British animator and filmmaker Paul Bush died in a motorcycle accident on Thursday, August 17. He was 67.
The news of Bush’s passing was shared by his family on the filmmaker’s Facebook page. Paul’s son Lewis wrote:
My sister Eva and I are both devastated that our father Paul Bush died last Thursday while motorcycling in Wales. We loved him very much.
Bush was born in North London on February 2, 1956, and studied Fine Art at Central School and Goldsmiths College, London. He taught himself filmmaking while participating as a member of the London Film-Maker’s Co-op and Chapter Film Workshop in Cardiff, Wales.
In 1984 Bush made his debut short The Cows Drama, and over the next several years he wrote and directed numerous short films which earned him attention and praise from critics and other filmmakers. By the 1990s, his films were being distributed farther abroad and appearing on broadcast tv, allowing him to practice filmmaking as a full-time career.
Over the decade, he worked for numerous major broadcasters including Channel 4, BBC, ITV, and Canal+, as well as French publisher Les Éditions Hatier and the English National Opera. His work typically used single-frame techniques and integrated live-action and animated footage. In 1995 he began teaching visual arts at his alma mater Goldsmiths, and in 1996, he launched Ancient Mariner Productions, where he started producing his own films as well as commercial commissions.
Bush was exceptional in the way he played with animation throughout his career. He was constantly experimenting and could regularly be found practicing new and exciting methods of creating moving pictures on the screen.
He excelled at using replacement animation in films like Furniture Poetry and pixilation as seen in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. In The Albatross, he scratched directly onto the surface of filmstock of live-action footage, frame by frame, to create sequences that look as though they were engraved or burnt into wood. And just this year, his vr work I Horizon was showcased at Animafest Zagreb.
In 2003, Bush was honored with the Nesta fellowship to develop features, and the fruit of that relationship was his 2012 film Babeldom.
Bush was a champion of independent animation. In a 2013 report by the non-profit Animate Projects, he explained:
People starting out should stick with working on what is true to them, and not bend overly to fashion, market forces or what others say. Fashions change, and there is enough commonality of human experience for all work to connect with an audience.
Bush was also a gifted public speaker and teacher and has lectured, run workshops, and tutored at numerous art and film institutions including the Media Academy of Cologne, the National Film Board of Canada, The Netherlands Institute of Animation Films, La Poudrière in France, TAW in Denmark, St Lukas in Brussels, KASK in Ghent, Anadolu University in Turkey, EIC-TV in Cuba, and the Royal College of Arts, Duncan of Jordanstone and the National Film and Television School in Britain. He ran yearly workshops at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Turin and at the University of Lucerne. He also spent 2015-2017 as a visiting lecturer at Harvard University.
Upon hearing about Bush’s death, Ottawa International Animation Festival artistic director Chris Robinson wrote:
There were two sides I loved about Paul. First, as a person, he was sweet and kind with a welcome streak of sarcasm and biting humor. Second, as a filmmaker, there was no one like him in animation. While many get cozy with the same sort of style and approach, Paul was always pushing himself, always trying new techniques or new approaches to narrative. You never knew what you were going to get with a new Paul Bush film, but you knew that successful or not, it would be interesting and unique. His loss was sudden and shocking, but he’s inspired so many in animation that his imprint will remain loud and strong in animation for decades to come.
Animator Patrick Smith remembered his friend and mentor, saying:
When I think of Paul, I first think of his unique humor and his overwhelming personability. Everyone simply loved him. Then there are his ground-breaking films, specifically those under the rubric that he coined, “Object Replacement Animation,” an under-explored technique that he brilliantly executed and largely pioneered. Paul inspired so many great animators including Fabio Friedli, Alain Diet, and Páraic Mc Gloughlin, to name a few. He confided in me once about Object Replacement Animation, “Don’t tell anyone how easy it actually is.” A wonderful example of his sarcasm and wit, as well as his humility. An animator, a teacher, and a friend, he will be missed dearly. Ride forever in peace Sensei.
Pictured at top: Paul Bush from his website.