About matthewstep

Freelance character animator. Singer for the Puncture Repair Kit.

Mac & Izzy

For a few months earlier this year I worked on a series called Mac & Izzy at Blue Zoo Animation. It was excellent fun to work on. The action centres around the secret lives of two imaginary friends who live in a place called Cloudville. We adopted a very squashy, stretchy animation style which made it really refreshing to animate for. Here are some of the shots I animated for the show:

You can watch all 7 episodes in full on Youtube

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Tree Fu Go!

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For the last 10 months I’ve been busily beavering away as part of an amazing team of splendid folk at Blue Zoo Animation working on series 5 & 6 of kid’s TV series Tree Fu Tom. Series 5 is currently being aired on the CBeebies channel and the first episode I worked on was shown today and can be seen on the BBC iPlayer in the UK. Here are a couple of gifs of shots I animated from episode 4 “It’s a Kind of Magic”:

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Life Drawing 2013 & 2014

This is how I spent most of my previous 100 Thursday evenings

They Both Explode now on Vimeo

A year and many festival screenings after its premier at Animated Exeter, my short film They Both Explode is now available for all to see on Vimeo. To see it in lovely HD, click here

The film was made mostly out of card and found objects and shot using a primitive multiplane system made from a desk, some picture-frames and an old pillow case. I used Dragon software and a second hand Lumix FZ50 camera. It was all done ‘in camera’ so there is no compositing or anything; what you see is what the camera saw, lying on the floor, looking up through panes of glass with lights shining down on it.

Double Release Day! Zoo Tycoon and Tearaway

Feeling a little sleepy today after celebrating the release of two very different games that I had a hand in.

For a wee while now I’ve been busily working on Zoo Tycoon for the Xbox One at Frontier Developments. Yesterday, on Xbox One launch day, it was released! Animating animals running around, getting washed, eating, playing and hugging has been both educational and joyful. A few bits and pieces have made their way onto my latest showreel. Trawling the internet for videos of animals then watching them over and over again isn’t something most people get to do as a legitimate part of their working day. As you might imagine those searches did also inevitably bring some discomforting and downright horrifying results as well. Not all real life zoo tycoons are quite as respectful of their animals as you are compelled to be in the virtual zoos of the game.

On a happier note, the reviews so far have been very complimentary about the way the animals look and move *applauds chums*. The finished game certainly surpassed my expectations considering the gargantuan nature of the task. Everyone involved can be very proud of their achievements. Here’s a video of some of my colleagues talking about the game and gurning at a chimp:

Last year I spent a little time at inspirational game developer Media Molecule (more about that experience here) and the game I worked on, Tearaway, was also released yesterday. The reviews have been pouring in and they are pretty much universally gushing. Media Molecule have created a game which uses the Playstation Vita to create a unique and carefully directed gameplay experience that would be impossible on any other platform. The whole tactile concept of the game arose from the device it was developed for and the new storytelling and game mechanics it creates. That said, if you gave Media Molecule a deck of cards they’d probably come up with a uniquely entertaining way of using them. Here are some of them talking about Tearaway:

Annecy 2013 mind dump

It was my first time at Annecy and it was tres bon, magnifique, incroyable, really really good fun and fully knackering. Annecy is astonishingly beautiful and the festival is vast. I’m still amazed that my little film (They Both Explode) was in the official selection. Administative error or not, I fully intend to repeat this slight of hand sometime in the future!

Annecy is a place to consider and reconsider where you fit in the grand scheme of the animation world. It is a place to think big thoughts about impossible things. It is a place, most importantly, to ride pedalos and then dance with new friends ’till the wee small hours. I met innumerable fun and inspiring people and only fell on my arse in front of them once (walking in bowling shoes, slipped in someone’s spilt drink. Full slapstick prat fall. Beer retained. Pro.)

It’s only possible to catch a fraction of the films shown at Annecy but I’ll list a few of my highlights here:

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Tito On Ice by Max Andersson & Helena Ahonen

For me Tito on Ice was the surprise highlight of the feature films. A part live action and part animated documentary that defies all explanation. It has a cracking soundtrack with a load of 80s post-punk from the former-Yugoslavia.

But Milk is Important by Eirik Grønmo Bjørnsen & Anna Mantzaris

A friendly but troubling creature enters the life of a man who already finds society extremely worrying. A very pleasing film.

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Rabbit and Deer by Péter Vácz

I love it when the animation techniques used in a short film are integral to the plot. This film does that really nicely.

 

Persistence of Vision by Kevin Schreck

Tragic documentary about Richard Williams’ doomed attempts to create an animated masterpiece. Richard Williams refuses to talk about the film to this day and the old interviews with him make the whole endeavor look like a lesson in dramatic irony.

Not Over by Toru Hayai

This one is very short and already online. I saw Toru Hayai interviewed over breakfast on Saturday morning. At first he just wanted to make some nice landscapes but then later decided that maybe a character would help. I think I can safely confirm that it did.

He summarised his own reading of the story something like this: So often in life we just want to get on with the thing we like to do but somehow the world conspires to make everything into a competition. Ain’t that just the truth.

Other goodies:

Taxandria by Raoul Servais – a lost classic mostly live action 90’s Belgian fantasy film. It was screened in a castle courtyard as the stars came out. Magical.

Wildebeest by Ant Blades – funny internet hit, still makes me laugh

A Flood Story by Maarten Isa – my heart sank when this started with some text saying it was ‘a landscape’, a 17 minute installation designed to be played on a loop in a gallery. My trepidation was misplaced though, somehow it proved constantly engaging on a big cinema screen.

The Event by Julia Pott – The brilliant Julia Pott’s most enigmatic work to date mixing video and animation to visualise a poem by Tom Chivers.

In The Air is Christopher Gray by Felix Massie – A twisted sentimental reflection on the blinding power of young love. Darkly funny.

Room On The Broom by Max Lang & Jan Lachauer – Another hit Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler picture-book adaptation from the makers of the TV versions of The Gruffallo and The Gruffallo’s Child. The performance of the cat steals the show.

Ziegenort by Tomasz Popakul – a strange, discomforting and long short (or perhaps short long) film that drew me into its wobbly-lined 2D/3D mysterious world. Mostly black and white and morally grey.

The Big Beast by Pierre-Luc Granjon – A good fable.

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Right, I’m now off to track down some of the films I missed and look-up all the people I met by sifting through my memory and the stack of business cards I amassed. See you next year?