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This is me: How Andy Biddle makes advertising come to life

The stop motion animator thinks he's lucky to 'play with toys for a living'.

This is me: How Andy Biddle makes advertising come to life

As a child I always wanted to be an animator, but during the 1980s and 1990s we didn’t have the internet to learn about it. I loved cartoons and animation. I was a big Wallace & Gromit fan and I used to watch animated, short films on Channel 4 late at night.

It was those films, when I would see all the credits, that made me realise there are people who work on these. I remember seeing James and the Giant Peach, and while it wasn’t a huge critical success, it was still amazingly animated and made me want to be involved in that world.

I went to art college and specialised in animation even though there weren’t the facilities to do that then. It wasn’t until I went to university that I started doing it properly. I studied animation broadly, including 2D and computer animation, but I was always going to go into stop frame animation. With stop frame, it feels like more of a magic trick. I found it fascinating that you could take an inanimate object and give it character. I’ve always loved building a world. Essentially we’re playing with toys, but creating stories from that. I’m really lucky that I play with toys for a living.

Straight after university, I worked on a film called Soul Searcher. It was a live-action, low-budget feature, and director Neil Oseman wanted some stop motion effects for creatures and monsters. I wasn’t being paid, and I still didn’t really know what I was doing, but that was my first job.

After that I went to Aardman and I got work on Wallace & Gromit: the Curse of the Were-Rabbit. I started out as a runner, and then went up into the art department. I had been thinking I wanted to make sets instead of being an animator, but after that job, I decided to give animation another go. I started to enjoy it again because I had more professional puppets.

After that, I lived in Cardiff for about two-and-a-half years, working on a kids TV show. I was made unemployed suddenly, and my line producer went to work on Fantastic Mr Fox. I called him up and asked for a job. It was being shot in London, where nobody knew me. He gave me a chance and I took a bit of a demotion for that role. Then I built myself back up to being a senior animator. It was through that film that I formed a relationship with director Wes Anderson, and later went on to do the ski sequence on his film The Grand Budapest Hotel and a stint on Isle of Dogs.

Anderson is a very interesting person to work for because you have to communicate most of the time through email, so that can be quite tricky. He’s so particular about how he wants things to be. After I worked on Fox, it was a lot easier to understand what he wanted and what questions to ask. I know some people say he can be difficult but generally it’s been quite a good experience working for him. He’s a nice guy.

There are more stop motion films than ever before. A long time ago, they were few and far between. Maybe it’s a nostalgia thing, but now there might be several films going on at one time, which is quite amazing. It’s allowed the stop motion world to be involved in a lot more projects than they were before. I have found even in the advertising world people want that sort of look to things.

One of the ads that I’ll always hold very highly is the [2017] BBC Christmas ad "The supporting act". It was a real opportunity to show off as an animator. That was interesting as well because it was heavily choreographed, so we had some great reference footage.

The stop motion industry is quite small and very much one big family. You can have about three, large-scale stop motion features happening at any one time in the world, because then you’ve pretty much booked out all the talent. We all know each other’s business, and secrets don’t last long, because everybody chats. You definitely all help each other out though. I’ve made a lot of friends through this career.

Andy Biddle is a stop frame animator with more than a decade of experience. He has worked alongside Wes Anderson on three of his films: Fantastic Mr Fox, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Isle of Dogs. He has also been involved with Paranorman, Paddington Bear and Wallace & Gromit: the Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

However, he predominantly animates ads, working on John Lewis’ "The bear and the hare" in 2013, Cravendale’s "Barry the biscuit boy" in 2014, Sainsbury’s 2016 Christmas ad "The greatest gift" and the BBC’s 2017 Christmas film "The supporting act".

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