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Amazing Animation Test of Ronald Searle’s “St. Trinian’s”

London-based animation director Uli Meyer created this sample animation of the St. Trinian’s schoolgirls and showed it to their creator, ninety-year-old illustration and cartooning legend Ronald Searle. It’s one of the finest attempts I’ve ever seen at animating Searle’s idiosyncratic drawing style. Not only does the drawing and inking perfectly evoke Searle, the animation is fun and vivacious, pushing Searle’s style to an entirely new level that I’ve never seen in other interpretations of his work.

A crew of all-stars brought the piece to life: it was boarded by Meyer and Matt Jones, animated by Sandro Cleuzo and Boris Hiestand, and hand-inked by Meyer with immaculate precision onto frosted cels.

Uli has a blog post describing the production process in detail. Somebody let these guys loose on their own hand-drawn feature or short, Searle-related or not. I NEED to see more of this!

  • AMG! Gorgeous!!

  • dbenson

    I know of the “Daring Young Men” credit sequences and the bizarre “Dick Deadeye” feature. Are there other animated Searles?

  • Paul D

    LOVE it!

  • To support this here’s a post on one of the best examples of animated Searle:

  • Absolutely astounding work!

    I’m constantly getting inspired!

  • Katella Gate

    Astonishingly good work. I watched it 5 times. I truly hope the rest of this reaches the public.

  • Sat

    Oh boy! Amazing animation. That’s the kind I could watch for hours… hint, hint

  • Fantastic- great job, guys.

  • I’d love to see a feature film like this. Nice work.

  • Absolutely beautiful.

  • Bravo to my pals at Uli Meyer!

  • Fantastic!!! It is flawless!! We need to have more of this!!!! I want to see a whole feature like this!

  • Wow! O_____O

  • Baron Lego

    That was freakin’ great!

  • Sardonic Tuba

    Nice! Let’s have a car wash or a bake sale and get this movie made!

  • Gee, that looks expensive.
    Reminds of Richard Williams.

  • The Gee

    Frank, even if the production time for that 25 seconds took a while, it was probably worth it to get it right, don’t you think?

    To conceive and execute it like that, with the shot choices they made, make for something really expressive and much better than something more limited. Though, given some of the scenes, they could pull off limited, too and still keep it interesting. So, if something happens hopefully it won’t take forever and cost a bundle (for potential profit’s sake).

    It looks really nice and it’ll be cool if some more happens with it.

  • ASaurous

    Fabulous animation test! Also, did anyone else notice the end credits music from the Nightmare Before Christmas in there?

    • I noticed that, and I liked it!

    • Chuck R.

      Yep, I recognized it. I thought it was a terrible distraction.
      I had to re-run the clip to fully appreciate the animation.

  • Ah, Uli Meyer’s team, delivering pure class, once again.

  • greg m.

    Uli always strives to achieve the best results, and he has certainly done it with this test! Hats off to the team!

  • Uli Meyer

    Ronald Searle will love to hear that his naughty school girls still raise eyebrows 65 years later! Thank you so much!
    We are looking into the possibilities of making something a little longer and all your positive comments go a long way to show that there is an audience for this.
    @Frank – this didn’t take long to produce and the costs were minimal, the frosted cels being the most expensive item. The rest was just paper, pencil, pen and ink, oh, and a small team of talented artists.

    • Well, then, I hope somebody provides the money to do this thing in a longer form. That’s some of the best-looking stuff I’ve seen in a while.

  • YES!!!

  • Thanks for all the great comments! I hope we’ll get to do more soon…

  • Uli’s attention to detail was staggering- he even learnt to draw with his left hand to emulate Searle’s left-handed linework better!

    • ed

      Hahaha it helps when you’re born a leftie and a god given gift drawing for drawing though wouldn’t you say?! ;D

  • christy

    wow! gorgeous!!!!!!! great work guys!

  • Mrgroh

    When I was a student at Sheridan College in the 1990’s all the best animators used to watch Uli Meyers work with amazement.
    He was the King!
    Glad to see he just keeps getting better;)

  • Bill Andres

    I as well would like to congratulate all the artists for a job well done!

