• The Blue Bloke - Stefan Marjoram of Aardman
    12 September 2002 | Leonard Teo
     Image: Stefan Marjoram directed the original Deadline short film and the Nickelodeon episodes. He voices and animates the blue character.

    Stefan Marjoram is a Director and Animator at Aardman’s CG (Computer Graphics) division and was responsible for directing the Deadline short films as well as the BBC1 Christmas idents for UK television. Marjoram began his career in 1992 when he graduated from Farnham College of Art and Design with a degree in Animation. After a year of working in the London games industry, he moved to Bristol where he worked on several projects for Darren Walsh, Bolex Brothers and Aardman, as well as co-directed a commercial for the Irish National Lottery.

    Some successful 2D animation work led to Marjoram and Alan Short forming the CG department for Bristol-based graphic designers Burrell Durrant Hifle. Working there for five years animating and directing natural history and title sequences brought them acclaim with an Emmy nomination for the BBC’s Predators series, which also won the prestigious RTS Award for best graphics.

    In 2000, the lure of character animation led Marjoram back to Aardman where he has designed and directed BBC1’s Christmas idents, idents for BBC3 and the short film “The Deadline” which won the award for Best Animated Short at 3D Festival Copenhagen 2001, and an Animago award. The short has led to five more episodes being created for Nickelodeon UK.

    At the moment, Marjoram is about to start animating some dancing fruit for an advertisement and is also doing pitches and brainstorming sessions for various other ads. He has also recently started speaking at animation festivals and will be presenting at 3D Festival/LEAF 2002, Oct 9-11 in London.


    3DF|CGN: What's it like working at Aardman? Did you ever envision yourself working at a studio like Aardman?

    Marjoram: Working at Aardman is great as it really helps to have that well known name behind you when you're developing something. You also get to meet a lot of interesting people -- not just from the animation industry, but film makers, rock stars, scientists and all sorts. I didn't really set out to work at Aardman from the start, but once I moved to Bristol, I suppose it was inevitable.

    3DF|CGN: What were some of the favourite productions that you worked on?

    Marjoram: One of my favourite jobs has been the BBC3 idents -- they're not released yet, we're still waiting for the channel to be approved by the government. They were quick to do and always get a laugh. That's the way I like it!

    3DF|CGN: Outside of work, do you spend much time doing your own digital art and animation?

    Marjoram: I don't do any animation at home (that's what seems to happen when you do something for a job), but I do like to do a lot of Photoshop drawings in my free moments as it helps take your mind off things and often nice film or character ideas come out of it.

    3DF|CGN: Do you think 3D animation will replace traditional animation such as cel and clay animation?

    Marjoram: No, but it certainly helps cut out some of the more boring processes (for instance cel painting). There are still things that computers just can't do, or just don't look quite right unless done traditionally. Think of how difficult it would be to do a boiling piece of clay being squashed about, or the looseness and extreme volume changes of some 2D work. You could do something similar eventually, but it would take more effort than it would to do traditionally.

  • 3DF|CGN: What will you be speaking about at 3D Festival London 2002?

    Marjoram: I'll be speaking about stylised animation, which for me means that with the time I save by doing something simply, I can spend more time on the acting and story telling -- which is what I believe makes a good film. Also, having a peculiarly shaped character might highlight something in his personality or mean that he has to move in a particular way -- again lending it more character. There's a lot of excitement about photo realism at the moment so I thought I'd offer an alternative.

    A blob -- it doesn't come much simpler than this.

    3DF|CGN: What advise would you give to entry-levels artists wanting to break into the 3D animation and digital effects industry?

    Marjoram: Practise A LOT (especially if you want to be an animator). If you want to animate, use a simple stick character that's quick to work with and perform a lot of tests. But don’t put all of these tests on your showreel – only put the very best ones, as what we don’t see, we don’t know.

    Don’t worry about having a short demo reel as big companies get a lot of reels, so having a short reel is actually quite a relief. Also, tailor your showreel to suit the sort of place that you’re applying to. For example, show examples of low-polygon modelling for game studios, explosions for visual effects studios, etc.


    Image: A still from the BBC1 Christmas ident that aired in the UK.

    Some characters out of Stefan's sketchbook.

    3DF|CGN: For someone seeking a job at Aardman, what qualities are being looked for?

    Marjoram: We're starting to get more of a traditional studio system here now, so we're looking for people to fill particular roles - e.g. Technical Directors, Animators, Model Makers, Lighting Technical Directors, etc. If you're applying for the animation role, then we're looking for good character animators - not space ships or fighting robots (unless they're funny ones). At the end of the day we're also looking for people we can get along with. People who, when times are difficult can er... stay as calm as us fellas in 'The Deadline'. [3DF|CGN]

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    Related Links
    - Looming Deadlines - Aardman produces new Deadline shorts for Nickelodeon UK
    - Aardman

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