Picture company looking for Norfolk talent

Felbrigg, Blickling, Happisburgh and Wells - they have all graced the big and small screen over the years as the settings of numerous films and television series.

Now north Norfolk is set to be the background star once again - this time in a new animation series which is currently under production - and producers are urging people to come forward and get involved in the project which they say they want to make truly local.

Roland Peters from Cromer, who together with business partner Len Evans set up Populus Pictures, is casting the net in search of local talent to come and help with the company's latest venture, the Professor Chip animation series, based in the Cromer and Sheringham area.

Mr Peters describes Professor Chip, who in the animation lives in a house on Cromer seafront, as 'everyone's favourite uncle'.

The animation, aimed at children from three to five years old, is a return to the traditional methods of animation and is being made in 2D using animation cut-outs and the stop motion technique where an object is moved a little each time between individually photographed frames, creating the illusion of movement when the series of frames is played as a continuous sequence.

So far Mr Peters says they have around 30 stories for Professor Chip, but are looking for people to take those stories and turn them into scripts.

He said: 'The idea now is we are looking for local script writers. They may not already be a script writer; they may not have direct experience of it. But we are looking for local talent, even if it is someone who thinks they can write a children's story.'

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Mr Peters, who moved to the county 10 years ago from Watford, said; 'I am passionate about Norfolk. It is a great county; it has got such a varied architecture. There is a lot of quaintness about Norfolk and we want to incorporate that into Professor Chip.'

Keeping with the local theme, one of the Professor Chip stories even focuses on the historic occasion last year when the Oliver Cromwell was the first engine to use the restored rail crossing at Sheringham in 46 years.

The theme tune music for the animation has been provided by Cromer musician Rade Stamatov and local school children.

At the moment the picture company is showing a short teaser film of the Professor Chip animation to different television channels in a bid to get the series commissioned.

Mr Peters said creating the animation in 2D would help it stand out and would also mean the production costs are cheaper.

He said: 'It will be nice to show what the county has to offer and put that in a children's programme.

'There is the philosophy of keeping things small and telling stories in a simple way to engage children.

'Professor Chip is intended to work on two levels, to entertain for children and adults and to get messages across such as the importance of cleaning up after ourselves and looking after where you live.'

He said the hope was in the future to develop other stories including some to do with steam engines and the railways around Norfolk.

He said; 'If these ideas get going they could go on for years, it would make people want to see the place where these ideas came from.'

Mr Peters himself has an extensive background in film and television. Having gained an electronic engineering degree, he went on to design and develop a recording studio that was used for BBC work including daytime show Pebble Mill.

He has also developed a number of children's television programmes and worked on programmes including comedy Red Dwarf as animation supervisor.

He said: 'We did have a fantastic industry in this country but that has been chipped away, we can get that back though. At the moment there is a huge amount of talent that cannot get through, particularly older people.'

Anyone who is interested in getting involved should contact Populus Pictures via www.populuspictures.com

Panel -famous animation series and films over the years and how techniques have developed

Ivor the Engine - created by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin's Smallfilms company as a children's television series relating the adventures of a small green locomotive. It was filmed using stop motion techniques and animated using cardboard cut-outs painted with watercolours. The series was originally made for black and white television in 1958, but was remade in colour for the BBC in 1975.

Noggin the Nog – A popular British children's character, King of the Northmen in a roughly Viking-age setting, the animation was filmed using basic stop motion techniques. It was the brainchild of Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin.

The original television series was shown by the BBC in the United Kingdom from 1959 to 1965. Thirty-six programmes were made, originally in black and white and running for ten minutes. When the programme made a comeback in 1979, it ran for six episodes and the series was also colourised.

Wallace and Gromit - These are the main characters who appeared in a television series on the BBC in the 1980s and 1990s and also later, feature-length films. They were created by Nick Park of Aardman Animations. All the characters are made from moulded modelling clay and filmed with stop motion clay animation.

Toy Story - A 1995 American computer-animated film released by Walt Disney Pictures. It was first ever feature film to be made entirely with CGI (computer-generated imagery). In 2001 the animated film Shrek was released by DreamWorks again using computer animation. ReBoot, a Canadian CGI-animated action-adventure cartoon series which originally aired from 1994 to 2001, was the first half-hour, completely computer-animated television series.

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