Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Farewell to the Animate scheme

A few months ago I posted about the budget cut received by Arts Council England, and the possible effect it'd have on the redoubtable Animate scheme, which has been with us since 1991. Well, the word is out:

We are very sorry to announce that Animate is likely to close down at the end of March 2011, following Arts Council England’s decision not to fund our 2011 programme.

Animate began in 1990 as an Arts Council/Channel 4 scheme and has been supported by the Arts Council England continuously for 21 years.

We set up Animate Projects four years ago, following the sudden death of Dick Arnall. is a unique resource, with more than 140 films, many by key figures in British animation, including 11 British Animation Awards winners and five BAFTA nominations, as well as interviews, essays and background production materials.

We are very proud of the work that we have been able to support, and would like to thank all the animators, artists, filmmakers, writers, and partners that we’ve worked with over the years, and to everyone who has taken an interest in our work.

Our programme continues, with new works online, until March, and we hope to keep the website live for some time after that.

Whilst we are exploring options for beyond March, we would appreciate any expressions of support that might help.

Thoughts on the news can be found in the blog post's comments section. A sample:

Petra Freeman: I can't believe the Arts Council is axing all funding for Animate.This is an organisation that has worked tirelessly to support and promote animation. Animate succeeds in bringing out the very best from the artists they commission by their genuine enthusisam and belief in what they do. Animate was started by the wonderful Dick Arnall who knew what a vital contribution animation makes to the world art scene . The films made are shown worldwide and are always inspiring and challenging.


Clare Kitson: The Arts Council’s decision to stop funding Animate is the most perverse I have heard for some time.

World animation has now discovered ways of making money, and fortunes are being invested in new technologies and mass production and this is great. But somewhere along the way funding for the development and nurturing of innovation has got squeezed out – EXCEPT, until now, via Animate.

These days I am frequently asked to speak about how Channel 4 was for a certain period able to develop new animation talent and new approaches in form and content, and it has become more and more obvious to me how absolutely central Animate was to that project. For the extraordinary quality and variety of the work but also because it is an extremely low-budget scheme and therefore better able to weather economic buffetings than our more lavish individual direct commissions: it has thus had a longer life than any other animation initiative. I can also second Mario Cavalli’s comments on the Animate blog, attesting to ‘the broader economic benefits’ of the scheme, ‘stimulating commercial spin-off projects, job creation and exports.’ I have witnessed this at first-hand, as well as hearing the laments of professionals around the world as to the paucity nowadays of this kind of stimulus to creative inputs into commercial projects.

I can also, incidentally, testify to the high esteem in which the scheme is held all over the world. Of course its very many festival successes are also proof of this.

I gather that Channel 4, having suffered its own economic problems, was just gearing up to move back into this area, with Animate a key component of its animation activity. With Channel 4 on the brink of renewing its backing to this unique scheme it would be all the more tragic if the Arts Council were to walk away at this stage.

Samantha Moore: This is very sad news, and an awful, retrograde step for animation/experimental film funding in particular and our arts culture in general.

Experimental work will be deprived of a place of support, information and reflection if Animate is discarded.

Roz Mortimer: I'm writing this from the USA where my colleagues were literally dumbfounded to hear that the Arts Council would cease to support such a brilliant organisation.

Over the years animate has nurtured so many British experimental filmmakers, not just by funding new work, but also via their innovative distribution and excellent websites. and APEngine are invaluable resources for discussion and dissemination. A retrograde step indeed.

Max Hattler: I am deeply shocked. This is such sad news for art animation and experimental film worldwide. And it's another nail in the coffin of (once Great) Britain.

Pulling the funding only four years after Dick Arnall's passing is such an insult to his lifelong work of championing artistic animation. It is also a huge smack in the face for Gary Thomas, Jacqui Davies et al who did such a brilliant job at taking over from Dick, keeping his vision alive, and establishing the amazing, an indispensable resource and source of inspiration.

What's next? Soon there won't be much left to axe, nor anything to write home about, Britain.

Apichatpong Weerasethak: I am saddened to imagine that Animate Projects will cease to exist. It has been one of the most important organizations that contribute so much to the contemporary media culture. I have worked with its team for the past 3 years and can testify to their professionalism and devotion to cinema and art. Many of my peers in Thailand and abroad are great admirers of Animate Projects and look at it as a model for creativity and education. I wish I could convince the Arts Council of England to spare a moment to reconsider their decision. With its solid portfolio and staff, Animate Projects cannot be replicate easily in the future.

Barry Macey: A sad day for me and you guys at Animate Projects. I've enjoyed viewing the Animate films over the years and would like to extend a huge thank you to the late Dick Arnall, for it was he who championed innovation with such vigour and gave me my first job in animation to boot, probably because - all those years ago - we were wearing the same 'Take6' jacket!'

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