The next in our installments of interviews comes from a long-standing Fred & Eric friend and collaborator, Lee Cooper.
Lee specialises in character illustration and animation, and loves to inject his work with quirky humour.
Favourite animation projects include an energetic dog for Direct Gov and a range of eco-minded 3D characters for WWF’s Green Ambassador’s Scheme. Lee’s dream job would be to create a film that promoted healthy eating for kids - all with the aid of a dancing troupe of veggies. Well, that or anything to do with Hulk Hogan.
Lee also teamed up with Maggie (F&E’s Creative Director) in Fred & Eric’s recent cross-studio animation collaboration project for Cut&Paste’s London’s Hero Animation.
How long have you been working as an animator?
Hello! I’ve been working as an animator for almost 9 years. Next question, please.
What do you think differentiates a good character animator from an amazing one?
I think an amazing character animator is someone who is interested in body language. An amazing character animator studies the way people move their hands when they describe something they love and notices the facial expressions people make when they’re listening to something they don’t agree with.
They pay attention to the way someone struts widely up the street with confident and extrovert strides or creeps down the road with an introverted, hunched posture. They usually work for Pixar and a lot of them have beards. A good character animator will fulfill a brief, but an amazing character animator will produce a bit of work that you really remember by making it emotionally engaging, drawing on the things they have noted from being alive.
How important is humour in your work?
Humans seem to like funny things. All the most popular animations are made with characters that are a bit fun, so I’d say humour is important, unless you’re working on an internal corporate film for a global electricity provider, then there is usually no laughter, only charts and graphs.
What are the two biggest milestones in your career?
Working on DirectGov adverts back in the day, I thought it was really cool ‘cos I won the pitch and handled the whole job and it was all over the telly which was really fun to see. But then I found out that doing something that goes on telly is unlimately meaningless 'cos it doesn’t really matter that people see my name as a credit on something at all, especially when they don’t know me or don’t particularly care about an advert that creates awarness of the government. Nowadays I take more pride in the WWF job I did with Fred and Eric because it’s a step towards creating something a bit positive. So now I can be happy, not with the fact that my name is credited for something, but because some vulnerable and suseptable child might watch it and think, “Oh, I might nosh on an apple instead of a sweaty looking burger”.
If you could have been part of one project, which would it be?
I loved the Aardman plasticene style and thought the “eat right and exercise” stuff they did was exceptional. I would love to be involved in something like that.
Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly looking forward to?
Yeah, loads. But I can’t say.
Mainly because I’m lying and I have no upcoming projects. Do you have anything?
What shift can you envisage happening in the animation industry in the coming years?
Hopefully, the actual logistics of creating an animation will become easier! If software keeps evolving the way it is, I see the process becoming more accessible. Besides pro wrestling, animation is the best type of art and expression, and I think it would be brilliant if stupid people like me didn’t have to try so hard to get into it. I’d like to see pre-built models and rigs that people could just mix and match up and get going straight away with a really easy, free to use interface. Kids and grannies could animate, which would be awesome.
Do you have any single piece of advice that helps you stay motivated?
I take drugs to stay motivated. My drug is love. Love for others. Love for others is my fucking drug. Next question.
Do you ever model your characters around people that you know (and if you have can you tell us who)?
I’d love to say I do, but I don’t model my characters on anyone that I know. Except for some of my podgier, annoying characters that I based on the Fred and Eric girls. Seriously, that’s not a joke. I really did.
Who/what would you most like to create a character for?
I’d love to animate some-one famous who inspires me, like Russel Brand, Derren Brown or…..Hulk Hogan. That’d be fun. But mainly anything directed towards kids is always great, especially when it’s part of a team. So get in touch with me, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and my day rate is absolutely extortionate.
See more of Lee’s work here -