  • Steve Gattuso

    Beautiful work. It would be great to see this get made into a short subject.

  • I thought this was excellent!

    This should be made as a feature film! (A short film would be good, too.)

  • Jorgen Klubien

    Love this. Disney’s “Milt Kahl era” certainly was very inspired by Ronald Searle… Uli Meyer’s animation looks as good as Milt Kahl’s to me.
    If you get this film off the ground, who wouldn’t love to be part of that… animation on paper again. Yahoo!

  • Mo

    …*sniff* my boys are all grown up now, and animting and all kinds of sh*t. God Bless you all … this is beauty in motion

  • Amazing! I loved the realistic smooth motion with the cartoon style in the same time.

  • Peter H

    Absolutely beautiful animation and faithful rendering of Searle’s drawing – and I loved the Searle cat – but I felt the joke was not carried through in the teachers’ reactions. I feel the expressions should have emphasised the sense of surprise and concern, or at least cynicism, that is suggested in the source cartoon. A good part of Searle’s humour lies in the contrast between the monstrousness of the girls’ deeds and the resigned “Oh, well, girls will be girls” attitude of the staff. Whether displaying pride in the girls’ achievements or amusement at their predictable foibles, the staff remain stereotypically middleclass schoolmarms (an angle the first St Trinians film managed to exploit very well in the persona of Headmistress Millicent Fritton).

    • Uli Meyer

      Ronald never liked any of the live action versions and the way he sees the characters is quite different. The St. Trinian’s staff are not resigned at all but part of the school’s horror cabinet. They are quite aware of what those killer girls are up to and teach them how to go about their deeds properly. In one cartoon a teacher tells the girls to use clean needles before injecting a pupil from another school. One drawing shows the headmistress stepping over dismembered bodies of the girls, commenting “The cleaner’s getting slack, Horsefall”, in another she welcomes a witch arriving on her broom stick as the new chemistry teacher. The staff is pretty evil too. Ronald’s comment in regards to the animation of the teachers was “They’re perfect!”.
      The way the headmistress was portrayed in the first film was not the way Searle saw it. Ronald did criticise one thing though, and that was the way the girl rubbs her nose as she jumps off the bed. The girls were too well bred to do such a thing. The comedy lies in fact in that. Upper class, well bred killer girls.

      • Peter H

        Fair enough – they’re Searle’s jokes, so what he says goes!

        And I can see the argument for the other teacher frowning in disapproval, for that reason.

        But for me the humour has always been in the contrast of the teachers’ “normal” reactions to the horrors the girls unleash – as exemplified in the The cleaner’s getting slack, Horsefall example you mention. The girls are wicked, but the staff merely act as if it is normal: this is funny. They take pride in the girls’ achievements (“And this is Rachel, our Head Girl”, as a prospective parent is introduced to a prolific decapitator) but are not presented as wicked themselves, they merely preside over it all. One cartoon shows the regular return-to-school frisking that results in a pile of confiscated weapons; the “clean needle” joke is about ‘honorable behaviour’ and ‘standards’ – an evil comment (“I hope that’s a dirty needle!”) isn’t half so funny.

        As with Charles Addams, it isn’t the horror that’s funny – it’s the context, the parallel with normality, that is funny. And it seems to me that the staff generally serve to provide that context.

  • burkiss


    Look, I’m a huge fan of Searle and a huge fan of Uli Meyer’s work, and I think the test is BEAUTIFUL but why isn’t a giant talent like Uli creating original works? Searle’s style has been aped by Disney and recreated beautifully. Milt Kahl showed it is extremely possible to take Searle’s style (okay, he adapted it) and animate it very well, so there’s nothing particularly new here. Presumably the rights to the St. Trinians girls aren’t available as terrible live action movies (with horrible animation) keep being produced. Maybe Uli did it just for fun and the art of it and maybe that’s a perfectly valid reason to do anything, BUT…

    I would like to see Uli turn his hand to something real. I love his work and I want to see more. Whatever happened to the monster movie?

    • Uli Meyer

      Thanks burkiss. It’s true…I haven’t had this much fun in a long time. Monsters are still alive.