It may be flat, but it sure isn't boring

Everyone has heard of Nick Park and his animated creations Wallace and Gromit ... now it's the turn of Chip the Fish, Geoff the Cat and road-mender Matt Phlatt. Meg Carter meets Daniel Greaves, the creator of 'Flatworld', already tipped to win an Oscar next year.

Daniel Greaves is one of the unsung heroes of British animation. Think animators and Oscars and, chances are, you'll think Nick Park. In fact, Greaves pipped Park to the Oscar podium back in 1992 with a short film entitled Manipulation. Park, of course, went on to win three Academy awards with a little help from Wallace and Gromit. Greaves, meanwhile, went back to his drawing board. Five years and some pounds 750,000 later and his latest creation, Flatworld, hits TV screens this Christmas.

Greaves sits drinking coffee in his chilly north London studio. It's some months now since production of Flatworld wrapped, but models and cardboard cut-outs still litter the shelves. Greaves is a meticulous craftsman with an awesome reputation within the industry for his skills. Small wonder, then, that even before his latest film makes its UK TV debut, it's already being tipped as next year's Oscar winner.

Watch the half-hour animated adventure and it's easy to see why. Aside from the required mix of engaging characters - road-mender Matt Phlatt, portly cat Geoff, and Chips the fish - the plot involves a bank robber, a bag of stolen money and a striking array of animation techniques.

The action kicks off in Flatworld, a wet and windy three-dimensional city whose inhabitants are cardboard cut-outs that move with the fluidity of traditional stop-frame animation but bend like card as they go through doorways or take a seat. Events take an unexpected turn when a freak electrical current frees the forces of "Flipside" - a parallel cartoon universe of cliched television formats.

"The idea came from a one-off gag involving two-dimensional people driving two-dimensional cars in a three-dimensional world," Greaves explains. "I loved the idea of flat people passing each other, casting shadows but when they turn a corner you're really thrown." He'd already clashed different dimensions in Manipulation, a six-minute film charting the interaction between an animated character and his animator that ends with the flat character becoming multi-dimensional when he steps off the page.

In fact, Flatworld is far more sophisticated in both plot and animation technique. More than half the film is what Greaves describes as "two-and- a-half dimensional". To achieve this, he used traditional stop-frame animation to move cardboard figures in a three-dimensional setting. It was a painstaking process. First, drawings of the characters were animated with 12 different images shot per second to check fluidity of movement. Then, every drawing was photocopied, pasted on to card, coloured and carefully cut out. Each card image was weighted at its base so it would stand upright. These images were then animated, with 12 different card drawings of the same character shot per second. All in all, the film used 40,000 different cardboard cut-outs. Filming the "Flipside" sequence was a piece of cake by comparison, involving traditional Disney techniques.

Greaves, however, was unperturbed. He has always been inspired by technique and has long relished the challenge of animating inanimate objects because "it's more of a test to put character into something that has none".

On Flatworld, he says, "We'd worked out a series of visual puns, then we had to get the characters in the right place at the right time. The film's pace and plotting is as striking as its look. Without dialogue, the narrative rests on visual puns and strong characterisation. The ingenious, fast-moving storyline propels Matt, Geoff and Chips through a series of perilous encounters with characters inhabiting "Flipside", where hair- raising escapes can be made at the push of a button on the TV remote control.

"It was incredibly tricky," Greaves admits - especially for the 100-strong team working over the two years the film was in production. "But when we saw the end result of each day's work in the following morning's rushes, it spurred us on." As did the interest of the BBC's prestigious animation unit in Bristol who's head, Colin Rose, acted as executive producer.

Rose, who has also worked with Nick Park, put up 20 per cent of the budget for Flatworld and helped raise the rest. He worked with Greaves and Veale on storyboarding and also brought on board composer Julian Nott whose credits include - surprise, surprise - Wallace and Gromit. He is quick to counter, however, any suggestion the BBC was simply looking for the next Nick Park.

In fact, the BBC's involvement in Flatworld pre-dates its association with Park, Rose explains. "Having screened Manipulation, the BBC wanted something a little longer - we asked Daniel to develop a half-hour film."

Besides, Greaves's style is very different to Park's. "With Nick's work, while there's much irony there's much sentimentality, too. Daniel's, however, is more sardonic and knowing."

Greaves says he has no plans for a follow-up film. But another Oscar would be nice.

'Flatworld' can be seen on BBC2, 7pm on Christmas Eve, and again on New Year's Eve, 10.30pm.

Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
news
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

    £28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

    £16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

    Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

    £16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

    Day In a Page

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk