Welcome to the whimsical 3D, character-filled world of animator Harry Bhalerao
Even though he’s a fresh graduate, the refined animator has carved out an exciting position as part of the next generation of animators utilising 3D techniques on the scene.
It’s funny how the gifts we receive as kids can go onto inform hobbies, or even career choices. For Harry Bhalerao his love of animation began this way, first when he received a zoetrope as a present at around nine or ten. After trying out some frame-by-frame animation on the computer at the tender age, he realised stop motion wasn’t for him – “I still don’t have the patience to painstakingly draw every frame,” he jokes today.
Family members have seen a hidden animator in the young Harry (possibly through his love of cartoons as you’ll soon hear), and he was gifted an iPod touch for Christmas when he was 11. Playing around with an app soon after, he then began to “make loads of crappy stop-motion films using Lego people as my armatures,” he recalls. “I really enjoyed the immediacy of animation in straight ahead stop-mo.” This led Harry to realise 3D animation was the route for him, both in artistic expression and the fact it appeased his lack of patience as a young’un. “You can put your ideas down into motion in quick fashion (quick in animation terms is usually glacial to most normal people!)”
Harry went on to study illustration where he honed his character-filled animation style we’ve grown to love, teaching himself Blender during his free time at Arts University Bournemouth. “I was making something new daily, and then semi-daily for about a year,” he explains. “My style just sort of spawned out of that avalanche of trial and error.”
This style is one Harry describes as having a “strong emphasis on tactility, nostalgia and whimsy”. Each of these traits are then brought to life through personality of his characters; often round and squidgy in their 3D form with tiny eyes and wide smiles to evoke a heartwarming sense of cuteness for audiences tuning in (his graduate film brilliantly creates a narrative from the act of picking your nose, for example). It’s a style also driven by Harry’s passion for the illustration and animation community, who have now welcomed the creative with open arms. His graduate film has even been cherry picked by the revered festival Pictoplasma – an accolade the younger Harry, creating those Lego starring early animations on his iPod touch, can certainly be proud of.
“There’s a lot of childish humour with nose picking and bogies, but I think that connects with everyone, no matter their age.”Harry Bhalero
It’s Nice That: Your practice has a very specific style, particularly in the colour palettes you use and the characters you create. Tell us how it developed?
Harry Bhalero: I like to make instinctual choices in the moment about what would look cool, or something that I’d like to see out there in the world, drawing from a big ball of mushed up inspiration that lives in my head. I’ve been influenced a lot by current artists’ practices like Jack Sachs’ mastery of CG as a medium, Laurie Rowan’s approach to movement materiality, and colour, Patrick Kyle’s lines, form and composition, Anna Degnbol’s characters, colour, and texture, Molly Fairhurst’s use of line and the way she embraces the accidental, as well as Helena Covell’s control of shape and design.
I’m also really into The Muppet Show, and old stop-motion animated children’s TV shows like the Wombles, Cheburashka, and the Clangers. I try to bring a bit of that joy, charm, and craft into my own practice.
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Harry Bhalerao: Mallard (Copyright © Harry Bhalerao, 2021)
INT: Why did you decide to study at Bournemouth and how did you find your time there?
HB: Coming out of school I had really no idea what kind of art I wanted to do, or if it could even be a viable career (the whole starving artist stereotype was deeply ingrained). I chose Arts University Bournemouth (AUB) because I’d heard good things about it as a place to study, and I did a foundation year there which was a big help as I hadn’t even considered (or really heard of) illustration as an option. I enjoyed my time there, and I’m thankful to the great tutors for giving me the freedom to do my own thing – with some nudging in the right direction when I needed it.
INT: If you had to pick a favourite project, which one are you most proud of and why?
HB: It would have to be my final film, Love Nose No Bounds. It was incredibly gratifying to work on from start to finish, and has turned out better than I could have hoped for, in no small part due to the help and support from others in putting it together. Sometimes I look back on old work and cringe a little, but I think this is something I’ll be looking back on fondly in the future.
INT: We’d love to hear more about it! What is the idea behind the narrative of this film? It has a perfect ending!
HB: Thank you! Love Nose No Bounds is a short story of love and loss from the perspective of a tiny spider living in a mysterious cave.
I came up with the idea after fruitlessly wrestling with more complicated narratives for a long time; I just wrote in my notebook that I needed an idea that was simple and silly, and that’s what I came up with in an afternoon with some basic sketches outlining the whole story.
There’s a lot of childish humour with nose picking and bogies, but I think that connects with everyone, no matter their age. It’s a pretty tragic ending now that I think about it, but I like to imagine that our little friend finds a new companion very soon.
INT: Can you explain some of the animation techniques used to create it? Were there any hurdles you had to overcome?
HB: I only had about a month to model, rig, animate, and render it all in Blender, so I kept the environments and character designs as simple and easy to work with. The whole thing was animated on “twos” (at 12 frames per second), with a very low render sample count, which gave it a bit of a grainy stop-motion look, but also kept the time needed to render it out on my laptop down.
The biggest challenge I actually had was storyboarding and planning all the shots with an animatic beforehand. Once that was down, I actually quite enjoyed the animation phase. I also have to thank my sound designer and musician, Alexia Charoud for the amazing job she did in a quite short amount of time, the film wouldn’t be half as good without her soundtrack.
INT: Alongside your studies you completed an internship with Raman Djafari and Daniel Almagor. Can you tell us about this experience?
HB: I met Raman and Daniel at Pictoplasma Berlin in 2019. It was such an incredible opportunity and honour to be able to work with them in Hamburg. They taught me so much about the whole process of working on a brief, and developing an idea from start to finish. They are both wonderful and thoughtful creatives in their own right, and unstoppable as a partnership. I was also lucky to be able to work alongside their talented studio mates Charlie Spies and Inger Bierma, two of the best animators I’ve ever met. The whole team’s warmth, hospitality, and passion for their craft is boundless.
INT: How does it feel to have graduated and what are your plans for the future?
HB: The initial feeling was a kind of an emptiness if I’m honest, now the structure of full time education has gone for the first time in my memory. But I’m feeling optimistic about the future, and I think being signed as a director for Greenhouse Animation is a great opportunity for me as I take the step into working freelance full time. I can’t wait to get stuck into some more exciting projects!
Copyright © Harry Bhalerao, 2021
About the Author
Lucy joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In October 2016 she became a staff writer on the editorial team and in January 2019 was made It’s Nice That’s deputy editor. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about new and upcoming creative projects or editorial ideas for the site.