Back when animator Peter Millard was a child he visited Bennet’s Farm in Worcestershire, which features a go kart track “and loads of animals”. Among these animals was Ben, “a huge pig who I was obsessed with so I kept drawing him.” And, ever since, Peter felt “awful every time I thought about animals wandering around doing their thing,” he says. “Especially pigs.”
This feeling lingered until very recently when Peter stopped being a vegetarian and “started eating all meats under the sun… Fast forward to me now and I’m storming down bacon, sausages, pork pies, etc,” he admits honestly. “That could be Ben. I’m a terrible person.” And so, “I wanted to make a film based on my guilt.”
The result is This is Pig Meat, a short which sees Peter returning to his signature style of hand painted stop motion animation. “If anything I’ve rewound and made it in the way I was making films when I started,” he explains. Taking a step back to this original style, as seen in the animator’s graduating work from the Royal College of Art such as Six God Alphabet Peter, came after the animator decided to move to Canada: “London was becoming quite tough for me,” he says, “and so my girlfriend at the time and I decided to move to Montreal, as it was the last time I could get the holiday working visa before I hit 30.”
In Montreal Peter spent time working on projects which brought joy back into his animation work, making one “big, longer film to remind myself why I love drawing, animating and painting.” The only new element in This is Pig Meat is Peter’s use of sound effects, with the animator limiting himself to using only pig sounds (snorts and snuffles) within it. “Often, the bigger films I have done the sounds for are big melting pots of stuff which is always fun, but I wanted this to be quite visceral and piggy sounding.” With the colour palette Peter placed limits on himself too, working only with shades of pink and resisting his “temptation to use every colour of the rainbow barging into a film”.
Although This is Pig Meat could be read as a short relating to the feelings of guilt that comes from meat consumption, when we ask Peter what he hopes viewers take away from the film he admits it’s “really difficult to answer”. During his career so far – and this is one of the reasons we truly love Peter – his work has always been for himself. This is no mean feat in animation, a creative discipline which takes frustratingly long amounts of time (particularly for someone working with hand painted frames), but Peter has always stuck true to himself. Over the years this had led the animator to be pretty surprised by the effect his films have on audiences, as lots of people contact him with “sometimes pure hatred and anger, but more often, nice things.”
Consequently Peter hopes that, without preaching in anyway with This is Pig Meat, meat eaters will maybe consider their consumption a little more seriously. While keen to admit, “I’d be a hypocrite to preach about this,” considering his step back from vegetarianism, since making the film it has made the animator think about the processes that go into his breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Now living in London again and back in love with his animation work, Peter hopes that other than the concept behind This is Pig Meat, people get a feeling of “’that guy had fun making this’ as it’s something that I had stopped doing for a bit, and is something maybe other animators, filmmakers, painters or poets forget sometimes,” he tells us. “Having fun making things is a really good thing, and I can only speak for myself, but it is what gets me up every morning.”
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