How to get into Animation with Peter Peake

Animation is an extremely creative, meticulous, and imaginative part of the film industry. To break into this industry, you’ll need a huge dollop of technical skill as well as a large helping of patience and endurance.

If it’s the film industry you want to be a part of, you’ll have to be prepared that a feature animation could take years and years to finish. Even making a TV-commercial will average out at around 3-seconds a day. But, anyone who works in animation will tell you it’s all totally worth it.

So, for those who are interested in animation but aren’t sure where to begin, we spoke to Aardman Animations resident director, Peter Peake. If anyone knows how to navigate the animation industry, it’s Peter.

Peter’s short ‘Humdrum’ was nominated for ‘Best Animated Short’ at the BAFTAs and for an Oscar. Since then, Peter has worked on numerous animation projects such as Pythagasurus (2011) Creature Comforts (2003) and Legend of the Lost Tribe (2002). His most recent short is currently making the rounds at film festivals around the world.

How did it all start for you?

“I went to college in Bath, they offered animation in the second year so I took that up. By the time of my degree show, all my stuff was animation.”

Peter went on to explain that although going to university isn’t essential, especially for budding animators, it gives you the space to get creative. University allows you to really think about your skills and what you’re good at, as well as providing you with the resources like studio space and software.

After going to university, Peter took his work to Aardman Animations. It was early days so Peter got to sit down with the boss himself and show him his projects that he completed at university. Before long Peter found himself working on a stop-motion commercial with Aardman and “they’ve kept me busy ever since” remarked Peter.

What is Aardman looking for when hiring young people?

“When people come to Aardman we’re looking at their work, not their grades. It is purely the quality of their showreel.”

What kind of animation have you specialised in?

“I do both. I was trained as a stop-motion animator. I do a lot of work in 3d CG and little bits of live action. We have a studio at Aardman where we can bring in actors. I mix it up, and I really enjoy doing that.”

Do you people need a niche in animation?

“I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary. I think if you know you want to work with plasticine, for example, then you should completely go for it. The first film I made at college was making a one minute advert from Jazz FM and I basically did a montage of all different types of animation and that really helped me figure what I liked doing.”

Is animation a collaborative process?

“I’ve just got back from making an advert in Austrailia for a big department store over there – and it uses lots of different animation techniques (which I love) and is around 90 seconds… If I added up everyone involved in the project it would probably be more than 50 people.”

How would you describe your role?

“I’m the director. What that means to me, basically, is that I make sure that everything fits together and is cohesive. I need to make sure everyone is working towards the same thing. The director is the only person that gets to talk to everyone.”

What is it you love about animation?

“In terms of directing, I would have to say working with different people who all have different skills – musicians, artists, editors. I really like the vartiety!”

What advice would you give budding animators?.

“Having a showreel, just a few clips showing what you can do is really important. If the model or puppet isn’t perfect and you’re going for animator job – it’s the quality of the movement that they’re looking for. Whereas, if you’re going for a model-making job then it will much more important to get that puppet looking perfect and you probably don’t really need to move it much. So, be specific on what part of animation you want to get into and then really show people that you’re good at that particular thing.”


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