The Rolf Harris Cartoon Club – Page 3

Cut-out animation features quite a lot in Rolf’s Cartoon Club.

“As a further encouragement in this series and to involve our audience at home we have organised an Original Character Design Competition. In the last programme the workshoppers animations were edited into one short film by Wendy Keay Bright.”

“The cartoons we show are primarily for children,” added Martin Lamb, “therefore it is only fair that they should be allowed to choose the best animated film of the year. Six members of Rolfs Cartoon Club will be the official judges for two top prizes at this year s British Animation Awards. The two awards, both sponsored by The Observer, will be for the best single animated film for children, and the best animated series for children, produced in Britain between September 1988 and August 1990.

“At the special request of the British Animation Awards Advisory Committee (all top professionals within the animation industry) Roll’s Cartoon Club has been asked to provide from its membership six young judges. These lucky six will have an all expenses paid weekend in Bristol to view and judge the nominated films. They will also receive invitations to the Awards ceremony itself in Cardiff on November 29th, where we hope Roll will be presenting the awards. This is thought to be the first time ever, at a prestigious awards event that films made for children have been nominated and judged by children!

“We also hope to extend the outside visits to different studios. I have been to America to set up filming sessions for the Our Christmas 1990 special at Warner Bros; and interviewed a number of celebrities including Chuck Jones. It is going to be a knock out!”

The camerawork on the set had come to an end. It was time for a tea break and to be introduced to Roll Harris. I may not be quoting him verbatim but this was the gist of our conversation. When I asked him the obvious question, he replied:

I have always drawn. One of the first drawings I can remember doing was of my Dad. I began with his legs, then his body, gradually working my way up the sheet of paper until I came to do his head and found I had run out of room. I was only three-and-a-half years old at the time but I remember I bent his head down to fit it on the page and then, to give reason for this strange attitude I drew an arm coming out from his back with a wrist watch on it to show he was running late.

I can remember drawing somebody having a wee – anatomically explicit! I thought it was very funny because he had done so much he was standing in it up to his ankles. I got a spanking for that, for being so naughty. My parents had come out to Australia from Victorian Wales and their attitude was that nakedness was something shocking and they imposed that belief on me.

As an innocent child you have no such attitudes but it is at moments like this embarrassment is born in you, and the sadness to me is that every child turning up at school for the first time has that same naivety. Almost without exception they know they can draw anything they like, their drawings may be quite unrecognisable to us or at best they look quite different, but not to them. Give them a pencil or a piece of chalk and a sheet of paper – and they scribble away full of confidence. But by the time they have passed through the school system the vast majority of them will never draw again in their lives. I think it is tragic!

You only have to walk into any art gallery and you can see all around you a thousand different styles, and yet when you first attend school if you cannot reproduce photographically what you see you are regarded as a dunce. Ask any adult who says “I can’t draw” – “Can you remember when you decided that?” and virtually everyone will pin-point the moment their teacher told them, “You’re no good!” – that’s when they stopped trying.

In this television studio the kids are encouraged to get up off their backsides and do something for themselves, to do some drawing. OK! the kid may not be able to draw photographically but hey! look – look at the animation this child has made with the aid of a drawing which appeared to us to be so drab. It may not be much like the character the kid is trying to represent, at least to our eyes, but just look at the movement!

We give them helpful pointers along the way and I show them I can make mistakes just like anyone else. There is no crime in making a mistake. Most professional animators make several attempts at a line before choosing the right one, they chop and change before the accurate line emerges.

We are doing the best we know how to encourage the youngsters to express themselves in order to reveal their own creativity. This approach applies to everything you do. We are saying; “Do it! You’ve only got one life, as far as we know, so if you haven’t done it by the end of it -you’ve missed your chance.”

Just look at the pleasure I have derived from my years of drawing. I am always drawing. I illustrate my letters, even the envelopes. Take the request Please do not bend, I draw a guy bent double peering at the words through a magnifying glass. It is a little bit of fun for the postman – I hope -and for the receiver, too. It takes the boredom out of letter-writing. Why, you could even go so far as to make each one a little work of art.

Cartooning has been a constant joy for me and I am simply trying to pass on some of that joy to the up and coming generation. I think it is important to show that being handicapped should not exclude any child from making animation. Maybe that youngster takes twice as long to do it but in the end it plays back at the same speed of twenty-five frames per second, and when they see it move on the screen a wonderful light spreads over the child’s face. It is truly delightful to behold.

When we made the first series of programmes I could not see anything else we might do to expand the idea, but my goodness! just look at the imaginative ideas thought up by our researcher Martin Lamb, producer/director Doug Wilcox and executive producer Peter Murphy. For example, inviting professional animators into the studio to work with and advise the children. We invited Oscar Grillo to talk about his approach to animation. He was so good in that first appearance no way could we fit it all in, so we tried to fit more into later programmes. Then we had John Coates who made The Snowman and When the Wind Blows who came with Dianne Jackson.

In Programme Eleven we showed John Lasseter’s very first line test The Lady and the Lamp made when he was a student at Cal-Arts. A remarkable thesis which ably demonstrated his ability as an animator, and we also showed his later work using the computer which is already exquisite.

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