Delving into the world of animation


Senior Lecturer and Course Director in the College of Digital Arts Shaun Magher welcomed industry guests Adam Cootes and James Williams to BCU last week.

Animation industry guests with posters in the background including Spiderman and BlueSky

Adam and James’ work includes Spider-Man, Into the Spider-verse, Spies in Disguise, Migration, Minions, Rio, Arthur Christmas and many more. They offered insights on their work on major animated feature films to staff and students on the Digital Animation, Digital Art, Visual Effects, Feature Film Development and Illustration courses.

Adam is a Story Specialist and Director with entertainment company Annapurna. He has also worked as Head of Story with Blue Sky Studios and Dreamworks. James is Head of Layout and Cinematography at event-animated film production company Illumination, and has worked with Sony Animation, Dreamworks and Blue Sky Studios.

During the talks, Adam and James explained how story and layout departments work on major productions.

The Art of Story

In addition to setting up talks with industry experts for the benefit of staff and students, Shaun is collaborating with Visiting Tutor and author James Clarke on a new publication entitled Finding the Wonder, The Art of Story.

This book features chapters from numerous story artists and directors from across the entertainment industries, highlighting the process of visual storytelling by interpreting a project's screenplay and making the story work visually, to adhere to cinema conventions. This includes defining shot staging, performance elements, how action is portrayed by cameras and essentially finding the wonder moments - those emotive elements of magic that keep audiences gripped to their seats.

The two industry guests were also interviewed by Shaun that afternoon for their contribution for the planned publication.

Session feedback

Video Game Digital Art student Gemma Titchmarsh said: “I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. I felt incredibly grateful to walk away from this session with brand new insights and feel even more motivated to put these methodologies into practice with my own approach to narrative in games.”

Lecturer in Digital Art Courtney Page said: “The way they explained everything was immaculate. I know nothing about the story process and I feel like I went away ready to make a movie.”

Deputy Head of the College of Digital Arts George Hart said: "They were so clear with their insights into the practicalities of key components of the industry but also fundamentals of narrative story telling. So inspiring.”

Shaun said: “It just goes to show, that even a seasoned industry veteran such as I, can take part in these industry talks and learn new insights - a true masterclass.”

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