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England Axes Funding for Animation


Very tragic news out of England. As part of the country’s new austerity budget, last week the Arts Council England unceremoniously axed their country’s most prestigious animation program Animate Projects after twenty-one years of funding. The program will be shut down at the end of March.

Official statement from Animate Projects can be read on their site. Gary Thomas, co-director of Animate, released a statement saying that, “The Arts Council said it would not be ‘fair’ to fund us through Grants for the Arts, but before we applied they told us that this was our only option, and it’s how they’ve funded us since 2007. What makes us most angry is the attitude towards the artform, the artists and animators we work with, and our audiences.”

Since being founded as an Arts Council/Channel 4 venture, the program has produced 140 animated shorts including 11 British Animation Awards winners and five BAFTA nominees. It has had a massive impact on the British animation landscape by nurturing budding and established animation talent, encouraging experimentation and innovation within the art form, exposing the general public to contemporary animation, building bridges between animation and other visual arts, and generally helping to position England at the forefront of the independent animation scene. Filmmaker Mario Cavalli, who participated in the program, also lauded the program’s “broader economic benefits, stimulating commercial spin-off projects, job creation and exports.”

The organization has funded films by a who’s who of independent animators including Run Wrake (his film Rabbit, image above, was made through Animate), the Quay Brothers, Ruth Lingford, Paul Bush, Phil Mulloy, Chris Shepherd, Vera Neubauer, Jonathan Hodgson, and dozens of others. It also made the UK an inviting home for global filmmaking talent, including Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who made a project with Animate immediately prior to directing last year’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

The death of the program chills all of Animate’s plans for 2011 including “a wide range of collaborative projects with a digital focus, including a large-scale practice based research project with a University, artist residencies in a research laboratory, artist collaborations with community groups, and a partnership to deliver moving image to healthcare sites nationwide.” As animation continues to grow in stature and move to the forefront of contemporary art, the shortsightedness of the Arts Council England will become more evident. With one swift stroke, they’ve carelessly destroyed a program cultivated over two decades that had an invaluable cultural and economic impact on the country’s filmmaking and art scenes.

All the Animate films can be seen on AnimateProjects.org at least through the end of March. Hopefully they’ll find a way to keep the site functional afterward. To get a better sense of the impact this has on the animation community, read the outpouring of comments on the Animate Projects blog.

(Thanks, Stephen Cavalier)

  • Such a shame. I guess Great britain is like their American cousins in their low respect for animation. It just seems as if things are getting bleaker.

    • Mac

      No it’s not that – our current government seems to be on a mission to destroy anything and everything that brings joy, hope or pleasure to to the lives of normal people in Britain. Funding for animation wasn’t going to last long under the people who want to sell all our forests, have made further education prohibitively expensive, want to scrap public libraries, wanted to scrap all funding for local groups, activities, school sports etc. This is yet another depressing cut.

      • Not too far off from where us Americans are at.

    • Aj

      Actually it is the complete opposite really I was in Derby last week and there was a workshop in stop motion and it was full of people with a wide range of people children and pensioners I can guarantee if you set up a table with plasticine people will stop and fiddle with it. I did brought some plasticine to an office i worked at within a week there were small figures everywhere. The trouble with our governors is they are far too out of sync with reality.

  • Well thank goodness! Now they can all go get “real” jobs at accounting firms and retail! Damned hippies with their “art” and “animation!” /sarcasm >_>;
    Seriously, this breaks my heart. I hope they can find some funding somehow. :(

  • Paul

    So let me get this straight. Great Britain is nearly bankrupt and soon won’t be able to pay people like policemen, firemen, provide help for the homeless, etc., and you guys are crying that they’re not funding animation?

    If you’re family is facing bankruptcy do you turn off your electricity, water and stop buying food or do you perhaps stop going to the movies, stop going out to eat and stop buying music? The government needs to start functioning like the rest of us!

    I have worked in animation for over 25 years and have never gotten a dime from any government program. How about this? Create things people want to watch and pay you for and stop relying on the government to fund you.

    • Jason

      Look at this guy who thinks government should be run financially like a family.

