Aardman Academy - Student Diary

In the first in our Aardman Academy guest blog series, Certificate in Character Animation student Evelyn Ross shares her experiences of week 1-3 of the Aardman and NFTS flagship course…


I have vivid memories of watching the behind the scenes of several animation films throughout my life. I am intrigued by the attentive frame-by-frame devotion an animator has to the study of motion and character. It’s absolute magic to me that someone can move an inanimate object convincingly on screen while also yielding an emotional response. So it was a complete honor when I received an acceptance to the NFTS/Aardman Certificate in Character Animation course! For the next 3 months I’ll be under the roofs of the inspiring creators of Shaun the Sheep, Chicken Run, Wallace & Gromit, and Early Man.

weeks 1-3

The first week of the course was comprised of the forever classic bouncing ball assignment. We spent a solid five days really getting into the mechanics of a bouncing ball because most animation has an element of a bounce, whether it be the characters hips swinging from side to side or a foot hitting the floor. All animation uses this technique, so it was nice to animate and RE-animate a tennis ball, ping pong ball, and the bowling ball. In the second week we quickly delved into animating bi-ped characters the studio supplied for us. For those animators out there (and I know there’s a lot) who have used only poor quality puppets, you will be completely relieved to know that there are better ones out there. These puppets are the most professionally made puppets an animator could put their hands on. All the ball and sockets are tightened to the perfect degree and there are mouth shapes for any expression or dialogue you’ll need. So when when it comes to the materials, there really was no excuse. Our first puppet assignment was to animate a character doing yoga from one position to the next. In preparation, the entire class was required to attend a one-hour yoga session on the roof of Aardman to really get the feel of the movements. Our second assignment was to animate a character changing from one emotion to the next. For this I chose to animate a character stepping on gum and then falling over. During the critique on Friday, it was nice see the host of different acting decisions everyone made for their assignment. One classmate chose to have a character eat slimy snake thing and then barf it up! It’s gross to imagine I know, but the acting was so tremendous and comedic, it was animation excellently pulled off. The third week, we devoted all of our animation time to walk cycles. The instructors had the idea this week to just keep animating a walk over and over again, so we can all be collectively confident in probably the most difficult cycle to animate. 

Find out more about the Aardman Academy and the variety of training and events they offer here.


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