Thursday, 23 March 2017


Just released tonight - the latest Gorillaz music video!

I've had enormous fun animating on this the past few weeks, with a room full of great artists.

To watch it click HERE

To watch the 360 interactive version then CLICK HERE


Sunday, 22 January 2017

The Simpsons - rebooted post

Back in 2014 I wrote a blog piece about my involvement as animation director on the Sylvain Chomet-designed opening 'couch gag' for an episode of The Simpsons. Within 24 hours I was asked by the production company to remove the blog piece as they preferred to credit only the directors they represented, and not the hard working crews who toiled behind-the-scenes to bring these short films to life. Personally, I love the talents of the crews I work with, and many of these artists I've worked with again and again so that they've become a kind of 'family' to me - they're people I admire, and learn from, and who I completely trust to deliver great work when the pressure is on. Sadly the production company for this sequence recently went into liquidation, but that does mean now - finally - I can reinstate my post and once again celebrate the great work of this fantastic crew. Time for the back-room boys and girls to come back into the spotlight once again  :-)

Here's the original post:

Look kinda familiar?
Rough animation drawing of French-style Homer,
by Neil Boyle

Toward the end of 2013 Sylvain Chomet was approached to create a special one-off 'couch gag' for the opening titles of The Simpsons. To bring his ideas to life he turned to London-based production company 'th1ng', where he was then represented as a commercials director.

Once Sylvain had written a script and redesigned the Simpsons family in his distinctive style, our small crew in London set to work.

Model sheet by Sylvain Chomet

The shot was designed to work as a single, locked off master shot, with each of the characters having their own moment in the spotlight as the gag progressed. In a long shot like this I think the hardest thing to keep control of is clarity: figuring out what happens, to whom, and when. The 'blocking' of a shot should ensure that your eye is directed around the screen seemingly effortlessly, without everything descending into a confused muddle. Because the blocking needed to be so precise I decided against planning the sequence in static storyboard form and instead opted to draw up animatic drawings, full size onto 15 field paper, plotting the positioning and timing of each character on a line test machine.

Neil Boyle at work on the animatic

Getting everything roughly posed  and working harmoniously took me about a week and a half of sketching and shooting. But it was enormous fun. Figuring out the blocking is one of my favourite parts of the film making process - it's a strange combination of performance, psychology, geometry... and general plate spinning.

The animatic - plotting out out the action in pose form.

In the meantime Kirk Hendry set about creating the colour scheme for the Chomet-style Simpsons living room, as well as the overall lighting scheme: the lights going off, flickering back to life, and the ambient glow of the TV screen bathing the room in a bluish glow. He also created many moving shadow effects, and dozens of subtle optical effects to add extra texture to the shot.

Kirk Hendry, creating lighting and textural atmosphere... well as subtly different colour temperatures for the 'feel' of the shot.

When all this work was sent off to France and the USA for approval by Sylvain Chomet and the Simpsons producers, we got to work on the animation itself. Because we had 'fenceposts' for the timing and positioning of the characters already roughly blocked out in the animatic, it was easy to split the animation between myself and fellow animator Peter Dodd, knowing we wouldn't be obscuring or overlapping each other's work.

Peter Dodd, animating Bart and Lisa locked in combat.

As I've written in many posts here, the animatic system really helps keep things on course, while still allowing a great animator like Peter to improvise with his own creative touches.

Inside the mind of a great animator: Peter Dodd's amazingly labyrinthine workings-out look like a work of art unto themselves. But the end result looks effortless.

As each piece of rough animation was completed, the team of assistant animators leaped in, either doing touch-up and inbetween on the original roughs, or a full clean-up and inbetween, depending on what was required.

Assistant animator Justine Waldie

An emaciated Santa's Little Helper - my favourite part to animate.
Animator Neil Boyle, assistant animator Justine Waldie

Assistant animator Aude Carpentier

Assistant animator Aude Carpentier assisting Peter Dodd's animation of the
goose, escaping its fois gras destiny.

It turned out we created quite a mountain of paperwork: sixty seconds worth of animation, featuring seven characters (including the snail on the TV!) all of which were scanned and painted by Donna Spencer, before being seamlessly composited and lit by Kirk.

Assistant animator Alan Henry

Assistant animator Angeline De Silva

Kirk Hendry at work compositing: at this stage only Homer, Santa's Little Helper, the goose and the foreground snail are in colour and in place.

Gerry Gallego simultaneously assisting and growing a magnificent moustache
for charity.

Assistant animator Jay Wren

Assistant animator Katerina Kremasioti

Danny Atkinson adding the final grading touches at 'th1ng'.

A really lovely job to work on - it's rare you get to create a short piece of commercial animation that is not selling something, but is produced just for its own entertainment value. 

Snail for TV dinner! 

A fantastic treat, and a wonderfully talented crew to work with. Fingers crossed another unexpected treat won't be too far away...

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Made Up

We're thrilled to have our new live-action short film 'Made Up' as part of the Lakeshorts 2016 International Film Festival.

This (very short) short is all about the mysteries of how women learn the art of applying make-up on moving trains - a subject that has both perplexed and entertained me over thirty years of commuting through the packed London Underground transport system!

We're honoured to be one of only 8 films selected from over 900 entrants, screening at the Gala Selection, on May 7th.  

For information on ticket sales, or to check us out on the 2016 Sizzle Reel, click HERE. 

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

The Future Has Arrived

Happy Back To The Future 2 day everyone!

Having been lost in time myself (I haven't blogged here for nearly 6 months) I can't resist adding my own little piece to the worldwide celebrations.

