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Manchester Animation Festival Switch for the New: Local Animation Industry to Be Represented with Diversity in Mind

From stop motion to digital, Manchester Animation Festival’s local panel is to feature the next generation of animators, transcending ages of audience and animators alike. 

Making It Manchester

Making It In Manchester panel

Manchester Animation Festival

Not London, not Hollywood: Manchester. The hub of media and entertainment, home to Cosgrove Hall Films and Mackinnon & Saunders, has in its heart the Manchester Animation Festival (MAF). Showcasing the hidden and fresh talent of all ages, with the next generation of animators explaining how they have made it in Manchester, while telling of the hardships in the industry and getting ready to represent the future of local animation.

Greg Walker, 31, producer of MAF stated that: “I think it’s a part of MAF. It’s celebrating the established big companies but it’s also giving a platform for these new companies to show what they are doing. It’s creating a show of diversity in Manchester, because it is a home of animation in the UK, and we are trying to make sure that people know that there is new blood constantly coming through.”

Manchester Animation Festival branding at HOME

Branding from the 2019 edition of MAF at one of its venues, HOME.

Manchester Animation Festival

The festival’s history comes year after year of showing Manchester’s greatest creative talents from Flow Creative, based in Little Lever St, to Cubic Motions, based in Pencroft Way. These creators helped to display Manchester as an important landmark of animation, and showcase local talent to MAF’s international audience consisting of (as of 2020) 29,908 streams from 35 different countries, from Japan to Lithuania to Romania.

The ‘Making it in Manchester’ panel aims to demonstrate what it is like to work in Manchester as an animator, explaining the creative and business aspects while explaining the struggles and roadblocks along the way. This year the panellists are: Purple Parasol, Friend Party Studio, Toastie Animation and One6th Studios, each with different stories and experiences to tell.

Baz Sells, 36, directs One6th Studios, based in Pollard Street. Founded in 2018, One6th is a traditional stop motion animation company which works on commercials, short films, and online content, aiming to make socially conscious films in a socially conscious way. Baz hopes their presence and work on the festival will help change the future and outlook of those new to the industry.

Stop motion model by One6th Studio rsz

A stop motion model.

One6th Studios

Baz said: “We want to continue collaborating with great talent including those from underrepresented groups. Representation and inclusion matter to us both in terms of what we are putting on screen and who we are working with. We also want to do our bit to change the cycle of people being underpaid and overworked in the creative industries - if we can continue to influence these issues but on a larger scale in future, we’ll be happy with that.”

These studios demonstrate the ever-growing representation and diversity on all sides of the entertainment industry. Their presence in the festival will not just help the much-needed change of angle within the industry, but it will also teach about the experience of creating a studio, and the challenges smaller companies still face.

Just like Baz, James Lawson, 25, from West Didsbury and the art director for Friend Party Studios, believes that representation in any kind of industry matters, and because of a previous lack of it, new animators can struggle. He said: “There’s a lot of ‘mis-appreciation’ of just how labour intensive and hard it is… Like there’s stressful days, there’s tears, there’s anger, but I mean, it's all part of the creative process as well. I don't want to describe it like some toxic work environment, certainly not. It's just we really care about it, and we're very passionate about it, and so it only makes sense that emotions come into it sometimes, and especially when we feel a bit like the small fish in a big pond, so I think we’ve got a bit more to prove.”

Stages of setting development by Purple Parasol

Development of an animation scene.

Purple Parasol

This sentiment is also shared by the Creative Director for Purple Parasol Animation, Ben Young, 25, from Stockport. In 2019, soon after graduating with a BA in Animation from Salford University, Ben founded Purple Parasol with a small team. When talking about starting the company he said: “There’s an element of hard work and making it in Manchester and nothing is easy. When you are starting out there’s always the growing pain, and the struggles… I wouldn’t say we are in a stable position - we are still in our growing pains - but I’m happy to say we are doing better than most.”

With the pandemic, the digitalised world made it easier for studios and clients to contact each other. Ben explained how this helped the new studio, not only in being seen by more clients, but also in being offered the opportunity to participate in the panel. “I think that to be able to lead the way, break the barriers between the industry and newcomers, and being able to influence new talents to be able to push themselves would be great and that’s one of the reasons why it’s such a privilege being a part of this.”

Animation still by Toastie Animation

A still from an animation.

Toastie Animation

Looking forward to the future, Billy MPheta, 29, Director (and currently only staff member) of Toastie Animation, also expressed how Covid allowed him to expand the portfolio of his one-man company. Thanks to the festival featuring his studio, more opportunities will be available, and more freelancers will be interested in working with him. Regarding the panel, he said: “I want to present what we are looking forward to: the future of growing as a company, working with a lot of different and diverse artists, and getting fun projects to work on. At the moment, we are so small that we haven’t had a lot to do yet but I’m hoping in the future that grows specifically.”

It has yet to be seen if the knowledge and advice these new creators bring can rival those settled and well known studios. However, with the festival hyping up the future freelance animators, designers, and studios, as well as teasing a new project involving the collaboration of companies from the North West, it can be said that the importance of new local animation in Manchester will keep growing.

Learn more

This year, MAF will feature both online and in-venue events - physical events will be taking place at Manchester’s HOME and Jury’s Inn - from 14 to 19 November. Tickets and passes are still on sale via the website:

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