Shaun the Sheep's India connect

Aug 21, 2015, 08:22 IST | Suprita Mitter

One of India's top animators, Dhimant Vyas recently had the character of a medical consultant, modelled after him, with his original voice in the animated film, 'Shaun The Sheep', currently running. He shares his many firsts in his eventful animation journey so far

Q. When did you start animation?
A. I was introduced to animation in 1986 while studying fine art in Vallabh Vidhya Nagar, Gujarat. It's when I created my first animated flipbook. After this, I continued to study animation and film design from National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad.

The character of a medical consultant, modelled after animator Dhimant Vyas, in the film 'Shaun The Sheep'

Q. Tell us about the work you did for 'Shaun The Sheep'-the TV series
A. Aardman Animation Ltd. UK created 'Shaun The Sheep' series and Shaun the Seep Movie. I was involved with the storyboarding first and moved to the animation. It is challenging to tell the story when there is no dialogue. We were animating six to eight seconds of animation approximately, daily. I animated various types of scenes for 'Shaun The Sheep' but most of the shots assigned to me were with Go Motion. It mainly is an extension of stop motion where the backgrounds and moving objects in the scene are shifted while frame is been shot with long exposure to get a blurry effect.

Dhimant Vyas works on an animation sequence for Shaun the Sheep —the series
Dhimant Vyas works on an animation sequence for 'Shaun The Sheep' —the series

Q. There is a character modelled after you in the movie. How did it come about?
A. Richard Starzak (Golly) was the director for the 'Shaun The Sheep' series. He knew that I was interested in working on his upcoming feature film. After few years, he messaged saying that he couldn't call because of a limited budget, but he said, you are in the film! It was a big surprise. He mailed me the initial character image too.

He wanted me to lend my voice for it too. They sent me an animated sequence and my friend, sound designer Rahul D'Silva, did the recording. An Indian character was included as a hospital consultant because our doctors are famous for their expertise globally.

Q. What are your upcoming projects?
A. I am working on the script of my short animation film. I love to paint. My paintings are in the collections of Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Nandita Das and others. After last year's successful painting exhibition at Jehangir Art Gallery, I am preparing for an upcoming painting showat India Art Festival, Nehru Centre. Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra has used my style in his upcoming film titled Mirziyaa.

About Claymation

Claymation (used partly in the 'Shaun the Sheep') is an extended version of animation. Usage of clay is extremely convenient in animation due to the flexibility of the product. It is available in many colours and it does not dry off. This medium can be used and reused. Claymation is a part of stop motion in which clay puppets are made placed in miniature sets with lots of lights. The motions are captured in the frames. We have to animate 25 frames for a one-second movie.

An animator should know the principles of classic animation and should be a keen observer. Timing is crucial. An animator is the hidden actor behind the clay characters.It is fun when you see lifeless characters, objects come alive. I specialised in this technique. I also do 2D, cutout, material animation, flash and all experimental animation. We have to find the best technique to tell our stories.I used clay animation in Aamir Khan’s Taare Zameen Par; it was the first time in Bollywood that this medium was used. We used this technique because the story needed a handmade textured, feel There is an organic feel to the medium, which is not achievable through regular computer-generated animation.

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