Mathew Dame is an Animator and Rigger who works predominantly in CelAction, producing 2D animated Broadcast series for Children's Television in the UK and America, and finds seeing children’s excitement about the characters and stories of the animations to be a very rewarding thing.
Since his school years, Mathew was sure he wanted to be involved in producing animation. “I probably owe a good deal of that to being raised in part on the classic animated films. But beyond that, I always had a fascination with puppets and puppetry with one of my all-time favourite films, still to this day, being the Dark Crystal by Jim Henson. I would watch this endlessly while wearing my Thunderbirds costume which was another total obsession.”
He had been creating characters out of his toys and bringing them to life, which, he believes, was the real essence of why he has always wanted to breathe life and thought into inanimate drawings/objects, creating believable characters and engaging emotional performances out of them.
This led him to finishing his BA in Animation in the East Midlands. He came across AUB while researching the BFX Festival, which was to be held there. "I had an absolute blast working in the animation studios at AUB, meeting the tutors there and frankly never wanted to leave.”
“I definitely owe my step onto the career ladder to my time at AUB and I’m still using the same entrepreneurial approach to the industry I was encouraged to develop there.”
Mathew finds inspiration in puppetry in films and TV. “The physicality of it and the artistry of transferring a human performance into an external avatar in such a convincing way has never failed to transfix me.” The excitement from perfecting a character or capturing some subtlety of acting in it is what motivates Mathew every day.
During his studies at AUB Mathew was inspired by animators’ ability to capture the hand-drawn aesthetic using highly sophisticated rigging methods for the Mr Bean animated series, and it had been his dream to work on that series, seeing it as a benchmark for the level of quality he wanted to achieve. He got to work on Series 3 and admits it as being a dream come true.
“Getting thanked by Rowan Atkinson at the wrap party and having my work praised by the likes of Kitty Taylor (another inspirational professional I had interviewed as part of my studies) was so surreal and a real point of reflection for me to see how far I’d come along since my time at AUB.”
The Pilot he was working on during his debut as a character rigger had gained a reputation for being “impossible to feasibly realise in an Animated Series”. After his hard work on the rigs for Pilot Episode of Winnie the Witch, Mathew got recognition from Andy Blazdell, the Co-Creator of CelAction, who expressed how impressed he was by Mathew’s rigs and the breakthroughs he had made.
Mathew says, that the real skill of an animator is adopting a different style that needs to be in cohesion with the aesthetic and sensibilities of each Production. However, his defining element is the acting of his character performances, which he gets praised for a lot. Mathew’s unique ability to do both Animation and Rigging allows him to use his knowledge on rigs’ construction to push them to the edge of what they can do. At the same time, insights in animation enable him to create rigs with better functionality and ease of use.
The course’s focus on industry research and professional development helped Mathew to identify an area of interest and provided the tools to and mould his body of work from a ‘student’ level to an ‘Animation Professional’.
Mathew is extremely grateful to his tutors Paul Ward and Paul Hilton for not only providing support and contacts that got him a work placement at the studio, but also for giving the flexibility to restructure his MA focus after getting offered a full-time position on his placement.
“I was once given some advice by an animation director on a production regarding the aspects of a ‘perfect’ employee in animation. He said you need to be “amiable and a pleasure to work with”. You also have to be “talented and produce really high-quality work. Finally, you must be “Punctual and work quickly, meeting all your deadlines”. The trick, he said, is picking two of those and make those your assets, because being all three is impossible.”