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Last Updated: Friday, 19 March, 2004, 09:26 GMT
The changing face of British animation
By Victoria Lindrea
BBC News Online entertainment staff

The British Animation Awards, which take place on Friday in London, are celebrating their fifth birthday. Their director and founder Jayne Pilling told BBC News Online how the UK has influenced the flourishing global animation industry.

In the late 1980s, the UK was at the forefront of the animation industry. Boosted by interest from the infant Channel 4, the work of fledgling companies like Aardman animation began to win international attention.

Monkey Dust
BBC Three's Monkey Dust is among the animation awards finalists

But at the time, the one place where British animation continued to be ignored was in Britain itself.

Ms Pilling recognised this, and so she did something about it by founding the British Animation Awards in 1996.

They were designed "to make people aware of the diversity and the interest in British animation" says Ms Pilling.

Chief among her aims was the desire to "take animation to audiences" - a principle borne out today by the public choice screenings, which sees cinema audiences in 16 different British cities vote on their favourite animated shorts in the run up to the awards.


Now celebrating their fifth birthday, the awards - which run every two years - have some 19 categories and 60 jury members from the arts and entertainment world.

Jayne Pilling
What we need more of is people who are trying to get some of this really wonderful work to audiences
Jayne Pilling

Commercials, children's entertainment and post-production remain the lifeblood of the the industry, but given the rapidly changing nature of animation, categories are reassessed for each edition of the awards.

The creation of a best music video in 2000 was a reaction to the huge growth in animated music videos, with groups like Blur and Lemon Jelly following in the footsteps of The Beatles and Pink Floyd.

This year saw the creation of categories for best music and best creative use of sound.

"A lot of music in live action films has to be relatively illustrative, whereas in animation it plays a far more important role in the storytelling," says Ms Pilling, who chooses the categories.

Breaking rules

Currenty there is no award for animated feature film, though the category did feature in 2002, when it was shared by Chicken Run and the French film Kirikou Et La Sorciere.

JoJo in the Stars
JoJo in the Stars won best short animation at this year's Baftas

"I used not to be terribly interested in animated feature films because I found them rather formulaic," says Ms Pilling.

"But I've been really turned around by the things coming out of Europe and Japan."

Recent favourites include the Oscar-nominated Belleville Rendez-Vous: "It breaks all the Hollywood rules - there is not a word of dialogue, and its graphic style is very different to most 2D American feature films."

Ms Pilling also proclaims the creeping influence of Japanese anime.

"They are not afraid to deal with adult themes - they don't have to have songs every five minutes and they don't always have to have happy endings."

The Cramp Twins
The Cramp Twins creator Brian Wood is a previous winner

But she rejects the notion that animation is either commercial or artistic.

"I don't believe in the commerce versus art debate, I think they feed off one another.

"In 1996, one of our student winners was a young guy called Brian Wood.

"Seven years on, he was a finalist with The Cramp Twins - the first children's animated series from the UK to be commissioned by America's Cartoon Network."

She adds: "There is no shortage of talent. What we need more of is people who are trying to get some of this really wonderful work to audiences that will appreciate it."

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