Dave Brain is a visual effects artist, one half of ‘Guksack‘ and son of the late stop motion animator, Terry Brain. As part of our Bristol Festival of Puppetry’s tribute to his father’s career and creations, we premiered two episodes from the brand new series Weirdy Ryhmes created by Terry Brain and produced posthumously by Dave and animator Michael Percival. Weirdy Ryhmes has since launched on Aardman’s new YouTube channel, AardBoiled this October. We caught up with Dave to find out more about the series and how it was created and produced.
Weirdy Rhymes was a programme idea of your late father, Terry Brain, who was an accomplished stop motion animator, writer and director. How did the idea come about?
Originally Weirdy Rhymes was to be a book. Back in the early 90s, fresh off of writing the Stoppit and Tidyup Annual (with Steve Box) he was asked if he had any more ideas. He’d been creating his own version of classic rhymes for years so must have followed from that. It was originally called Hungry Dumpty and was to be a parody nursery rhyme book.
As time went on it was developed further. By the late 1990s they’d created a pilot for a prospective children’s TV show called The House that Fnord Built. It was a gorgeous 2D animation and – if memory serves me rightly – the music was done by the same guy who did the Postman Pat theme.
Eventually it became Weirdy Rhymes and the same episode has been reshot in stop motion with new music. Keep an eye out for The Slimey Sniffin’ Snork, that’s the one that’s been made twice! I will dig out the original one day. We arrive at a version for the modern generation, short and surreal YouTube videos! But his surreal humour remains. I like the way one episode is a beautiful piece of work and the next is about a creature whose arse keeps falling off. Sums up my Dad’s mind.
You decided to carry on with the production of Weirdy Rhymes and teamed up with the animator Michael Percival to continue this work. Can you tell us about this?
It was Michael Percival (who we call Percy) who convinced my Dad he could make Weirdy Rhymes. Technology had gotten to a point where you could make this kind of stuff at home. And while TV did pop up as a format, there is a creative freedom and potential international audience that spurred things on after nearly three decades.
Even though I’ve worked in a similar field (as a Visual Effects artist), we had never worked together. With Weirdy we finally had a chance to work together. When Dad became ill and we became brave enough to talk about the future, he gave us a brief list of people he’d like to continue the work if there was an option to. Once Dad passed (quite quickly and unexpectedly in the end, so there was no plan in place) it seemed like a no brainer to get them done.
We turned on his home studio to find that he’d filmed ten episodes. It was up to us to make sense of his various bits of animation and much like a jigsaw with no reference picture, we have spent the year trying to put them together. I think we presumed it would take a couple of months but here we are nearly two years later. I’m actually writing this in the middle of a deadline to get the next one done! Even though they are in mid release we are still very much working on them day and night. Percy has been great in getting these pieces together and Andy, who does the music, has been great at making wonderful soundtracks to bits of animation that were animated to my Dad tapping on a table as a beat. I have been trying to get the last bits of post-production together, the easy bit really.
Aardman have been great. Dad’s work home for much of the last two decades, they have been trying to get a YouTube channel off the ground for some years now. It was something Dad talked with them about so we knew he’d be happy to be a part of it. And once we talked with them, it was again a no brainer.
The first episodes of Weirdy Rhymes have just been screened on Aardman’s new YouTube channel, AardBolied. How does it feel to see the finished work and when will further episodes be released?
There are now four episodes online. It’s been absolutely amazing to get them out finally and I am over the moon that Dad got a last opportunity to make something of his own (after a long time of working on other peoples projects, which was great, but we knew he had more ideas in him.) I’m just gutted that he hasn’t been able to see any of it.
We are nearly half way through the run, which are being staggered out every couple of weeks. Dad had a 30 episode plan and if there’s call for it, we have enough notes to go on to complete the rest. But we will see. For now we will focus on the ones that Dad animated himself.