The first Back To the Future film is, as far as I'm concerned, the greatest narrative screenplay ever written. Beautifully structured, superbly paced, and with flawless internal logic. And most importantly, it's just damn good fun.

When I got my big break to work on the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit I was excited to get to meet director Robert Zemeckis and watch how he works. And having heard (this is back in 1987) that he was going to direct two sequels to Back To The Future as soon as he'd wrapped Roger Rabbit, I couldn't resist being an annoying little nerd and cornering him at a Christmas party to try and prise out some information about the upcoming movies...

"Well," he said, "the first one's set thirty years in the future, and the next one's set way in the past - it's gonna be a western."

An enigmatic smile. A long silence. "And that's all I'm gonna tell you."

And despite a bit more prodding, he wouldn't budge. Like everyone else I had to join the cinema queue 18 months later and find out for myself.

But these three films remain my favourite trilogy ever. Had Bob Zemeckis been born Jean-Luc Zemeckis, and had Back To The Future 2 been subtitled, critics would have raved about how it plays with Cinematic Point Of View And Self Referential Reflexivity - or somesuch - but being a 'commercial' film this was pretty much overlooked. Whatever. They made a load of money, and spread a lot of joy, and people are still celebrating today.

So, if you're a fan, have a great day. The Future has arrived. (Sadly, minus the flying cars.)

Robert Zemeckis directing Michael J Fox on Back to the Future 2


Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Big Screen Adaptation of Kensuke's Kingdom

It's an exciting day, as finally I can reveal some concept art from the forthcoming animated feature production of Kensuke's Kingdom - an action adventure film based on the much-loved and best-selling book by Michael Morpurgo (War Horse).

The project was brought to me and fellow director Kirk Hendry by producers Sarah Radclyffe, Barnaby Spurrier and Anna Webster, and it's a story we immediately fell in love with. It's a perfect mix of action, adventure, high emotion, and fun, set in a dazzling - and sometimes deadly -tropical paradise.

As the producers work hard to raise the financing for this project, Kirk and I have developed concept paintings working with the multi-Oscar-winning production company Framestore. These images are now exclusively up at Cartoon Brew


Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Stromae's Carmen

Over the past few months I've had the pleasure of animating on a new music video for megastar Stromae, directed by Sylvain Chomet, and produced by production company th1ng in London.

It's just been released today onto Buzzfeed and you can watch it by clicking HERE!


Sunday, 8 February 2015


Artwork from The Last Belle - black lines photocopied from ink drawings onto
cel, with hand-inked shirt pattern, and cel paint on the reverse.

Long time - No blogging...

The usual excuses apply: I'm in the middle of drawing a fun, but time consuming job. But the interesting thing about this project is that it could prove to be (possibly?...probably?...) the final traditional pencil-on-paper job I ever get paid to do. The Cintiq, and software like TVPaint, are spreading through the 2D animation world at a rapid pace, and almost all the London animation production companies are now operating paperless.

Of course I'll always have pencils, pens and a stack of paper at home for my personal work - old habits die hard, and I can't think of a more immediate way to connect my imagination to the outside world. But in the working environment the noise of a room full of flapping sheets of paper is being replaced by the low hum of computer fans, and the sound of scratching, swishing pencils is being supplanted by the silence of nylon nib sliding over glass. Only the muttering, sighing, and outright swearing as you try to get your drawing just right remain the same as they always were.

One of the upsides of non-digital work is that you're left with actual, tangible pieces of artwork you can hold in your hand, or stick up on your wall. Over the years I've collected (or rescued from the bin) bits and pieces from various films and commercials (and due to my connections with the Richard Williams Studio, many are from there). Looking at them up close can give you a real insight into the craftspeople who produced them, and how they worked.

So with that in mind, here's a gallery dedicated to an almost lost way of working...

An original cel from a Harlem Globetrotters commercial animated by Richard Williams
and (I think) Tom Roth. Soft waxy pencil on frosted cel, cel paint on the back.

Here's a close up of that head. Bear in mind that this commercial
was mostly animated on ones, so 25 of these 'drawn-paintings' would have
to be produced per second of screen time! 

To see the final commercial (unfortunately very low-res) Press Here!

Another insane amount of work, this time for a commercial animated by Richard
Williams and Simon Wells. The style had to mimic the work of famous
newspaper cartoonist 'Kal'.
Here's a close up of all that cross-hatching. You can almost smell the late nights
spent at the studio producing this commercial!
 Here is the final commercial, once again in appalling ultra-low-res, but better than nothing...
Artwork painted (in guache?) directly onto cel by Richard Williams. I love how
delicate the brushwork is - this really can stand up to being framed and mounted
on the wall!

You'll find this piece of artwork about 47 seconds into these Titles.


Wax and soft coloured pencils on frosted cel, cel paint on reverse. This commercial
(for breath freshener!) was animated by Russell Hall, assisted by Bella Bremner.
Up close, I love the different textures here: sketchy, but controlled, linework;
rendered light and shade; hot and smelly looking smoke, shaded and smudged.  
Here's the final commercial, which I remember being a big success with audiences at the time. 
Personally I'm excited to see where the new technologies will take us. Taking the best of the old, and mixing it up with the best of the new, should open up all sorts of fresh avenues. But I love to have these little fragments of artwork around me. Etched into their surfaces, trapped for all time, are the brushstrokes, penstrokes, and sheer skill of the amazing artists who created them. 
I'll have more goodies from the archive in the next post. Stay tuned...