Under the Sea with Harriett Bradbury

Interview with the Animation Director

Still from Under the Sea. Photo by Harriett Bradbury.

Under the Sea‘, Sugarmoon’s latest single; an easy breezy love song that brings us some much needed serenity. Warm beach vibes and whimsical dreams of frolicking in the sea or maybe diving to an under water world. The song brings a hopeful reminder of the fun times ahead when there are no more lockdown restrictions. Harriett Bradbury, Animation Director, has captured the song beautifully in her new music video. A band of sea critters performs the song, ‘Under the Sea’, under the sea! The video is an injection of charm with each character showing a distinct personality. My favourite is the crab with his rosy cheeks and tiny bowtie. I can imagine the creatures playing at a prom in a teen movie, they’re all smart and ready for their big show.

Still from Under the Sea. Photo by Harriett Bradbury

This isn’t Harriett’s first film full of characters you just want to squeeze and put in your pocket. Harriett Bradbury’s work often takes cute and funny creatures and makes them feel like real characters with quirks and insecurities. Her award winning film, ‘Love Bugs’ is a great example of this where Dusty the moth goes on a series of bad dates. One fly orders a plate of poo at a fancy restaurant, another slaps Dusty in the face for looking at her glowing behind (firefly). Harriett’s films are thoughtfully put together from the idea to the design to the performance. Every detail creates a world in which humour, warmth and story are at the centre.

Tell us about yourself and the work you do.

I am a stop motion filmmaker based in Bristol and currently working as a junior compositor at A Productions Ltd. It’s definitely tricky balancing personal projects alongside a full time job, but I try to develop them whenever I can. I enjoy every step of the filmmaking process, from writing to post production, and get so much gratification seeing a project grow from a tiny spark of an idea to a fully formed film. Although animation feels incredibly tedious when you’re in the midst of it, seeing something come to life at your hands is magical and worth the slog.

Although I would consider myself a stop motion filmmaker and a bit of a generalist, puppet design and fabrication was my first love. Anyone who has seen my work will know I have a real soft spot for anything anthropomorphised. Aesthetically, I enjoy working with low tech materials and don’t think it’s necessary to spend a lot of money to make something effective. Plus, there is something very charming about things that look like the material it’s made out of – as if you’re reinvigorating the life of an inanimate object.

Still from Under the Sea. Photo by Harriett Bradbury.

What led you to puppet animation?

I’ve always been more inclined toward puppet animation. Working in 3D space makes way more sense to me and I love the tangibility of stop motion. I’ve always had an active interest in theatre, puppetry, and filmmaking, so it felt like a very natural route for me to take.

Under the sea! Can you tell us about your latest project?

Yes! I worked with local Bristol band, Sugarmoon to create a music video for their latest track ‘Under the Sea’. The song is so fun and was an absolute pleasure to work with. It took five months to complete in total, including all pre-production work. Luckily, I had a pretty solid idea of what the video was going to look like and so design and fabrication didn’t take as long as it usually might.

Originally, I had planned to make wire armature puppets, but due to time and budget parameters I decided to use paper instead. Previous to this project, I had never really worked with paper or used a multi-plane camera before, so it was definitely a learning curve and has certainly helped me grow as a stop motion artist. Working with paper allowed me to work more illustratively and create something completely different to my previous work. I’ve never been a traditional pen and paper animator, so it was wonderful to design a bunch of 2D characters and still be able to animate them physically with stop motion.

I can’t wait to share it with everyone! The track is so joyful, it’s impossible not to smile when listening to it. The video definitely reflects that exuberant spirit, and I feel grateful that I got to work with such great material. The video was released on the 2nd April and you can also hear the song on Spotify.

Behind the scenes of Under the Sea. Photo by Harriett Bradbury.

Do you have any big creative influences?

I have a very eclectic taste in art and film and so find myself influenced by so many different sources. Even so, I find the bulk of my ideas are based in comedy; especially deadpan or absurdist humour. There is so much to be said about the power of making people laugh, and it’s something I will always strive for with my work. I’ve loved the poems of Spike Milligan since I was a kid, so he immediately springs to mind as someone who has been very influential to me.

Any future animation plans?

Still from Under the Sea. Photo by Harriett Bradbury.

I have a couple of collaborative projects in my peripheral vision, but I can’t really talk about them yet! Other than that, I have lots of ideas bouncing around for future short films and I’d love to use paper animation again, but nothing set in stone. I’ve also been thinking of ways I can set up a shooting space at home but nothing has come to fruition yet. Basically, there is so much I want to do! If I can continue creating my own work around my 9-5, I will be a very happy woman.

What are you looking forward to as restrictions ease?

I really miss going for a pint after work on a Friday. I have everything crossed that we can have a more sociable summer and reunite with the friends and family we haven’t been able to see for the last year. There have been too many missed birthday celebrations and two of my closest friends had to postpone their wedding. That will be a right knees up when it comes around!

Keep up with Harriett and Sugarmoon on Instagram. Listen to the track on Spotify

Interview by Amy Baker

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