Learning is magic for local animator

IN THE FRAME Neil working on ‘The Great Handini’

Crowborough film-maker uses skills from Aardman course for award-winning short


IT’S NEVER too late to try something new or add a different skill set to your career or interest, according to a Crowborough-based animator, whose 39-second film ‘The Great Handini’ has just finished a run of festivals and picked up three awards.

Neil Whitman graduated in animation and film in 2001, before pursuing a career in TV graphics production for the likes of Sky Sports and BBC South East. Neil came back to animation as a freelancer years later.

Initially he produced corporate animations and work for artists whose works predated music video – the likes of Nat King Cole and The Supremes. But in 2021, he took the plunge properly, graduating in the first cohort of the Aardman Academy’s 12-week stop-motion animation course in 2021. The Aardman Academy is run by Aardman Animations, creators of Wallace and Gromit.

“I hadn’t done anything like stop-motion animation for 20 years,” he told the Times.

Neil created ‘The Great Handini’ from script to screen during the Aardman course, and it has now finished doing the rounds of festivals, winning awards in three, most recently the Covent Garden Film Festival.

The 39-second film uses an ingenious visual trick to portray a magician reaching into his hat to pull out a mini-magician – just as a big hand reaches into the scene to pull him out of the hat.

Working in a blacked-out garage studio at home, Neil works alone but is happy to offer encouragement to aspiring animators.

“Many animators start in garages or sheds. Famously, [children’s animated classic] ‘Bagpuss’ was filmed in a barn near Canterbury,” he said.

“You’re never too old to learn new tricks, especially in a [highly technical] industry like this. When I was doing this at college 20 years ago, we used wind-up cameras!”

For more information about Neil and his work, visit: neilwhitman.co.uk

Share this article

Recommended articles


Please enter a search term below.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter