Dolly Said No to Elvis: An Interview with Heather Colbert

‘Dolly Said No to Elvis’ by Mark Nevin is the true story of Dolly Parton refusing to part with her song ‘I will always love you’ when Colonel Tom Parker wanted to take 50% of the royalties if Elvis recorded it. Luckily she later said yes to someone rather special… We spoke to Heather Colbert, who directed and animated the official music video, about her work as a stop motion animator and model maker.

Heather Colbert working in ESCAC in Teresa near Barcelona

Can you tell us about yourself and your work as a stop motion animator and model maker. What’s your background and how did you get into animatio
I came to animation through illustration. I studied at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge; my degree was in Illustration and animation but it wasn’t until the third year that I had the opportunity to try stop motion and find my passion there. I had always loved hand made animation such as Bagpuss and The Clangers, made by Small Films. Seeing films like “The Maker” by Zealous Creative as a student made me want to create animated worlds of my own.


You recently directed and animated the official music video for ‘Dolly Said No to Elvis’ by Mark Nevin. Can you tell us more about this?

This was my third animation commission, and I had recently been part of an intensive stop motion workshop in Budapest, run by Joseph Wallace and Péter Vácz, so I wanted to really push myself and create something more ambitious than my first music video, Bibimbap, for Ori Dagan.  “Dolly Said No to Elvis” was created in two months, and I set up a makeshift studio in my grandmother’s dining room.

Part of the set from ‘Dolly Said No to Elvis’
What was the most challenging part of the process of making the animation?
The short time scale was a real challenge, as I had not made 3.5 minutes of stop motion animation in two months before, but I think these intense schedules have helped improve my ‘big picture’ thinking; managing the whole project solo, and making sure it is delivered on time. (When I worked on illustrations in my degree I would very easily get lost in fine detail, which was very enjoyable, but not great for developing time keeping skills!) Also the intense and solitary nature of these projects is not very good for the mental health! So I am enjoying the different discipline of being a part of bigger projects at the moment.
Puppet development sketches

How do you get your ideas? Who or what is your inspiration?

So far, my professional animation experiences have all been music videos, so there is a great deal of inspiration already there as a platform to build up from. But when I have had the chance to think of my own ideas, it comes from many sources. My own work has been led by what I’m curious about at the time, but music often helps me develop the initial idea. For example in my graduation film, Courage to make a Fool, I knew I wanted to make a film about a clown, but it was when I found a track by the ‘Underscore Orkestra – Egyptian Ella’ that I started to build the story – by watching what happened in my head as I listened to their ‘Klezmer’ music.
Puppet from ‘Dolly Said No to Elvis’
Any exciting projects in the pipeline?
At the moment I am in Teresa, near Barcelona, working in ESCAC – alongside Abel Carbajal. We met at the Budapest workshop and since then we have been collaborating on the puppet design for his graduation film. I have joined him and his team out here, and I am working on building the puppets. It has been an amazing experience and I can’t wait to see the little guy in action!

When I get back to the UK, I feel very lucky to be part of the placement scheme at Aardman where I will spend a few weeks in the animation department.  I’m also looking forward to meeting up with the lovely community of animators in Bristol to talk about possible future projects we could work on.

Drawing by Heather Colbert

Find out more about Heather Colbert at her website and keep up-to-date with her latest projects via Instagram and Twitter.

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