Thing One

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At just eight months old, animation company Thing One (spelled by the company as Th1ng), is a precocious new addition to the London production scene. Managing director Dominic Buttimore, whose 20 years in animation production includes running Picasso Pictures, and most recently heading up CGI at Moving Picture Company, has compiled a list of diverse, innovative and provocative directors whose talent has translated to the commercials world with work on spots for clients such as Coca-Cola and Virgin Travel.

The directors' work ranges from manipulation of live action to CG and pure 2-D animation, though many use a hybrid of media. "We don't consider ourselves purists," says Buttimore, who produces along with former M&C Saatchi art buyer Sedonie Adams-Grant. "It's hard to tie down animation now. I think of it as moving images that are put together and affected. If you shoot live action and it's not affected, that's live action. If you put animated characters in, or even tint the background, it's animation." Nearly all of Thing One's directors combine media or use live action in some form, and Buttimore classifies them into three categories: young, new directors fresh out of college; more-traditional animators; and design animators. "You have got to find a really talented gang, and that happens in different ways," says Buttimore. "It's a very small community here, and everyone knows each other. Having said that, I go to the college shows to see what new young talent is out there as well."

Gemma Carrington and Grigoris Leontiades are two young directors who represent Thing One's new talent. Carrington's work has been used in introductory titles for Carlton TV, and Leontiades has directed spots for shaving product Babyliss, via BDS Beechwood, and Virgin Travel, via HHM. Both are graduates of England's National Film and Television School's animation department, and their shorts have done well on the festival circuit.

Commercials alums Tom Gravestock, Russell Appleford and directing team Arthur Cox, composed of former Picasso animators Sarah Cox and Sally Arthur, form the ranks of Thing One's more traditional and established animators. Appleford's CG Coke bottles represent some of Thing One's earliest work, while Arthur Cox's animated spots for Coca-Cola represent the hybrid approach. By far, the company's most "traditional" director is 2-D animator Sylvain Chomet, director of the Oscar-nominated feature The Triplets of Belleville.

Finally, there are the design animators, such as the directing duo MVOR (short for My Version of Reality), who takes cues from architecture in their CG work, and title designer and animator Alon Ziv, whose spot for Emirates Airlines is currently in production.

Lars Magnus Holmgren, aka Dr. Frankenskippy, is a director who is not easily classifiable. Well known on the London art scene-his animated work has appeared in the Tate Gallery, and a collaboration with artist Liam Gillick earned a coveted Turner prize nomination-Frankenskippy's work merges live action with CG effects and animated elements to create bizarre creatures such as reptilian women (as seen in Primal Scream's "Miss Lucifer" video) and raw, headless, helicopter-propelled chickens.

Producing work for Coca-Cola and Dasani via London independent VCCP, the shop's national debut was literally huge, appearing on Coke's LED screen in London's Piccadilly Circus in September. Measuring 100 feet wide by 25 feet tall, Buttimore calls the spots "our coolest bits of work." Appleford's Coke bottles ride on the London Underground in one 30-second spot, and on double-decker buses in another (tourist buses are identified by passengers' foreign-language labels). In a spot directed by Arthur Cox, vintage Coke print ads move and interact. For Dasani, Appleford animated a hybrid spot in which the streets of London are flooded with bottled water.

For now, the company's work has been entirely British, but Buttimore looks forward to possible American partnerships. "When U.S. clients and agencies decide to work with London, it's usually an interesting product," he says. "By the time it comes to us, the more ordinary stuff has been handled at home."

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