Animating Animal Consciousness

Throughout my career as a Short Animation Film Director, I have been motivated to explore narratives that concern human interaction with the natural world and our influence on it. Due to the limitless scope of the animated medium, this often enables me, and other animation film makers, to explore these issues from an animal’s perspective through speculation as to how an animal may feel and react towards the given situation being developed in the narrative. Whilst I try and maintain a naturalistic approach to animating creatures, there are often hints of anthropomorphism which inevitably come through.

With reference to my latest short film THE TANNERY, which tells of the afterlife experience of a Fox who has been hunted for his pelt, this workshop will explore the origins of the film to give an insight as to how the story developed and examine some of the cultural and natural influences that came to bear on the making of this short film and animating the animals. Within the presentation, I propose to show brief clips of other animated creatures to examine anthropomorphism within animation – does this create empathy with the animal kingdom or is it patronising towards their sentient existence? Why do animated animals hold such a strong appeal for audiences? Do representations of animal life in film influence perceptions of the natural world for audiences? Can animation (or fictional representation of animals) engender change in attitudes? Do animals need animators to tell their stories, or are they better off without them?

Iain Gardner graduated from the Royal College of Art Animation programme. His introduction to animation came as apprentice on Richard Williams’s unfinished masterpiece THE THIEF AND THE COBBLER. An Independent Animator for over a decade, his short films share the screen at International Film Festivals – Edinburgh, Annecy, Ottawa, Nashville, Foyle, Hiroshima, Stuttgart to name a few. His most recent work THE TANNERY (2010) won Best Animation at the Celtic Media Festival as well as the Audience Award at Animated Exeter. His first broadcast commission AKBAR’S CHEETAH (1999) won Best First Professional Work at the 1st Ullisses International Children’s Film Festival in Lisbon and was released on DVD in 2011 within BOX of DELIGHTS from the British Animation Awards. He contributed THE SQUIRE’S TALE (2000) to the BBC’s Bafta Winning/Oscar Nominated CANTERBURY TALES series, later directing THE LOCH NESS KELPIE (2003) featuring an original score from Icelandic Group Sigur Rós. His animation techniques are discussed in THE ANIMATION BIBLE by Maureen Furniss, published in 2008. Experimental works include collaborations with writer Johnny Rodger and composer Stephen Davismoon on BEASTS of the FIELD, a live musical performance with animated projections presented within VANISHING BOUNDARIES at the Arches in Glasgow 2011, and with choreographer Juraj Korec on HABITAT, part of the Dresden Tanzplan in 2010. Throughout this time, Iain has contributed his experience to animation courses in Newport, Edinburgh, Vancouver, Toronto, Dundee and Beijing. He was Chair of the Scottish Animation Group October 2007 – December 2008, and programmes Short form Animation for the Edinburgh Film Festival.

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