    • amid

      Paul – Those in creative fields have already anticipated the feeble-minded reasoning that the pittance of money the government saves from cutting animation program will fund police, firemen and the homeless. There’s even a video explaining why the arts are not only vital, but a revenue generator for the government:

      • DHaynes

        If the arts are so profitable, why do they need to be subsidized by the government?

        {It’s a legitimate question, I’m not trying to be snarky)

      • Penfold

        Because the relationship between money paid out and money coming back isn’t a direct one. It’s seed money that grows a wider crop of culture which others can harvest – and pay tax on!

        An example; when grants establish an art galley in a old industrial building in a run down area, the whole area may eventually benefit, encouraging service industries, bars, cafes, shops, a new local economy and become a major tourist destination too (Tate Modern) but the gallery itself only sees a little of that cash.

    • Bear in mind that it’s the Arts Council that made the decision to stop funds to the Animate scheme, so the police, the fire department and homelessness don’t really enter the picture – the money saved by the axing of Animate will instead be spent on other arts projects.

    • Was my face red.

      I’m with Paul. I’m sick of all this ‘animation is a valid form of expression and should treated as an equal with other adult art forms’ rubbish. Just make more kids films about talking cars and you’ll grow rich .

    • Oliver

      Perhaps we’d have more money to spare for animation if the preceding government hadn’t blown millions on an illiberal, intrusive and thankfully failed attempt to force everybody to carry national ID cards (which England abolished over 50 years ago).

    • I have to agree with Paul on this. Its a damned shame when they cut funding to the arts, but in tough economic times providing basic services become a government’s top priority.

    • The notion that Great Britain is ‘nearly bankrupt’ is nonsense, propaganda perpetrated the Tories to enable a massive and radical ideologically driven spending cuts. The idea that paltry amount spent on Animate! might make the slightest difference public services (where the real switch from public to private is being made covertly, through the back door), is equally absurd.

      As an early beneficiary of the Animate! scheme (even before it was so named), I can vouch for the fact that the modest investment made by the Arts Council and Channel Four in my film was returned a thousandfold in tax revenues alone, from all of the spin-off projects that were generated by a single, innovative short that otherwise would never have seen the light of day.

      As for “never having gotten a dime from any government program”, I assume your dime is paid in the US, where the film industry has traditionally benefitted from highly favourable tax breaks, a subsidy model that has never held the UK.

    • Couldn’t agree with you more, Paul!

    • The Foreign office

      As XXX movies, for example…

    • ruddiger

      Paul my friend, you need to wake and stop eating what ever the government feed you. It’s not the peoples fault that our taxes have been miss spent on illegal wars, and i notice there’s been no cuts on that front.

      plus the British government are letting lots of big businesses get away with clever accountancy and evading billions of pounds in taxes.


      why are the cutting all public spending which adds up to chump change when they could be claiming billions in taxes?

      think about it and your get your reel answer.

    • NC


      I’m not sure how it works in England but in America, and I’m pretty sure it’s the same for you guys, THE FED DOESN’T PAY THE COPS, THE FIREFIGHTERS, or HOMELESS. The Fed’s only real priority money wise is National Security. Schools, cops, firefighters, even unemployment is taken care of at the state or local level. It’s true that there is a lot of pork-barrel spending but HEY here’s an idea. How about instead of cutting the Arts maybe Parliament should take a price cut. I know a lot of people over here think Congress should do the same.

  • Doc

    Only 5 bafta nominations from 140 films they made? That doesn’t sound like a great hit rate? I know award noms aren’t everything but I would have expected a bit more recognition than that, am I missing something?

    • Well, BAFTAs tend to go to films that are a lot more mainstream than the work we produce. Our films have also won 11 British Animation Awards, Tiger Awards at Rotterdam, the Grand Prix at Oberhausen last year. And in comparison to the ‘success’ of other UK shorts funding programmes, we’ve got a very good hit rate indeed. Magnetic Movie, by duo Semiconductor, has been viewed more than 2m times online.

  • I’m sure it’s painful to have this program that was there suddenly go away but decent art tends to be such a personal expression that it’s hard to justify spending the common pot of everyone’s money on it and to justify using that common pot of everyone’s money to anoint one artist rather than another.

    • Rex

      But no one is talking about cutting all arts funding – just picking off animation as an easy option so they keep things like the Royal Ballet going instead.

