films.

The Waltz scene I liked so much.
The Waltz scene from The Emperor.

5. The True Story Of Sawney Beane (2005). Thus was funded by the National Film Board of Canada in Montreal and made in the Caroline Leaf studio. Apparently Lizzy was working on this film until the week before she gave birth. This film is unavailable online as the copyright shared between the NFB and Red Kite Productions.

6. Little Skipper (2010). This film marks a kind of return to artist’s books and was included in Volume 4 of Kerry Baldry’s touring programmes of One Minute artists’ films and videos.

7. The Old, Old, Very Old Man (2007). From here on Lizzy started making films on her own in her spare bathroom. All voices were provided by Edward Fox, whom Lizzy had for only twenty minutes in the studio: he did all the voices in two goes!

8. Imperial Provisor Frombald (2013). A commission for Random Acts on Channel 4 and Animate Projects. She made 800 hand-carved rubber stamps to stamp the images onto clear 35mm film, which she then scanned. It took six months of working every day to make it! Interestingly, although Lizzy’s recent films are all made using traditional craft skills with no digital compositing, they are all digital films apart from The True Story Of Sawney Beane.



After the break, Lizzy described how she runs animation workshops (she has done over two-hundred of them at schools) and teaches at Anglia Ruskin University to make a living. She showed some of her workshop films and some commissions for the singer KT Tunstall.

9. The Nature of Bow (2003). A collaboration with the Bow Art Group. The members made a series of drawings of birds from a walk along a canal and Lizzy made did the in-betweens.

10. Our House (2014). It is base upon interviews with young people about their experience of living in care homes and uses live-action footage printed onto paper then painted and refilmed.

11. Come On, Get In (2013). A film for the single by KT Tunstall, who asked Lizzy to work on the live-action material, which she did by making prints of all the frames, cutting them out and drawing over them on cel. It took a year to do.

And we finished with

12. The Filing Of The Fangs (2010). A rare hand-drawn film which tells how KT Tunstall was taken to the dentist as a child to have her canines filed down, after she bit another girl at school.


Years ago I sat next to Lizzy at a screening at lab. I was just about to become a parent for the first time and was very worried. Lizzy told me that having two children was even better than one, so I thought to myself, if she can produce an amazing body of work whilst having two children, then there is hope for me. I now have two children of my own and remember her advice in the dark days of no sleep – and it really helps.

Anyway, at this London Animation Club we had a very healthy audience of thirty people – very good for a weekday evening in early January.

Thank you again to Lizzy for a fascinating evening and lots of marvellous films.

London Animation Club returns on Tuesday 3rd February with a mystery guest…

See you there.

Love from Martin


toon boom

Following on from her excellent Toon Boom presentation at London Animation Club on 7th November 2014, Lindsay Watson is now offering a very healthy discount to London Animation Club members for

– Harmony (up to 50% discount)

– Storyboard Pro (up to 20% discount)

– Harmony + Storyboard Pro  (up to 45% discount)

To take part in this offer, fill in the online form here: sales_OrderForm_UK_LAC 

Complete it and send it back to no later than 31st January 2015.

If you need to save the form to your computer, use “Save As…” in your browser’s “File” menu.


This offer is limited to the first 100 purchases and is open only to members of the London Animation Club Facebook page and the London Animation Club email mailing list.

By the way, London Animation Club itself is not making any commercial gain from this offer.

You can read more about these Toon Boom animation products here: and

Many thanks to Lindsay Watson who put this offer together. You can see a write-up of her talk at London Animation Club on 7th November here: