Saturday, September 29, 2012

St. Trinian's Delay

You might have noticed the lack of posts recently, unfortunately the production has hit a major setback. I can't go into details and don't want to name the culprits because I am hoping that at some point soon the issue can be resolved. Unfortunately there are some people who don't want me to make this film. I had no choice but to put it on hold. This is not the end of this,  please do come back for updates.

But then something wonderful happened, I met Kate and John Searle, Ronald's children the other day. We spent a lovely morning chatting over coffee. Both of them have been extremely supportive of the film, they even gave me a folder of quality copies of some of the original St. Trinian's cartoons and a selection of Ronald's nib pens. Look at how each one is labelled carefully, you can tell how well organized Ronald was. Thank you John and Kate, I will treasure these forever.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Five Times More Work For A Wobbly Line...

All the character drawings are inked single frame, straight ahead, onto a frosted cel which gives the lines a certain liveliness. The environment can't therefore be completely static, it would look very odd. So we ink each background drawing five times and expose it randomly on a complicated set of mixes. That makes the lines wobble ever so slightly and the world feels the same. Five times more work than the usual approach but it looks a million times better.

Monday, September 10, 2012

One Of My Favorites - Because It's Mine

"The Cleaner is getting slack, Horsefall."

I just love the intricate yet loose line work. Faded in places over the past 63 years...

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Old Fashioned Way

Look! A painted cel. Just like in the old days, when the suspect smell of cel paint would waft up the stairs from the Ink & Paint department. What was in those paint pots that made it stink so foul? Aah, I love it!

Monday, September 3, 2012

St. Trinian's Girl follows Dick Deadeye (that little trollope)

This is an older test I did a while ago. None of the drawings were "flipped" or checked against each other, simply drawn straight ahead over the pencil animation onto cel. It is quite amazing that it still looks so tight. More tests to come soon...

Saturday, September 1, 2012


I captured some low quality screen grabs of the original title sequences. I'd love to see these at a higher resolution or ideally find out where the original artwork is . . . ?

Blue Murder at St Trinians (1957)

 Within the film there are bridging sections showing the school girls' progress towards Italy done in cut out animation with Searle artwork. I wish I could see this artwork more clearly! First one; towards Paris . . .

Salzburg to Vienna . . .
South to Rome . . .

Thursday, August 30, 2012

St. Trinian's mid-fifties

The loose and energetic style of Ronald's drawings on the film posters from Matt's post below is my favorite St. T period. Those were done in the mid-fifties and Searle's style had loosened up drastically compared to the early drawings (see the post "The Female Approach" below).

The film poster style is the way I want to go.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Original promotional campaign

Although Searle purportedly never liked the live action St Trinians films he always did the poster art and even title sequences and animated segments. These posters for the live-action films suggest how much anarchic fun this project could be in animation.  Wouldn't you rather see the girls brought to life like this rather than live-action?!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Ronald's Nibs

In 2009 I wrote to Ronald Searle to ask him about his work methods and what tools he used. A letter and a couple of pieces of board with ink doodles by Ronald arrived in the post a week or so later. The letter is dated 26th of August 2009 and in it he had this to say:

"Enclosed you will find some sample 'Atom' nibs. These, unless I'm mistaken, are the 'old' and best version. The manufacturers cheapened them down a few years ago and they are unusable. I did get some through the Internet (the old ones) but the problem is, you have to try them to find out if you have a winner! I've used them for my drawing board work since the 60s. (they are French and are basically school 'mapping' pens). The Mont Blanc Meisterstück, of which I accumulated about ten during our annual visit to Berlin, I used more or less for on the spot work as they cover a lot of ground before needing refilling. Actually I think the whole secret of drawing is looking and then interpreting. Looking what is in front of you, or what is in your head. (I never put my pen to paper until I see a clear image in my head and forget the pen, which is only a technicality anyway.) If one simply draws without adding yourself - your own vision - to the subject, the results are inevitably clichés and empty. This is all done at a million miles a second as the subject passes through the eye and around the brain to come down to the fingers. But individuality is attached on the way! Which is the marvel. Sorry to bore you with this."

I used to think that there must be some kind of special nib or pen that made it possible for him to create such amazing work. But the Atome school mapping pen is a very simple plastic stick with a tiny nib, nothing special at all. I tried it and didn't like it all that much.

Truth is, you have to find your own preferred nib when it comes to working in ink. The same goes for the paper. Go find your own favorites, that's part of the fun.

Some of the nibs I have tried out

I love what Ronald had to say about individuality, your own vision,the marvel of drawing and that the pen is only a technicality. Most artists know this but tend to forget about it only too often, me included.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

COLOUR! - or for all you Yankees - COLOR!

We have discussed the question of black and white or colour based on a still. Now here is the moving full colour version of our animation test. Scroll down the blog to see the black and white version in comparison.

I think it works quite well, but we will keep experimenting with spot colours and ink washes. Sean Hayden is the man who put this together on After Efx. I'm certain that once the story develops, we will know what to do and when.

Here's a colour image painted by Ronald Searle for a book cover. Terrific, isn't it?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

45000... the approximate number of drawings it will take to make our film.
We are, of course, not making a stop motion film but a classically animated, hand-drawn cartoon.
The animation and all the artwork relating to creating the imagery will be done by hand, on paper, and later inked onto frosted cel. We will use digital compositing tools to put everything together.
Below is a photo of all the drawings it took for the shot of the girl hopping off the bed and walking off screen from our test animation (third shot). There are just over 100. 
Look - real drawings!
Each one is drawn with pen and ink onto a special cel that has a frosted coating on one side.  Here you can see me drawing over the top of Boris Hiestand’s animation drawings.

