Oscar nominated Barry Purves is one of Britain’s most celebrated talents. As an international award winning animator and director, he brought joy to hundreds of students when he visited the College and WOW Academy to enlighten them on the fascinating subject of animation - and what life is really like in film and television...
In a modest and remarkable interview, Barry Purves spoke candidly about his experiences and achievements.
Speaking passionately about directing his elaborate and truly astonishing animated characters, Barry told the students: “I love animation - I’m passionate about it. Today I’d like to pass on the same passion and enthusiasm to you.” Barry holds regular animation workshops in educational institutions across the world. He works with all the major studios in America, including: DreamWorks, PDI and Pixar and acts as a jury member and advisor for many film festivals. His films have won over sixty major international awards, including Grand Prix, Best Director, Best Film, OSCAR and BAFTA nominations.
Not content with being an award winning animator and director - Barry Purves is also the author behind ‘Stop Motion – Passion Process Performance’ – a personal book on animation and the creative process. Following the success of the book, Barry is now in the process of writing the eagerly anticipated follow-up ‘Performing Animals’.
Barry also enjoys working on British projects and is well known for his work on renowned TV classics such as: Postman Pat, The Wind in the Willows, Rupert Bear and Danger Mouse. Humbly Barry said: “I’ve been fortunate enough to play Toad in The Wind in the Willows, which is my favourite book.”
Capturing their imagination, he left students enthralled as he revealed what it was really like to work on the set of Hollywood blockbusters such as King Kong, Mars Attacks and advise animators on the set of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Barry explained: “When you’re working on animation you have to accept that you could end up working for 9 months and at the end of it have a 12 second shot and that’s your contribution to the film. To be an animator you have to realise that this 12 seconds is an achievement! If you do want to work in animation, you will have to be content with those small chunks.”
Barry continued: “You need a mind that has the capacity for detail.” Barry laughed and added: “I do have a very strange mind. I probably couldn’t tell you who the Prime Minister, is but I could watch someone as they walked down the street and analyze how they moved, and be able to reproduce that. You need to be really observant as an animator. Animation isn’t about reproducing real life; it’s about finding the selective moment in a walk, that tells the story of a walk. You need to emphasis that moment.”
Revealing more secrets to successful and convincing characters, Barry said: “Eyes are the most important thing about any character you design. Whatever character it is, whether it’s a lump of plasticine or a really detailed character like Gollum in Lord of the Rings, the eyes are where you start. You can take away the mouth from a character, the nose, the ears and it will still work, but take away the eyes and that character is dead.”
Speaking about his experience of working with Hollywood Director Tim Burton, Barry said: “I was there at the beginning of Mars Attacks to develop the stop motion. I worked with Tim Burton to find the characters body language. When you design a character you always have to think, how is it going to move? Tim Burton wanted these characters to be like really nasty little spoilt children who were high on sugar…so there’s an element of that in them. I also incorporated a bird like movement in them, where they really flicked there heads. The movement is quite sharp.”
When asked how he felt to work with Hollywood Director Peter Jackson, on the set of Hollywood Blockbuster King Kong, Barry replied: I worked with Peter, helping to develop Kong’s body language.” Barry laughed and added: “What’s not to like about working in New Zealand, having a house on the beach and working with Peter Jackson on a big Hollywood film? King Kong is my favourite film of all time. It was fantastic to work on a character like Kong – It’s the joy of animation…. I felt extremely privileged to be there and contribute to the scenes.”
Barry’s work consistently dazzles and entertains audiences across the world. Critics have described his work as ‘technically remarkable and imaginatively astonishing.’ With a career that spans over 35 years, Barry has truly succeeded in suspending disbelief, with the creation of a memorable gallery of characters - perfecting the art of illusion!