25/10/22 • News & Happenings

The Lightbulb Moment

With Colm Dowling

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Colm Dowling speaking at Kilkenny Animated 2022. Photo by Allen Kiely.

At Lighthouse Studios, we never fail to be inspired by our fellow artists. We love finding out when it first hit them that they wanted to work in animation, and what it was that inspired that moment.

At times, we are lucky enough to witness first-hand the evolution of our artists, some of whom join us straight out of college and grow with us over the years. Our latest Lightbulb Moment blog features an artist who has done just that.

Colm Dowling joined us back in 2018 as a trainee in our builds and rigging department. A recent BA Hons graduate from BCFE’s Animation Studies programme, Colm was placed at Lighthouse through the Animation Skillnet Graduate Traineeship. Over the next four years, Colm advanced through junior roles right up to his current position as a senior compositing artist.

Colm recently spoke with the National Talent Academy for Animation at Kilkenny Animated about his experience adapting to studio life straight after college. Today, we’re rolling back the years some more, to a time when Colm first fell in love with animation.

Tell us about your Lightbulb Moment Colm!

I have several core memories that still fuel my love for animation to this day. The earliest moment that I can remember falling in love with the form is probably the first time I watched The Snowman, the animated classic from 1982 of the 1978 Raymond Briggs book, with its beautiful, painterly animation and an unforgettable soundtrack by Howard Blake.

The Snowman drew hugely on the original source material, right down to the fact of it containing no dialogue. It differs somewhat from the original book, however, in that it is set at Christmas time, while the book makes no mention of Christmas. I must have only been about three or four when I first watched it and that was it – I instantly fell in love with animation.

Walt Disney’s The Jungle Book

What was to follow for me was a life spent obsessed with classic animated movies, such as the 1965 Walt Disney film, The Jungle Book, another favourite of mine to this day. For those who don’t know much about The Jungle Book, it was the last full movie that Walt Disney himself worked on, and he actually died before its release. Some people like to think that the final scene of the movie, with Baloo and Bagheera dancing off arm in arm, signifies Walt’s final scene of his life.

Walt Disney was first and foremost a storyteller, and there was so much heart and joy in his version of The Jungle Book, which was actually adapted from quite a dark source material (Rudyard Kipling’s book of the same name, from 1894). Disney didn’t want the original story to overly dictate how the animated feature should be told. It did, however, inspire the design and illustration, and in having such a large cast of animals, the animators were really able to play around with the sizes and shapes of the designs.

As well as the classic movies, I was really into my TV shows, like The Simpsons, The Rugrats, Kim Possible, House of Mouse, Looney and so much more. Come to think of it, there were very few western animated shows in the 90’s and noughties that I hadn’t watched or tried to find while growing up. The more I watched, the more I noticed how they all influenced each other’s art styles and stories, which led to me later learning more about the artists and animators who worked on them. From a young age, I saw the care and energy put into these films and shows, from the unique character designs and the character driven stories to the beautiful backgrounds and the detailed animation.

The designs and styles of both The Snowman and The Jungle Book really bring the illustrations in each of the books to life through the medium of animation. To me, this shows the love of the original stories and their artistry, as well as a brilliant mastery of the animation process. Both films had a huge influence on me and on my work. They allowed a young artist such as myself to feel free to explore the loose sketch style of an illustration and showed me that the drawings we grow up with can be brought to life without losing the energy or imagination that inspired them.

Some brilliant material to read about this energetic style is The Art of Glen Keane, which explains detail, line of action, and anatomy, all while keeping energy in the movement.

Thanks for telling us the story of your Lightbulb Moment, Colm!

Stay tooned for even more Lightbulb Moments!

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