Thursday, 18 April 2013

Interview with Robert Morgan

With his heady mixtures of knockabout humour and outright nightmare, Robert Morgan is one of the most twisted animated filmmakers currently working in the UK - and probably the world. In this interview he discusses the background to his unique films.

LC: When did you first get into animation?

RM: I first got into animation at art college. I was painting and sculpting, but wanted to get into making films. I didn’t know how to go about writing a script or working with actors, so I decided to just start making my sculptures move around instead. That was basically how it started.

Bobby Yeah.

LC: Who are your main artistic influences?

RM: When I started out, I was mostly influenced by Francis Bacon, eighties horror films, Edgar Allan Poe, Jan Svankmajer, the Quay Brothers, David Lynch, David Cronenberg, Joel Peter Witkin, Hans Bellmer. Loads more. But I think as you get older, a lot of those influences fall away and you tend to be less influenced by other artists because your own work sort of develops a life of its own.

 The Cat with Hands.

LC: Animation is not generally associated with horror, but your films have a following amongst horror enthusiasts - for example, FilmThreat ran an article describing The Cat With Hands as "mandatory viewing for anyone who wants to write a horror movie", and I also mentioned you in my article on British horror animation. Would you describe your works as horror films?

RM: I don’t really describe them in that way, but then again I try not to describe them at all if I can help it! I think it depends on how you define horror. Most people think of horror as a very narrow genre – like people getting killed by men in masks or zombies taking over the world or whatever. But I think it’s a lot more subtle and far-reaching than that. I don’t actively set out to make horror films, I just make the films I want to make. But I don’t mind if people think they’re horror films.

Bobby Yeah.

LC: Childhood is a recurring theme in your films - Monsters is about a literal child, while others such as Bobby Yeah have characters who behave like children. Would you say that you draw on childhood for inspiration?
RM: Not consciously (except for Monsters). But I think children perceive the world in a more interesting way than adults, because it’s all still new to them and so everything is imbued with possibilities. A blanket can be many different things to a kid – it can be a tent, a landscape, the ocean, a monster, anything, but to an adult it’s just a blanket. That’s a pretty basic skill for a stop-motion animator to have – to be able to transform objects, so I probably do try to think of things a bit like a kid and maybe it just comes out in the films.

LC: Is there any contemporary animation that you admire?

RM: Occasionally... Let me think… um... nothing comes to mind right now but I’m sure there’s some. Actually, It’s not very contemporary but I really like Hen, His Wife by Igor Kovalyov. I don’t like most stop-motion that I watch, ironically.


LC: Do you have any current projects that you'd like to talk about?

RM: I’m in pre-production on a little three-minute film for Channel 4, called Invocation. It’s actually about an animator, who accidentally invokes a nasty, living doppelganger of the puppet he’s animating. Bad things ensue.

LC: Since you've worked in animation and live action, do you have any plans to branch out into other media?

RM: Well, I paint as well, which I'd like to do more of. I don't have a studio so I'm limited for space. I like music, too, but have never tried to make my own. Actually, that's a lie - I made a pop song with my wife once. My musician friend Mark and I want to make an album where we wear cowboy hats and drink whiskey and do music that makes drunks cry.

LC: Do you have any advice for aspiring animators?

RM: Don't know, really. Work hard? Eat your greens. Do it for love, not for money. Maybe a bit for money, but not too much. Be nice to people. Watch normal films, not just animation films, and older films too. Tune into your own channel and make what you love to watch. Persevere.

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