Ah, the self-initiated brief. We all remember this, the term in university when you’re finally left to your own devices to create something that’s truly you. But, maybe, the course you’ve chosen led you down a path where the creative disciplines that are piquing your interest are on the periphery of the subject that your degree is titled. This was the case for Ieuan Lewis and George Warren, two graphic design students at Kingston University who’ve created Uki, a short animation that’s received a nod from the BBC and the BFI, and is giving Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs a run for its money.
Uki, which was created using BFI funding as part of its Animation 2018 scheme, is a stop-motion animated short telling the tale of a “lonely Inuit who struggles to survive after an oil tanker leaks off the coast of Alaska, killing all the wildlife in the area,” Ieuan and George tell It’s Nice That. “It’s a dark comedy about companionship, loneliness and pollution.”
With no spoken word throughout the five-minute animation, the atmosphere is created by the bleak set George and Ieuan have created, and the brilliantly eerie, emotional, building sound design by Tom Angell. Through the expression of its character design too, viewers are able to spot the worry on the Inuit’s face as he struggles to find food and his temptation to tuck into his only companion – a sweet wide-eyed dog – in order to survive grows.
The pair’s graphic design background in no way hinders the animation skill and particular dedication it takes to create a stop-motion, a feeling they hoped would be communicated considering the fact that they didn’t want their degree to “restrict them to just working on what might be deemed as traditional graphic design”. In order to actually complete it however the pair did have to move in with George’s family home, “producing the film in George’s garage and Ieuan slept in a tent in the family’s garden for two months.”
George and Ieuan also had a handy mentorship of sorts through BAFTA award-winning animators The Brothers McLeod, who Ieuan interned with. The second half of the animation duo, Greg McLeod was also actually the one to point the pair in the direction of BFI and BBC who “were looking to commission short films as part of their Animation 2018 initiative,” Ieuan tells us. “The timing was perfect for us as we had been sitting on an idea and developing a story, and being a part of this scheme has really solidified what we were doing.”
Uki is available to watch both via the BFI and on BBC iPlayer and an in-depth look at the film and its process is available to read on our sister site, Lecture in Progress.
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) is the senior editor at Insights, a research-driven department with It's Nice That. Get in contact with her for potential Insights collaborations or to discuss Insights' fortnightly column, POV. Lucy has been a part of the team at It's Nice That since 2016, first joining as a staff writer after graduating from Chelsea College of Art with a degree in Graphic Design Communication.