originally posted at https://canmom.tumblr.com/post/720505...

Good evening everyone!! I have completed my pilgrimage to Animation City. The last Annecy posts should be dropping tomorrow, all being well.

But! Tonight can be something of a preview!

The very last thing I did at Annecy was to drop into a collection for stop motion animator Barry JC Purves, who received a lifetime achievement award this festival. He totally wasn’t on my radar which is a huge oversight because he’s been making gay old short films for longer than I’ve been alive! l became a fan immediately lmao

As it happened, Barry Purves was there at the screening and afterwards took the time to chat with a small group of us, to give advice on animation, talk about his work, and generally be very encouraging. Here I am next to him holding the puppet Toddie from his film No Ordinary Joe (apologies for the shit picture quality, I didn’t realise how dirty my lens was)


And here’s the puppet up close:


So who is this guy, what’s his story? Well, the way he told it, he started out in acting, but felt there were a lot of talented actors around. Around that time he saw stop motion films, and started to think he could bring a lot more performance and emotion than people were doing at the time. This must have been around 1989, when he made his first film Next, a speedrun of the works of Shakespeare performed by a puppet of the Bard…

Theatre would be a recurring theme throughout just about all his personal works. Screen Play (1992) depicts a kabuki play…

while Rigoletto (1993) does opera.

I joined the screening just in time for the end of Rigoletto; the first one I got to see in full was Achilles (1995), which depicts the story of Achilles and Patroclus from the Iliad in the style of ancient Greek theatre.

I loved this one. The characters move in a fascinatingly theatrical way, holding extended poses, is a trademark of Purves, who disagrees with the doctrine of realism in animation and emphasises readability above all; the staging is excellent; there is a lot of gay sex. I have no idea how the puppets were made - they’re startlingly flexible for all the muscle detail. Barry said when I mentioned about it that he hadn’t set out to tell a ‘gay story’ as such, rather was mainly trying to be faithful to the original story. I admire a lot his confidence in getting this on TV when I was like 2, but he said people never gave him a lot of trouble for content, just funding…

Gilbert and Sullivan (1998) and Hamilton Mattress (2001) were not included in the session at Annecy. The first continues the biographical theme, the second is about showbiz. I hope I can track them down at some point!

Plume was the next one we saw, and this one was great, a wordless film in which a winged man falls to earth and finds himself confronted by weird little monster guys hungry for feathers. This one was really cool, but I can’t find it online.

Tchaikovsky – an Elegy presents a puppet of Tchaikovsky moving on a small set to a voiceover of various quotes from his letters over the course of his life and a medley of his music. Apparently they only had the budget for two minutes of orchestral music, the rest solo piano, but this limitation becomes a strength as those two minutes are deployed very effectively. I’ll admit, I don’t know a ton about Tchaikovsky, but the chosen quotes were affecting and intriguing, and there is incredible attention to detail in the animation - when Tchaikovsky plays piano in the air, the finger movements are apparently noticeably accurate to the music if you’re a piano player.

Speaking of pianos, someone asked about the puppet and apparently the puppet of Tchaikovsky now sits on his piano in the house where he composed… memory fails, one of his famous pieces, maybe Swan Lake.

The last film is about a historical figure who I knew nothing about, but completely intrigued. Joe Carstairs was… in modern terms somewhere in the zone between butch lesbian and trans guy, an aristocrat’s child who became a record setting motorboat racer in the 20s and also ruled a small island for a while (bc ig you could just do a colonialism back then if you were rich enough lmao). He (I’m gonna go with 'he’ pronouns) had a very specific eccentricity, going around everywhere with a doll called Lord Tod Wadley or Toddie, a gift from his girlfriend Ruth Baldwin. Apparently Carstairs regarded as his closest confidante and only person he could trust. So the film is presented as a dialogue between Carstairs (played by real human being Lindsay Duncan) and Toddy (stop motion animated and composited in), as they reminisce about their life together. It was a very cool way to learn about a fascinating historical figure - apparently the inspiration was the biography The Queen of Whale Cay by Kate Summerscale, which he encouraged me to read after the screening - I’ll write about it if I do!

And he’s not done. Apparently he’s been looking for funding for a feature length animated film that would be a murder mystery styled after the bird masks of the commedia del'arte. It sounds sick as hell and I would really love for it to get made.

Barry was incredibly fun to talk to, really encouraging to all of us and gave fascinating answers to every question. I really hope I can meet him again at the next Annecy and chat for longer. It honestly makes me really happy to know there was such a talented independent animator in the UK making such personally expressive, mature, and also gay as hell animated films before I was around. Hope I can follow in his footsteps one day.

Apologies for the late start today - I was trying to fly to join family in Portugal but my flight got cancelled at the last minute and I’m only just back from the airport, gonna have to do it all again tomorrow ><

but in the meantime, let me share a little taste of Annecy!!! Animation Night 161 will be beginning in about 15 minutes, 23:45 UK time, at twitch.tv/canmom, and I’ll start the films at midnight. Would love to see you there!!


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