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Wednesday, 17 March, 1999, 16:24 GMT
The animator's tale
The Canterbury Tales
The Canterbury Tales: Breathing life into the classics
The Oscars aren't just for Hollywood blockbusters and over-established celebrities.

Oscars '99
One of the categories that Britain excels in is the Award for Best Animated Short Film, popularised by three-time winner Nick Park of Wallace and Gromit fame.

This year, British writer-director Jonathan Myerson is amongst the nominations for bawdy take on Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

'Dreaming' of an award

The Canterbury Tales v
The Canterbury Tales is also nominated for a BAFTA
In an interview with BBC News Online, Myerson spoke of his Oscar hopes.

"You can't be confident of winning, but I'm dreaming of it!"

Despite the success of Park and his claymation duo, Myerson admits that animators are far from the limelight.

"The Oscar thing is very weird. The Oscars aren't exactly famous for their animation award are they? Animation sort of squeaks in on people's coat-tails".

Myerson is flying out to Los Angeles for the Oscars but admits that he has "no idea what it's going to be like" or how his film will be received.

"God knows how our film will go down with some of the Academy members because it's very different and very English."

Animators from around the world

Sean Bean gives the Nun's Priest's tale some Yorkshire oomph
In his first film as director Myerson has transformed Chaucer's 600-year-old poem which recounts stories told by pilgrims on their way to the shrine of St Thomas in Canterbury.

Using latex puppets for the pilgrims and a mixture of animation styles from artists in London, Cardiff and Moscow, Myerson's writing and direction has breathed life into this much-studied and daunting classic.

The joint S4C, HBO and BBC Two venture took three years to produce at a cost of 1.5m, and was broadcast by the BBC in December 1998.

The tales are produced in English, Welsh and - for those who really relish a challenge - Middle English. They draw on voice-overs from British actors Sean Bean, Bob Peck, Billie Whitelaw and Imelda Staunton.

Medieval EastEnders

Myerson's own background as a playwright for BBC Radio, the National Theatre, and the Edinburgh Fringe meant that Chaucer's profession as medieval story-teller wasn't too far removed from his own role as modern-day scriptwriter.

"Chaucer was interested in story-telling which is a great British tradition in all art forms," he said.

Myerson's script-writing experience on popular soaps The Bill and EastEnders also prepared him his tricky task.

"I wrote the script like it was an episode of the Bill. I don't believe in venerating old texts.

" I was deliberately modernising it and the language the characters speak."

By giving Chaucer a new modern appeal, Myerson hopes to open up the classic text to a wider audience and likens his work to that of fellow Oscar nominees, the Shakespeare in Love team.

"In a way we've done something very similar to Shakespeare in Love.

"We're making Chaucer accessible and saying that it doesn't have to be done in that terribly difficult and pompous tone, you can just have fun and it will come through."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Video
Watch the pilgrims set out on their journey
Video
Sean Bean narrates the tale of the over-confident cockerel, Chanticleer
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