Colin White graduated from Bournemouth Film School (BFS) in 1973. He’s worked on live action/animated fantasy film Who Framed Roger Rabbit as Character Animator back in1988 as well as Director of Animation for Plague Dogs and working as an Animator on Watership Down, both based on novels by Richard Adams.
We caught up with Colin, to find out more about his life in the film industry.
How did you find studying at BFS?
“I loved BFS as it was based on the South Coast, with a beautiful seaside. Reginald ‘Reg’ Johnson (well-known and highly respected film cameraman), the course leader was great. There was a real sense of teamwork and collaboration. I used to work a lot with fellow student Andrew Montgomery (Excalibur, Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back), we worked on quite a few student films together. The course was three years, the first year was photography and the second was focused on ciné, there were very few places that offered the course so students were seen as unique. I grew up in an era where it was becoming vastly more popular for the working class to go to University, so I had the chance – I was interested in film so I gave it a shot.”
Where did your love of Animation come from?
“I’d always loved animation films, I used to think that the Disney animated films were magic! I loved re-creating films at home with my friends using models of Mars and Thunderbirds, saving other characters from evil monsters. Then my attention turned to girls and my movies became more Avenger-like, saving civilisation from creatures. I had a natural talent for drawing, so that combined with my love of film it was only natural to turn to Animation. I loved live action films and I’d help out on other student films with the animating, to keep my skills and interest in animation up.
“When I graduated, I was lucky enough that Halas and Batchelor were looking to hire a Trainee Assistant Animator. Getting into the film world was really difficult back then so I was glad for the foot in the door, and the training lasted a year. In 1978 I went on to work on Watership Down, which I’m really proud of. It was a really ‘big’ book back then, on a level with Lord of the Rings. To work on a feature film was like a dream come true. I then went on to work on Plague Dogs, which was based on a novel about tortured animals escaping from a research facility. The Director of Animation quit, so I was promoted to the role, which was great, and being based in San Francisco wasn’t too bad either!”
Can you tell us a bit about working on Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
“They were looking for some extra hands to help with a final push on production, I knew someone who was working on the film so I got an interview. It was fun to work on because it was a mixture of live action and animation. They printed the scenes out frame by frame, and we would go and collect them in large boxes with each shot printed on 20″ x 18” sheets. We’d place large pieces of tracing paper over them and draw in the characters. Pretty simple really!
“It was all animated and filmed in England apart from one or two scenes where the streets were filmed in America. The director, Robert Zemeckis (Forest Gump, Back to the Future) would come and explain the sequences. Steven Spielberg would often pop into to the office, and chat to us, he was working on Empire of the Sun close by. It was like having royalty walk through the office.
What other projects have you worked on?
“I also worked for Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) in San Francisco. I worked on Casper The Friendly Ghost which was another live-action / animation film, however this time it involved CGI which no one at the time was really doing in feature films. They’d use stop motion puppets, which fed into a computer that animators would clean up, so it wasn’t really animating. There were 15, 2D Animators working on Casper, and it took about three weeks to get our skills up to scratch and we were off and running.
“After Casper, I decided to have a change in my career path and began working on the storyboards. I worked on Fantastic Mr. Fox, a Wes Anderson film. I loved drawing and there was a lot more of it in this rolethan when I was working at ILM, which is what I loved.
“I’ve now turned my hand to children’s animations, I’ve done Fireman Sam, Captain Pugwash, The Little Engine That Could, and Katya and the Nutcracker to name a few. I am currently working on pre-school animation called Monster School.”
What reputation does BFS have?
“Everything they teach you is valuable, they teach you how to think. You should always ask yourself, ‘Why film this?’ and ‘What’s the point?’. It’s something that I’ve carried with me, and use in my day-to-day work. You need to work out what you want to tell your audience, and what the best way to do that is. BFS has a fantastic reputation, it’s a solid course and the seaside is a great attraction! There are a lot more jobs and opportunities in the film industry now than when I was graduating, especially with all of the VFX features films.”
COLIN’S ONE PIECE OF ADVICE
Never give up!
We’re running our Bournemouth Film School competition all week! Guess the quote in the sand for the chance to win some amazing prizes.
Quote from Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) © Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Inc / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures