Students of animation learn the wrong skills

THE LEADERS of a prestigious animation course set up by the makers of Wallace and Gromit yesterday condemned the standards in art schools.

They said that graduates of specialised animation courses lacked the skills even to start training, let alone to go into industry.

Lecturers running the prestigious six-month post-graduate course at the University of the West of England, in Bristol, say standards are so low they cannot even fill the handful of vacancies on offer.

Of the 80 British applicants for this year's course only five were up to scratch, even though three-quarters had already completed specialised animation degrees. The university has extended the applications deadline in the hope that more applicants come forward.

Susannah Shaw, the course leader, said: "We have great difficulty in finding candidates of a good enough quality to get into our training courses. It's not their fault; they have gone into courses hoping to be trained up in animation and they are not getting the training."

She said the growing British animation industry faced losing work overseas because of the shortage of skilled staff.

The course, the first of its kind, was set up two years ago by the university and Aardman Animations, the Bristol studio where double Oscar-winner Nick Park produced the hugely successful Wallace and Gromit trilogy.

Aardman and other leading animation studios wanted acourse to train animators for the painstaking task of creating the thousands of movements which make up animated films. But course leaders say that while degrees cover ideas, scripts and storyboards, they ignore the practical training central to the animator's craft.

Mark Taylor, a director of Bristol-based studio A for Animation, which is also a partner in the course, said: "This is damaging us because we can't find the people we want to fit into the studio."

Mr Taylor, whose studio has produced programmes and advertisements for ITV and for satellite television, added: "Too many courses do not have the people in place and do not teach the necessary skills."

Stuart Bartholomew, principal of Bournemouth and Poole College of Art and Design, which has been running animation courses for 15 years, said the complaints were "half right", but insisted that courses gave a solid grounding in basic skills.

He said: "We spend a lot of time to get the students to achieve a high level of visualisation. You need expertise in figure drawing and the way a figure moves.

"If you don't have that, you are not going to be an animator."