London 2012: Olympic Games inspire films by NUCA animation students

The animators have put "animal" athletes into sporting competitions

Taekwondo squirrels fighting in a woodland dojo, high-diving amphibians, a ping-pong playing panda and a harvest mouse competing in the canoe slalom.

A group of Norwich students has used the twin inspirations of the animal kingdom and the Olympic Games to create a series of animated short films.

The Norwich University College of the Arts (NUCA) students' films have been produced with the help of Bafta award-winning animator Tim Searle and feature the voice-over talents of legendary 1970s It's A Knockout host and BBC Radio 5 Live commentator Stuart Hall.

Assessed as part of the second-year students' three year degree course in animation, it is hoped the films will be seen by hundreds of thousands of people on the BBC-managed big screen sites around the UK.

Animation course leader Jodie Wick said: "This type of project is invaluable and it's been a fantastic opportunity for the students.

"They have learned so much from it, particularly in terms of professional practice and having this type of experience so early in their careers has greatly motivated them."

Work on the project by the 28 second-year students got under way at Christmas.

'Not easy'

Choosing an Olympic sport from a random drawer, each production team created their film's story development, character design, production style, technical production and soundtrack.

Start Quote

He's [Stuart Hall] larger than life and has a very colourful use of language and tone - brilliant”

End Quote Tim Searle Baby Cow Animation

Ms Wick said: "This has been the students' first extended project for the year group, starting work on ideas back in December and delivering the final animation in April. The students had to maintain a high level of momentum and teamwork."

The animation industry in the UK is reported to have a revenue of about £300m, with the 2012 budget including a tax credit scheme for TV production and animation firms in a bid to keep creative talent in Britain.

Searle, director of Baby Cow Animation, has won Baftas for his work on Horrible Histories and the title sequence for Have I Got News For You. He mentored the NUCA students during the animal games project.

He said: "Animation is something that takes an awfully long time and anything where a project feels real has got to be a good thing.

"It's not easy putting a film together - working in teams, technical details, reporting to deadlines and clients - it's all really challenging as they found out, but the whole process is a valuable lesson in what's to come in the future.

"I think all the films have got some good bits in them and a couple are exceptionally good - but they all have scenes in the students can pull out for their showreels and at this stage in their animation career it's as much about the journey as it is the final result."

'Huge fan'

Some students created drawings by hand to be animated by computer, others took a 3D approach - building CGI boxing hares inspired by the Rocky films.

Chloe Hammer's team opted for a traditional stop-motion approach, creating puppet characters for the tale of a harvest mouse's adventure on the canoe slalom.

Commentator Stuart Hall added his voice to the Olympics-inspired films

She said: "We were given the sport and then we went away and did all the character design. I think you can see just so much more texture in this type of animation, it just seemed to work best for this piece."

To finish the films, the students had access to legendary BBC sport's commentator Hall.

"I'm a huge fan of Stuart Hall," said Searle.

"He's one of our best voice-over artists and to have the opportunity to have him be the commentator on these films is a fantastic opportunity for the students.

"I can't think of anybody better, he's larger than life and has a very colourful use of language and tone - brilliant."

The films created by the degree students at NUCA mark the ninth collaboration with the BBC in Norfolk.

Previous projects have included a series of nature films inspired by the popular wildlife series Springwatch and A History of the World, a partnership between the BBC and the British Museum looking at the history of humanity through the objects we have made.

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