      No extra policemen will patrol my streets or nurses will staff my local hospital by cutting this relatively small amount of money, but the National Opera won’t have to worry where their next chandelier is coming from.

      • If that was indeed the choice (Royal ballet vs animation) I wouldn’t be surprised if the ballet served more people. More audience members per year.

        Ballets are also more of a museum-like tourist draw (example given in above video) than animation production so they are doing something to lure money into the economy and generate related economic activity (restaurant going, hotel staying, valet tipping, baby sitters).

        A ballet or symphony or theater company probably requires about a 40% government subsidy with the rest covered by tickets and private donors. That sounds like a drain on the public funds but it means the country gets the economic activity mentioned above for only 40% of the cost it would normally take to generate it.

        Looked at that way it seems a clever means to leverage the available tax money to get something larger in return.

        I doubt the animation projects do that well. Or if they do, someone should have gotten the numbers together in a more convincing fashion.

        But I’m also doubtful about publicly funding the “Royal Ballet”. Shouldn’t the Royals be doing that?

      • Rex

        Read Mario’s first hand account above for what happens when it works. The Animate money is a fraction of a fraction of what other art forms get and, my sarcasms aside, will only be redistributed to buffer cuts to richer, more prestigious institutions. What a poor cultural climate we would have if the only artists who were chosen for funding were those that were already selling the most tickets.

        Sadly the Royals don’t fund anything, but some institutions look for their endorsement (The Royal National Theatre) to give extra imapact to their cultural brand. Hmmm, maybe we need The Royal National Nick Park?

  • Penfold

    Here’s the state of our art in the U.K.

    * Arts Council funding of artists working in animation – cut.

    * Channel Four’s pioneering support and broadcast of animated shorts and TV specials – reduced to almost nothing.

    * The discovery and encouragement of new home grown talent as a result of the above – severely damaged.

    * The refusal of sucessive goverments to offer tax breaks to UK commercial animation companies so they can compete with countries who do offer them- a two thirds reduction in the once thriving animation industry.

    * The refusal of sucessive governments to do the same for the games industry – it’s now declining too.

    It’s all so short sighted we should be making Mr Magoo.

    • amid

      Penfold – Thanks for adding that. On top of the troubles in the independent scene, the Royal Television Society warned last year that TV animation in the UK could be extinct in five years because of the government’s lack of support for local production.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        I feel sad reading all this.

  • Oliver

    It’s not like the Labour Party wasn’t warned — repeatedly, and even by its own members and politicians — that Gordon ‘Unelected and Unelectable’ Brown couldn’t win them an election.

  • Yep and I like many other people have graduated into this environment and am trying to break into the industry.

  • Penfold

    The then shadow culture minister (Conservative) told the 2008 Children’s Media Conference that it was absurd that Labour didn’t give tax breaks to the film and animation industries, and would rather collect an ever decreasing amount of cash from a declining sector then help it compete and eventually pay more. He promised that if elected they would do things differently.

    Guess what…

  • Henry

    I think great animation will surface in spite of what the government is doing, not because of it.

  • mimo

    Quit complaining, grab a camera and make a film. You don’t need an organization to produce art, especially not today.

  • The Foreign office

    As I can see, the Top World Animation Retarded People are out again. Take them back to their studios, please… They hate the Art as a pure form. They are tax payers…Machiavellism – everything that is not for sell, and is not eatable, has to be banned and destroyed…

  • sam

    I do wish artists did not try to lay claim to my taxes.
    I don’t get grants for my frivolities.

    • Jason

      If you’ve ever gone to a football game then yes you have.

  • David Breneman

    I’ve never understood why government should be in the art funding business in the first place.

    • Jason

      Art offers more to the world than money.

      This is why a good chunk of the guys at any decent studio usually are French. Their country supports its arts.

  • Penfold

    If Brewsters with an open mind and not just a seething resentment of others want to understand the benefits of this small subsidy more here’s Claire Kitson on the subject…

    Clare Kitson: The Arts Council’s decision to stop funding Animate is the most perverse I have heard for some time.

    World animation has now discovered ways of making money, and fortunes are being invested in new technologies and mass production and this is great. But somewhere along the way funding for the development and nurturing of innovation has got squeezed out – EXCEPT, until now, via Animate.

