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Lively tales

"I want to do it till I drop", says Tony Collingwood



Photo: K. Ramesh Babu

TONY COLLINGWOOD took to animation almost naturally. "It's what I remember doing since the age of 14," says this member of the International jury of the 13th Children's Film Festival. Trained as an animator, he set up Tony Collingwood Productions (now Collingwood O'Hare Entertainment) with producer Christopher O'Hare in 1988 in the U.K. Since then he has written and directed animation films mostly for television, with one feature film - The King's Beard. His other projects include Eddy and the Bear and Yoko Jakomoto Toto (which is screened at the festival here. Collingwood has been associated with other projects such as Thumbelina, Rover Dangerfield and Bebe's Kids.

"I have always made films for children - primarily television series. The films are script-based and marinated with a message. I don't make films with guns and violence where the strongest person wins - it has to be less about aggression and more about the psychology of the story - more emotional," says Collingwood.

Right now Collingwood is working on a new television series called Gordon Gnome - "it's about a little creature that lives at the bottom of the garden. It's about ecology, it's about showing children how they can grow things - how to respect nature and having fun outside in the garden."

Having begun animation early on, Collingwood admits he has never known any other challenge. "To me it's just a natural way of making films." What are the difficulties? "I think animation is the most contrived form of film-making. Everything about animation is created and decided upon from scratch - from the colour of every minor item to the design and style. You begin with nothing and the building blocks are all at the film-maker's command, and in that respect it is difficult because you are dealing with so many areas at the same time and have to bring them all together to make a film. There is more spontaneity in live action where there are actors, the location, the scenery - you discover these places and film them - in animation you are creating them all from nothing. It is a satisfying medium." Is animation an infinite medium as far as the possibilities are concerned? "Yes, I think so. It is a strange thing to say radio is the closest thing to animation in that respect - anything can happen in a radio play. You can take the audience anywhere. The same is true of animation - in a very unforced way you can explore many different styles, stories and can take people to places without spending lot of money."

Normally animation is equated with children. "Animation is very much perceived as a children's medium. That will always be the case. One can tell stories in every genre in animation. It is up to film-makers to be proactive and come up with stories to attract the adults. It has happened already in television since The Simpson's (family-to-adult animation series) happened in the West. Now there are many television series' in animation in the evening for adults. "

Folklore and mythology serve as a resource base for stories. About this, Collingwood says, "the film community should be able to express their culture. Films in the 1930s and 1940s from Ealing Studios, England, were about the culture and people. I think animation is accused of being too clichéd - fables and fairy tales. Well, one can tell emotional stories - stories with life lessons. Themes in fantasy stories can be about families, about coming of age, about rebellion, learning lessons about selfishness - all these can be told in any medium style or genre. Writing and script editing is important in animation."

The finance for most of Collingwood's productions comes from European television and distribution companies. "For my last TV series Yoko Jakomoto Toto which I have just finished - funding came from Children's ITV, Hit entertainment and we put some money ourselves." "Animation is evolving and changing and will continue to do so," says Collingwood who is now writing a theatrical feature film based on his Yoko Jakomoto Toto. So steeped is he in animation that he says, "I want to do it till I drop."

RADHIKA RAJAMANI

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