An Un­ex­pected Guest

U.K.’s award-win­ning Lu­pus Films de­liv­ers a charm­ing, 2D-an­i­mated adap­ta­tion of The Tiger Who Came to Tea.

Animation Magazine - - EDITOR’S NOTE - By Ramin Za­hed

U.K.’s award-win­ning Lu­pus Films de­liv­ers a charm­ing, 2Dan­i­mated adap­ta­tion of The Tiger Who Came to Tea.

U.K. TV au­di­ences who tune in to Lu­pus Film’s lat­est an­i­mated spe­cial this month will find a delightful ad­di­tion to the coun­try’s grow­ing num­ber of beau­ti­ful half-hour projects made es­pe­cially for the hol­i­day sea­son. The new spe­cial, which airs on Chan­nel 4 on Christ­mas is based on the pop­u­lar 1968 chil­dren’s book by Ju­dith Kerr (1923-2019) and fea­tures the voices of Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch, Tam­sin

Greig, David Oyelowo and Paul White­house. It tells the sim­ple, yet imag­i­na­tive story of how the every­day rou­tine of a mother and daugh­ter is dis­rupted by the un­ex­pected ar­rival of very hun­gry, stripy tiger!

The show’s pro­ducer Ruth Field­ing tells us that the book has been one of her all-time fa­vorites since she was a young girl her­self, and she and her team at Lu­pus had been track­ing the rights for some time. “Then the op­por­tu­nity came along to pitch our vision to

HarperColl­ins Chil­dren’s Books, the pub­lisher, and Ju­dith Kerr, the au­thor and il­lus­tra­tor of the book, and we jumped at the chance,” she notes. “We started work on adapt­ing the book into a screen­play with writer Joanna Harrison, who wrote our pre­vi­ous films We’re Go­ing on a Bear Hunt and The Snow­man and The Snow­dog in 2017. The an­i­ma­tion was all pro­duced and drawn in house at Lu­pus Films’ stu­dio in Lon­don,

with a hand­ful of an­i­ma­tors and col­orists work­ing re­motely.”

The spe­cial is di­rected by Robin Shaw, who also helmed the stu­dio’s 2016 of­fer­ing We’re Go­ing on a Bear Hunt and was art di­rec­tor on Ethel & Ernest. He tells us that he was drawn to the new project mainly be­cause it al­lowed him to do some­thing re­ally fun. He adds, “Be­cause we were stick­ing to the bril­liant sim­plic­ity of the book with­out adding loads to the story, the char­ac­ters had a chance to breathe and to act out their parts in a re­ally fun way. This was es­pe­cially true for the tiger, who had the time to be the suave, unhurried, supremely con­fi­dent, Roger Moore-ish fe­line he should be.” Shaw men­tions that there were also re­ally in­ter­est­ing de­sign and nar­ra­tive op­por­tu­ni­ties when it came to stick­ing to the style of the book. “In the book, Ju­dith Kerr pictures the char­ac­ters much of the time against a blank page, so it was ex­cit­ing to use all that white space in the film to free us from the con­fines of a nor­mal kitchen or back­ground,” he points out. “The white space could be any­thing. It could be as big or small as I wanted, and I could in­tro­duce back­ground el­e­ments as needed and even change the lo­ca­tion with­out

‘We like to think we mod­eled our busi­ness and style of do­ing busi­ness on the late pro­ducer and good friend of ours, John Coates.We re­ally en­joy the craft of work­ing on a sin­gle film and hav­ing the time to cre­ate some­thing re­ally beau­ti­ful and long last­ing.’ — Pro­ducer Ruth Field­ing

the char­ac­ters ac­tu­ally hav­ing to go any­where. The film re­ally gave me the chance to use in­ter­est­ing tech­niques usu­ally seen in more in­de­pen­dent and less main­stream an­i­ma­tion, but in a way that was en­tirely ap­pro­pri­ate for the story.”

A 2D Throw­back to Yes­ter­year

The project also al­lowed Shaw to in­voke all of the in­flu­ences he had soaked up as a kid, watch­ing an­i­ma­tion and Bri­tish films of the 1960s. “The book is time­less but very iden­ti­fi­able with a cer­tain pe­riod, so I wanted the film to have that qual­ity, too,” he notes. “You should be able to watch it and think it could’ve con­ceiv­ably have been made at any time since the book came out, so ev­ery­thing from the mu­sic and sound record­ing to the de­sign and lay­out has drawn on tech­niques and styles of the pe­riod.”

