Form Play’s title sequence for The Art Department festival shows us the beauty of creative mistakes

Channelling the mystery and humour of The Pink Panther, the Brighton-based studio showcases the ebbs and flows of creativity.

2 May 2024


Form Play co-founders, Catharine Pitt and Mark Davis, came into contact with Playgrounds – The Art Department organisers – after its director Leon van Rooij asked the team to speak at its Eindhoven instalment of the festival. “And just two months later he asked us to do the title sequence,” Catharine tells us, “It was a dream brief because he gave us complete creative freedom”. The request was for a 90-second sequence that amplified the name of each speaker, but in terms of the content and approach, they were given full trust. “[Leon said: ‘make it your playground’, which was perfect, as play underpins everything we do,” she adds.

The Brighton-based animation studio has given the film, animation and games festival a title sequence that is ripe with anticipation. Speaker names glide across the screen like an ensemble cast; short vignettes of characters making mistakes, trialling ideas and thinking outside of the box appear. It’s the jolty, ebb and flowy creative process on full display, like a Murder She Wrote opening for design, because after all, the best creative inventions are often read like a comedic mystery.


Form Play: Playgrounds, The Art Department Titles (Copyright © Form Play Studio, 2024)

With play at the helm of the sequence, the studio thought this would be accentuated with a multi-narrative approach that weaved together multiple scenes exploring creativity. Being that The Art Department unites multiple disciplines and creatives under one banner, it’s a masterful way to represent the breadth of the festival while also harking on the unique creative processes. “Creators are pretty resilient; we try new things and push new ground, despite not always being in control of the outcome,” Catharine shares. As such, the title sequence is like a double entendre for the team. They go through the creative process of developing characters that will resonate with the creative process and spirit, in a process that sees them trialling their own ideas. “As character animators, it provided us with a great source of humour that is relatable and allows us to develop characters that the audience can feel empathy towards,” she adds, “[we wanted to emphasise that] events like TAD play a crucial role for creators – inspiring us with new possibilities and bringing together kindred spirits”.

The process of creating the sequence was the result of a shorthand, where things would have otherwise been complicated, but were made simple by the duo’s 25-year-plus working relationship. Like their other projects, the duo started with a conversation about the possible angles to approach the sequence from. “We ask: what do we want the viewer to feel?” After curating the many ideas that come to mind, and after a period of exploring the strongest ones, they start to map the animation through “rhythm and readability”, with Catharine stating that “we’ll know it’s a winner if we’re able to capture the essence of the story at this stage”. They then start developing the characters, environment and treatments in Photoshop or TVPaint Animation. “It allows us to strip everything back to the essential elements and only add details that serve the story or animation,” before going in with animations in refined pencil, developing the rhythm where all of the humour, mystery and personality starts to come through.


Nadia Ten Wolde: The Art Department Eindhoven (Copyright © Nadia Ten Wolde April 2024)

A huge part of the process for Form Play consists of using music as a guide. “We usually have a track on when we work, and BPM will determine our pace,” Catharine shares. This explains why the sequence has such a musicality to it, a fluidity that unites the narratives. There’s no stop and start, it all shapes together and makes what would have otherwise been disparate, – the colourways, the movements and the multiple narratives – consistent. And at the end, while shaping up the final piece, the duo use refined pencil as their guide to creating the core animation layer, before cutting the music in PremierePro so they can align it seamlessly with the scenes.

As for the challenges during the process, Catharine believes that they “all help to shape the direction”. The first being tasked with having to create a sequence that the audience wouldn’t tire of quickly – one that could play on loop and become a part of the background, while also being intriguing enough to watch and unpack multiple times. And the next was in balancing simplicity of each vignette with a world of detail. But working to these constraints has given Form Play something special; they’ve learned how to trust their gut. This trust has enabled them to create something that will stay in the minds of all of the festival’s attendees, encouraging them to believe in the process, and lean into the inevitable hurdles they’ll face along the way. “Throughout the process, you rework and manipulate ideas to such an extent, that it’s easy to polish away the initial spark. We rarely get to see the audience's reactions to our work, as most are published online, so it was lovely to see the honest reactions to each of the character scenarios.”

GalleryForm Play: Playgrounds, The Art Department Titles (Copyright © Form Play Studio, 2024)

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Form Play: Playgrounds, The Art Department Titles (Copyright © Form Play Studio, 2024)

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About the Author

Yaya Azariah Clarke

Yaya (they/them) joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in June 2023 and became a staff writer in November of the same year. With a particular interest in Black visual culture, they have previously written for publications such as WePresent, alongside work as a researcher and facilitator for Barbican and Dulwich Picture Gallery.

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