Cream of London’s animators battle for superhero supremacy

John Fiorelli introduces the six top studios taking part in the speed animation challenge

The life of an animator is a tough one, with long hours and fierce competition for the best jobs. But sometimes there's a chance to kick back and have some fun with your skills, and that's exactly what took place last night at ZED, HP’s pop-up studio for creative professionals in London's Soho.

Animators from across the capital were gathered for the launch night of London's Hero – a series of onstage design challenges taking place over the next four weeks at ZED.

Curated by New York-based Cut&Paste and powered by HP Workstations, the contest will see six studios take part in a speed animation challenge in front of a live audience.

At a series of sessions over a four-week period, each will get just five hours to create a 10-second clip that shows a different stage of a new superhero's life, from baby to senior.

London first

This character is intended to become London's first superhero – although the American MC of last night's launch party, Cut&Paste's John Fiorelli, began by checking with the audience whether that role had already been taken. Aside from a few tongue-in-check suggestions ("James Bond?", "Mr Bean?"), the consensus was in the negative, so the night kicked off with a warmup burst of live speed-sketching.

In an atmosphere of friendly rivalry, different studios then went head to head on stage, quickly sketching out their rival interpretations of the superhero, with a big screen letting the crowd follow their process in detail and decide which sketches they liked best.

A relaxed crowd drank, chatted and watched their peers take part in a live sketching challenge

There were gasps of admiration (and a smattering of envy) from the predominantly young, mixed nationality audience at the high levels of talent and skill in evidence - but each animator also brought something different in terms of illustration style and character design.

One common theme was umbrellas, perhaps reflecting a negative view of London's weather, although one contestant explained his character would "use it to fight the pigeons - maybe the pigeons are the villains". Meanwhile, one sketch of the character in his senior years gave him a heavy paunch, reflecting a belief that no British male can reach old age without getting a beer belly – not even a superhero.

While live design challenges can be heated affairs, this opening salvo in the ‘London’s Hero’ challenge was a relaxed, light-hearted occasion, and a great opportunity from animators and 3D artists across London to meet and chat over free drinks, and have a play on some of HP’s impressive new tech.

Curious animators and 3D artists took up the opportunity to try out the latest HP tech

Whether the battles will become more intense remains to be seen, but the good news is that these events are open to all, and cost nothing to attend. Here’s the full calendar of events:

  • Session 1: Blackmeal - 26 September
  • Session 2: Mummu - 4 October
  • Session 3: Fred & Eric - 14 October
  • Session 4: Animade - 14 October
  • Session 5: Territory Studio - 15 October
  • Session 6: Golden Wolf - 15 October
  • October Closing Event: Final animation revealed - 16 October

It’s not often you get a chance to watch fellow creatives work in real-time, from start to finish, and especially ones as talented as this bunch. So if you can get over to ZED, we’d heartily recommend it.

The animation sessions, which all take place between 12 noon and 5pm, are open to the public - so why not pop in? As for the Closing event, tickets are limited, so be quick and register your interest here while you can!

Words: Tom May

Delivered in conjunction with ZED!

This content was produced in collaboration with HP & Intel as part of ZED - a Pop-Up Studio for the Creative Community held in Soho, London. For more information about ZED and any future events see here.