Shaw says he al­ways starts each project with pen­cil and pa­per. “For me, it’s the most im­me­di­ate and in­stinc­tive way of get­ting ideas down and sketch­ing out dif­fer­ent set-ups and cam­era moves,” he ex­plains. “As soon as pos­si­ble, how­ever, we started work­ing in TVPaint. We used a num­ber of be­spoke brushes and pens in TVPaint to repli­cate the look of ev­ery­thing from felt tips to map­ping pen nibs, all used frame by frame to re­tain that hand-drawn look. I was very keen from the start that the an­i­ma­tion, back­grounds and color work should all be com­pleted within TVPaint and not be ‘over-pro­duced’ by us­ing too many tech­niques and bits of soft­ware. Ju­dith Kerr’s orig­i­nal il­lus­tra­tions were drawn us­ing a hand­ful of tech­niques and media to won­der­ful ef­fect, so it seemed nat­u­ral that to give the film the same aes­thetic co­her­ence and to fol­low the style of the book we should do the same.”

The di­rec­tor and his team of about 60 artists worked to­gether to make the art­work feel like it had all been pre­pared on a few lay­ers of cels and put un­der a ros­trum cam­era to be filmed. “Cre­atively, the whole thing came very nat­u­rally, but in prac­ti­cal terms I sup­pose the trick­i­est thing of all was to keep it sim­ple,” notes Shaw. “Do­ing this meant hav­ing a big team of re­ally skilled art­work­ers to make each frame com­pletely fin­ished with as lit­tle be­ing left for comp as pos­si­ble.”

When asked about how Lu­pus man­ages to craft these beau­ti­ful, heart-warm­ing an­i­mated tales that air dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son in the U.K, Field­ing is quite mod­est. “We like to think we mod­eled our busi­ness and style of do­ing busi­ness on the late pro­ducer and good friend of ours, John Coates,” she says. “His com­pany TV Car­toons made lots of TVsSpe­cials, some of which were based on Raymond Briggs’ books, like ours have been. We re­ally en­joy the craft of work­ing on a sin­gle film and hav­ing the time to cre­ate some­thing re­ally beau­ti­ful and long last­ing. How­ever, the bread and but­ter of se­ries work is al­ways a draw.”

Field­ing con­tin­ues to be op­ti­mistic about the an­i­ma­tion scene in the U.K., de­spite Brexit and other im­pend­ing ob­sta­cles. “The an­i­ma­tion in­dus­try in the U.K. is boom­ing,” she says. “We have tax cred­its, fan­tas­tic ta­lent and the ex­change rate is fa­vor­able for oth­ers to work with us at the mo­ment. Brexit is loom­ing and we’re wor­ried about los­ing ac­cess to fund­ing pots like the E.U. MEDIA Fund and about re­tain­ing our crew, who come from other coun­tries within the E.U. How­ever, an­i­ma­tion has al­ways been a team sport, and so we will continue to co-pro­duce with ter­ri­to­ries within Europe and fur­ther afield de­spite the po­lit­i­cal cli­mate.”

Both Field­ing and Shaw hope the spe­cial will bring more joy and cheer into view­ers’ homes. “We hope au­di­ences will, quite sim­ply, feel re­ally happy they’ve watched it,” says Shaw. “I want them to start smil­ing within a few sec­onds and keep smil­ing right through to the end. One of the most sat­is­fy­ing mo­ments dur­ing pro­duc­tion was when we showed the an­i­matic to some an­i­ma­tion stu­dents and the two very down-to-Earth col­lege tech­ni­cians sit­ting at the back turned to each other about half­way through and broke into the big­gest, warm­est smiles. That’s what we want peo­ple to get out of it!” ◆

Lu­pus Films’ The Tiger Who Came to Tea pre­mieres on Chan­nel 4 on Christ­mas.

‘Ju­dith Kerr’s orig­i­nal il­lus­tra­tions were drawn us­ing a hand­ful of tech­niques and media to won­der­ful ef­fect, so it seemed nat­u­ral that to give the film the same aes­thetic co­her­ence and to fol­low the style of the book we should do the same.’ — Di­rec­tor Robin Shaw

Ruth Field­ing and Camilla Deakin

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