Blog Post

Working 9 To 5 As A…Stop-Motion Animator

By Susan Guy
For once, I wasn’t the only girl in the studio today; Anna is also an Animator and was working next door to me. Iʼm an Animator for stop-motion films and TV. It’s a traditional form of storytelling that uses armature puppets; detailed representation of human characters, and sometimes animals too, with a metal skeleton inside, so they can do every movement a human skeleton can.
I’ve animated on various shows from Postman Pat, Fifi and the Flowertots, Rastamouse and currently Tobyʼs Travelling Circus. The majority of my work is children’s television but sometimes I’m invited to work on commercials or one off TV specials for the BBC.  My job basically involves acting with the puppets, as in, I work with a script and the director tells me what needs to happen in the scene. I love that my work is always varied and interesting, for example, today I was animating a clown on a unicycle and a monkey on stilts.
Animation does tend to be a male dominated industry and there are actually very few female animators in the world.  I’ve found that women tend to favour the production side of things or producer roles: must be something to do with good organisation skills.  Women also tend to dominate the costume department for some reason.  Being an animator, I get to observe people for work; children, babies and animals, their mannerisms, the way they walk etc.  With what I can study on the street in a busy town centre, I can use when animating a character, giving it a spark of personality.
Being a woman animator does have its benefits in that I do make some of the female characters behave in a typical female way, like the way they drink their tea, look at their fingernails when talking on the phone or apply their lipstick.
Today I was on the caravan exterior set, but I much prefer working on the caravan interior as it’s like the inside of an elaborate dolls house. There’s a lounge, pretend house plants, sofa, cooker, a fridge, kitchen cupboards and even a kitchen sink with taps. (A trick of the trade for creating the effect of running water is to use Sellotape or cling film.) It makes me think back to my childhood when I would play with my dolls and the doll’s house but without the deadlines or audiences to entertain.
Animating can be an isolating job when you spend your days alone working with just puppets. It’s definitely a job where you can just put on your headphones, zone out for a few hours and just get on with the job. Although, being left to my own devices for so long has had a funny effect on me; I was caught moonwalking around the studio once.
 
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Susan Guy is a professional ‘dolly wiggler’ by day occasionally taking breaks for tea drinking,licorice eating and music making.