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Mitchell and Webb: Flightless Birds

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David Thair | 16:55 UK time, Friday, 26 June 2009

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Have you pressed the Red Button following That Mitchell and Webb Look? If you do, you can watch unique animated sketches from That Mitchell and Webb Sound, like Flightless Birds above. They've been created for us by a range of talented animators, including Kate Sullivan, the lady responsible for this one.

We asked her to tell us a bit about how she works, and this is what she said:

The Sea

"I've been directing animated comedy sketches for the BBC for six years now, working with existing scripts and adding visuals of my own.

To start off, usually I get a voice track and then go about creating a storyboard. This was the case with Flightless Birds.

Storyboarding and adding extra visual material was a bit tricky, as this one was (obviously) written as a radio sketch without the need for visuals or any extra time in which to view them. Reveals which ask the listener to keep adjusting their mental picture of the birds were a particular a challenge.

At times it was tempting to go off at tangents with the pictures, but I didn't as I really like the original sketch I didn't want to distract what was going on script-wise. I wanted to have a go at creating the birds' world.

Next I added a soundtrack to the storyboard.

This is something which we always do in animation, because (unless you are even more masochistic than the average animator), it's a good idea to make sure that your shot timings, edits, etc are all going to work before you spend ages and ages and ages animating stuff.

Next I did the designing: I often get asked to draw caricatures, which is something I enjoy. Actually that's a lie, I enjoy the part when I am finally satisfied that the drawing is good enough! It's a nice feeling when you manage to distil someone or something down to a few simple lines and colours.

A Dodo

When it came to doing the design work for Flightless Birds, I had Victorian natural history illustration in mind.

I thought that this would work well not only with the subject matter of the sketch, but also with the deliberately stilted delivery of Mitchell and Webb.

The photographic heads, are, I suppose, a bit Terry Gilliam, but I thought a hand coloured Victorian photograph look would work well on the birds and add to the "already dead and stuffed" Dodo feel.

I used black and white photos to construct new caricatured versions of Mitchell and Webb's faces. (I did not also frame-grab any footage from Peep Show, honest). Finally I coloured up the photos to look like Victorian vignettes.

Martin Davey painted the lovely watercolour sea and beach backgrounds, reminiscent of kind you might find used as dioramas behind a couple of stuffed Dodos in a curiosity cabinet.

Anyway, I divided all the finished artwork up into animate-able elements, (eyebrows, beaks etc) and animated these bits in a computer program. I am not allowed to tell you the name of this program, even though it is saviour of the universe according to the rock group Queen.

Then finally I import the finished animation into an effects program where things like lights, and camera moves are added.

Then off it all went to the BBC.

Magic Lantern

Of course there is a lot that I would change now. For instance, angry magic lantern fans: Yes, technically the first slide we see should not be upside-down.

I'm currently making some short films and comedy sketches in my spare time; some live action and some animation, but all portrait painting really. I'm also directing a series of live action monologues, designed to be viewed online, starring Nicola Bryant, and written by Nev Fountain (Dead Ringers) and others."

Kate Sullivan is currently at Turner, animating a promo for the Boomerang channel. See more of her work on YouTube.

Watch more Mitchell & Webb animations right now on Comedy Extra.


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