45000 drawings, all of which will be inked onto frosted cels. This means we will need quite a large, talented crew and the whole process will be very time consuming. But if we want it to look right, this is the only way, there are no short cuts. Can’t wait to get started…

Friday, August 17, 2012

St. Trinian's Schoolgirl Sculpture

At some point I was thinking about the possibility of making a feature film based on Ronald's anarchic schoolgirl cartoons. But the vivid drawing style and the boiling lines would probably be too much to endure when viewed blown up on a big screen.
Then I thought about stop motion and how so many stop motion designers are so heavily influenced by Searle. I asked Teddy Hall, a brilliant English artist/animator/sculptor, to make a model of a St. Trinian's girl.

Ronald loved the sculpture and would have been happy with an adaptation in stop motion. I took the idea to a couple of the big studios but they turned it down, not knowing what to make of this. I don't think they even knew who Ronald Searle was. But even if they had, a stop motion feature film is a big, expensive undertaking and as soon as large amounts of money are involved in any production, the money people want to make sure a large audience will see the "product". And this means "family friendly", which Ronald's cartoons are certainly not.
Anyway, thank you Teddy for a wonderful sculpture.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Black&White or Colour?

One of the questions I am asked the most is if I will make the St. Trinian's film in black and white or colour. When Ronald was still alive I asked him what he thought and here is his answer from a letter dated January 25th, 2011:

"So far as reproduction is concerned, the drawings were basically conceived in black and white. From time to time there was the odd colour version, so if occasionally splashes of colour are needed why not. No objection."

We created a colour version of the animation test but unfortunately Ronald passed away before I was able to show it to him.

So the answer to the question is: I will use colour when needed. Just as Ronald said.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Female Approach

Until the launch of our money raising campaign prepare for oodles of St. Trinian's information and production updates.

When Matt and I showed Ronald the animation test in September 2010, I also had with me a drawing which I found at an auction somewhere in the English countryside. It is the cover of "The Female Approach". I was able to buy the drawing for a fairly low price because it didn't have a signature but I knew immediately that it was Ronald's work.
"The Female Approach" is a collection of a variety of Ronald's early cartoons but also features a generous selection of St. Trinian's illustrations. The foreword is by Sir Max Beerbohm who was a famous British essayist and caricaturist and that must have been a great honor at the time.
Ronald's own acknowledgement reads: with a few unpublished exceptions these drawings have appeared over the last few years in the pages of 'Liliput', 'London Opinion', 'Men Only' and 'Pie". I am indebted to the editorial departments of these magazines for their tolerant co-operation. To my wife, Kaye Webb, and to the flowers of English youth (the Lower Fourth) I offer obeisance as a continual fount of inspiration. 
When I showed him the drawing, he was very surprised. He took out one of those jeweler loupes from his pocket and studied the line up close. He told us that the drawing wasn't really very good but couldn't deny that it was by him. He hadn't seen it  in over sixty years.

The drawing ink has faded to a light brown over the years but some areas are still dark black. In the time just after the war Ronald used a type of floor varnish for drawing, proper ink was too expensive to use for the entire piece. The floor varnish faded over time but the proper ink remained black.
Look how tiny and wispy the features are drawn. Ronald must have had eagle eyes when he was a young man. 

And when Matt and I left Monica and Ronald that day, he signed the drawing for me. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Dear Diary - My First Post

In 2010 Ronald Searle, the creator of the anarchic St. Trinian's school girls, granted me permission to make an animated film with his iconic characters. I had shown him a short animation test and he was so impressed that he gave me 'carte blanche' to develop a story based on his cartoons, as long as it would stay true to his original vision and, very important to Ronald and myself, his vivid graphic style.
The promise to Ronald was to create a fully animated film in the classical sense, hand-drawn, with pen and ink, and not a single wacom pen in sight.

It has been my mission since to raise the finance for a half hour featurette and whilst following the traditional route I quickly learned that Ronald's unique sense of humor, even though loved by everybody, does not comply with wholesome family viewing guidelines of today. Here is why; a fitting quote from one of the St. Trinian's books:

"Drinking, smoking, violence, drugs, amateur torture and foul play have been on the curriculum at St. Trinian's school for Young Ladies since 1946, and show no signs of abating. Since the first drawing of the conditions at Britain's most famous school appeared, Ronald Searle's anarchic scenes from this nightmarish institution have caused international concern and merriment."

Many well-meaning voices have suggested that unless I clean up the murderous school girls' act, this film might never get made. But please, you can't be serious (excuse the shouting). If you take away the essence of what makes St. Trinian's what it is, you end up with...well...not St. Trinian's.

Ronald has in the meantime sadly passed away. I think often about the times when my friend Matt Jones (without whom I would have never met Ronald) and I would visit the master and his wife Monica in the South of France. I am more determined than ever to fulfill my promise. Ronald Searle was one of the most influential graphic artists of the 20th century and this film needs to be made, in his honor and to celebrate his memory. I mean that.

Luckily, today there are alternative ways of raising finance and to that very end we will start a "KICKSTARTER" campaign in the next few months. Producer Jamie K. Bolio will be organizing it from Los Angeles but the production of the film will take place at Uli Meyer Studios in London, UK.
With the help and support of all fans of Ronald Searle, classical, hand-drawn full-animation and spine-chilling humor, we hope to get this film started.

Please, spread the word and do come back here frequently for further harrowing updates.