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Report – Page to Screen: Making the Jump, and Back Again

Posted on: Friday 17 March 2017 4:56pm by Simon Bor

Greg Childs introduced a special guest, illustrator and writer, Nick Butterworth, to talk on the process of translating published work to screen… and back to print again.

Takeaways

  • It’s about characters and the relationships between them.
  • Voice actors are vital – his included Joanna Page (Gavin and Stacey) as a Welsh alien.
  • Is animation beastly?

‘From Page to screen…’ the PowerPoint slide read at the beginning of the talk. Based on one of his books, Nick’s project ‘QPootle5’ is about a little alien, who, not just content to come to Earth, has come from page to screen on CBeebies.

First, Nick gave us an outline of his career to date, from his undistinguished schooling, his first jobs as a compositor at a print company and his rise to what was then called, a commercial artist. He became a freelance designer in his early twenties and worked with, amongst others, Mick Inkpen. It was Mick and his wife who introduced him to the world of children’s books, coinciding with the arrival of Nick’s children, Ben & Amanda. The result was a career in publishing that has, so far, led to over seventy books either written or illustrated by Nick.

One school visit, in Notting Hill, left a lasting memory for Nick. A young boy enjoyed his readings so much that he asked if he could take him home with him. A PowerPoint slide showed us world famous English screen actor who turned out to be the boy’s father. Nick’s wife, Annette, was keen that they should take up the invitation if it ever arrived.

“Friendship is extremely important to me.” He married Annette in 1975. Nick has tended to write about groups of characters and the relationships between them. Books, such as ‘Percy the Park Keeper’, which was also made into a TV series, were given as an example, as well as Rolf the Lion from the book ‘Thud’, Humphrey the crocodile with toothache and Old Ginger Tom. He is always inventing new characters, Mr Basset, a dog, was shown on the screen: “It’s not in a book… yet.”

Nick took us through the making of ‘QPootle5’. It was first published as a book in 2000, and quite a lot of interest was shown by TV producers. It all came to nothing until his son, Ben, asked if he could help pitch it himself. The family formed a company, Snapper Productions, with the express purpose of producing the series.

After ‘Percy the Park Keeper’ was adapted for TV, an eminent publisher asked Nick if animation was ‘beastly’. Nick believes she was talking about compromises that have to be made, and that working with the right people for a project is the key. With this in mind, Snapper chose Blue Zoo as their animation partners.

Nick has enjoyed being part of every stage in production, from writing, he and Ben wrote some of the 52 scripts, to sketching the designs of characters, props and backgrounds, which were then translated into CGI by the team at Blue Zoo. He particularly enjoyed attending the voice recordings, the voice actors included Joanna Page (Gavin and Stacey) as a Welsh alien, and the sound mixing stages.

‘… and back again’ the PowerPoint slide now read. ‘QPootle5’ started as a book and became a series shown in ninety-five countries. Now it’s a series of new books using the designs as they are on TV. “They are more than a TV tie in,” the format is based on Nick’s style of layout, including making the first letter of every page decorative; an alphabet was made up based on the space backgrounds used in the series.

Nick is appreciative of the talent he has been surrounded with. “The credit on ‘QPootle5’ says created by Nick Butterworth… but so many people were involved.”

CMC Rights Exchange @LBF 2017 Blog

Simon Bor

About the author

Simon Bor

Writer

I studied Animation at Farnham, and, more recently, I have been awarded an MA in Professional Writing at Falmouth University. I set up Honeycomb Animation with Sara Bor and have been involved in children’s television since the mid eighties. As a writer, I have co written and created several shows… Read more

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