    These days I am frequently asked to speak about how Channel 4 was for a certain period able to develop new animation talent and new approaches in form and content, and it has become more and more obvious to me how absolutely central Animate was to that project. For the extraordinary quality and variety of the work but also because it is an extremely low-budget scheme and therefore better able to weather economic buffetings than our more lavish individual direct commissions: it has thus had a longer life than any other animation initiative.

    I can also second Mario Cavalli’s comments on the Animate blog, attesting to ‘the broader economic benefits’ of the scheme, ‘stimulating commercial spin-off projects, job creation and exports.’ I have witnessed this at first-hand, as well as hearing the laments of professionals around the world as to the paucity nowadays of this kind of stimulus to creative inputs into commercial projects.

    I can also, incidentally, testify to the high esteem in which the scheme is held all over the world. Of course its very many festival successes are also proof of this.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      And that’s the reason why I felt sad thinking this has happened at all. It just seemed like that era of finding new talent and creativity as since left us.

  • As a recent graduate working hard to break into the world of animation in the UK (having returned from New York City to study with grants to help me) – this is very bleak news.
    Should I have returned to England? Am I not what the UK needs? With the Irish experiencing a major ‘brain-drain’, I can now sympathise with the Irish youth who don’t want to feel like they are wasting their talents.

    My generation will be an embattled generation. I can only hope that we can be as creative with our meagre funds as we can with our art.

  • Grumpy Animator

    The suggestion that funds devoted to animation are the same funds dedicated to police and firefighters is laughable. Are you picturing one big bank account that the county gets all its money from? This is the conservative government using the ‘financial crisis’ as an excuse to do things their way at an alarming rate. It makes me sick that university s will be churning out hundreds of animation graduates who will not have the opportunity to work in animation due to this current governments disgraceful lack of support for the industry. not to mention the poor sods who are self taught not getting any opportunity due to not being able to afford the max £9,000 PER YEAR tuition fees the government has introduced.

    Tory scumbags.

  • Obo

    9000 pounds? oh you poor babies.

    This type of programs may have had a role 10 years ago, but in this new age of distribution the idea that the government should subsidize “animation” to spread culture and innovation is ridiculous. Animate has been replaced by youtube a thousand times over.

    • Miranda C

      But youtube doesn’t invest in artists to make work, and it doesn’t put that work in any kind of context. I like animate because it’s a strong, authoritative, and trusted..brand! It’s got interviews with the animators, and essays about the work. It’s not like youtube, it’s like a proper gallery.

      • Penfold

        It treats animators as fine artists worthy of having a patron. What’s so wrong with that?

      • Grumpy Animator

        Well said Penfold!

  • Grumpy Animator

    £9,000 is a maximum and its also up from around £3,000. When I studied in 2003 it was a ‘mere’ £1,190 so all things considered its a lot, especially to those not coming from a privileged background. Especially as average wages plummet and the cost of living rockets.

    Obo are you suggesting that it is not in a governments interest to subsidise any animation? What about tax breaks? The animators of France got a nice chunk of work when Sony decided to produce ‘Despicable Me’ in France due to its governments tax breaks. Britain is currently not supporting this and its doing real damage to the industry as competition from overseas gobbles up all the work. The chancellor axed tax breaks in the gaming industry last year and jobs in that sector are disappearing as companies close and projects go overseas.

    Animation worldwide is a billion dollar industry. To extinguish any funding is both a cultural and a economical mistake.

  • Matt M

    Damn, Johnathan Hodgson visited my university about two weeks ago, I would have loved to ask him about this, if I had known.

    This news is troubling, as a third year animation student, my apprehension towards graduating is even greater.

  • sam

    What I don’t understand is that surely if/as the British Animation Industry is doing so well, why does it need funding at any level? Surely any industry’s own interests are served by investing in itself at grass roots level and encouraging young talent – even if this is to profit from them eventually?

  • I’m an American who moved to England 4 years ago to go to a top animation school here to earn my BA in animation production. This is really depressing news for me, since I’m getting ready to graduate. It’s getting really hard for me to figure out how to make a living at what I’m great at, traditional hand drawn animation. I guess all my hopes now rest on my film being well received. My thoughts are with my fellow animators in the Uk and America. Can we indepent animators find a way to make animation valuable again ?