Monday, 30 March 2009

Ian Wharton & Edward Shires "Solar" & "Solar - Making Of"

There is something very Heath Robinson or, for a younger generation, Wallace and Gromit, about Solar, the film made by Edward Shires and Ian Wharton, two students who attended the University of Cumbria, the animation course based in Carlisle, cathedral city of my childhood and still home of my family. Inhabiting a wooden shack that might have graced the prairie, a giant of a guy loads boulders (or moons) into a contraption that hurls them into space. Surrounding the shack is a narrow gauge railway and various winding mechanisms and wind turbines. When the red light indicates a loss of power a little fat robot fellow is launched into space to perform a quick repair job and retrieve the orbiting moon. Idiosyncratic in concept but possessing the pared down scenery of a stage production, I like seeing moons powered by bicycle or a sun, an orbiting orange, moving courtesy of a propeller. There's something rather satisfying too about the props or characters in Solar, the giant all rounded muscle, bestriding the stage, utterly convincing as a hurler of moons into space. The building fits into a frontier world, the rail track goes nowhere and the theory underpinning the rotation of day and night is suitably Copernican. Underpinning this is great technical and artistic talent. The informative Solar - Making Of explains how the short was made. I recommend it for any student of animation as it reveals the stages of production from initial sketches through modelling, rigging and dynamics, right through to a shot or two of the final exhibition, even the college campus and, ah, doesn't the Eden valley look green even in college grounds mode. (I shall be back there in a week or so to doubtless sample the rain that makes the grass green.) Ian and Edward, looking impossibly young in the footage, graduated in 2007. A visit to the guys' website will allow a choice of download possibilities. And readers, how do you land a plum job in the animation industry? (Ian has just moved to top London studio, The Mill.) Answer of course is to produce work like this. It occurs to me that some may not know of Heath Robinson. Therefore as the proud possessor of some of his work, an absolute fan and, in attempt to stoke up the prices for his material, here's one from my collection.

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