Animator Andy Shares His Passion For Puppetry
A former student from a north east specialist art and design college is now carving out a career in the animation and puppetry industry, working on commercial projects for clients such as the BBC and Sainsbury’s.
Stockton-born freelance animator and puppet maker Andy Bell, 24, studied for a BTEC national diploma in interactive media at The Northern School of Art’s (CCAD) campus on Green Lane in Middlesbrough in 2012.
After graduating from Staffordshire University with a first class honours degree in Stop Motion Animation and Puppet Making, Andy is now developing his skills in the industry, working with leading animation producer and puppet maker, Mackinnon and Saunders.
A top-class studio that specialises in character design, puppet build and animation production for television, features and commercials, Mackinnon and Saunders produces works for clients, films and TV shows such as Dairylea, Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride and Bob the Builder.
Since taking up the role at the Manchester-based studio in the silicone and costume department, Andy – who specialises in stop motion animation and puppet fabrication – has worked on some high profile and projects. These include advertising campaigns for Sainsbury’s 2016 Christmas commercial and the BBC’s 2017 Christmas commercial, and working in the costume department to help create costumes for the recent Wes Anderson movie, Isle of Dogs.
Andy also works at Factory Create in Cheshire, an independent, multi-genre animation studio specialising in broadcast and advertising, where he creates soft props such as miniature sofas and cushions.
The award-winning artist, who received accolades from the Royal Television Society for his college and graduation films, has also produced animations for The Northern School of Art which were featured on the college’s website to promote its courses.
On his creative journey so far, Andy said: “I find working in the animation industry and in a creative environment very exciting. Mackinnon and Saunders is a company I have wanted to work for since first seeing their amazing work on Tim Burton’s ‘Corpse Bride’. I still have to pinch myself walking into work each day and seeing these beautiful creations in the flesh.
“Since working in the industry I have mainly worked on creating puppet costumes. Getting designs of costumes on my desk for a new project and taking these through into real tiny garments is always a very satisfying thing. I still get excited about using tiny buttons and belt buckles that are only a couple of millimetres big. Since being at the company I have had the privilege of working with a great team of incredibly talented people on so many great projects for film and TV.”
Keen to give students the benefit of his experience and advice to the young artists and designers who may be considering a career in the animation industry, Andy said: “I would advise students looking to get into the creative industries to push to make things happen for themselves and not to give up. It’s easy to become complacent and think getting a degree is enough to take you straight into your dream job. It’s all about putting yourself out there, networking and proving your creative worth.”
Crediting his time at CCAD, which has helped him on the creative path to success, Andy said: “I really enjoyed my time at CCAD. At the college I felt free to experiment with my creativity and find a path that I wanted to follow. It was here in my first year of study that I won my first Royal Television Society award with an animated piece. I think this greatly helped my confidence and made me feel I was heading in the right direction with what I wanted to do. Recently I received another two RTS awards for my graduate film at university and thought about how much I had achieved since the first time when I was a nervous 17-year-old aspiring to one-day work in animation.
“The course enabled me to adapt assignments towards what I wanted to pursue. Being able to create work in a stop motion technique whilst others followed their own paths was a great experience. I feel my experience at The Northern School of Art was unique, studying in a creative environment with likeminded people isn’t something I think I would have had if I had chosen to study elsewhere. When I came to create my final film and exhibition I created a short animation on my grandad’s youth, this film now holds a special place in my heart as we sadly lost him last year. Having the environment and support to create an incredibly personal piece such as this was a great experience that doesn’t happen often.”