Originally from the UK, Simon Ashford began his creative practice in film animation in London working for industry luminary Richard Williams (Roger Rabbit) on his magnum opus ‘The Thief and the Cobbler’ for Warner Brothers. After finishing up with Williams, Simon went on to contribute to such projects as Steven Spielberg’s ‘Balto’, ‘The Tales of Beatrix Potter’ and ‘The Silver Brumby’ for Media World & Animation Works, and was at the forefront of animation applications in 3D games art with Beam Software / Infogrames (Atari), working on ‘Space Race’ for Warner Brothers amongst a number of other 3D game projects. With a wealth of industry expertise, as well as experience in the educational sector as an academic leader and as an accredited Strengths Coach helping emerging creative designers reach their full potential; Simon Ashford is looking forward to beginning his role at Collarts as the Head of Animation & VFX.
How did your fascination with animation first begin?
I had just finished my design foundation course and I did a short animation course. It blew my mind that you could make your artwork and ideas move.
Where and when did you first study animation?
Leicester Polytechnic. (De Montfort University) 1986-1989. Sounds like a long time ago!
How did your career in animation begin?
In 1990, London was pretty much the centre of the animation film industry. I was lucky enough to be in the thick of it. I walked around London with my showreel under my arm. I picked up various small jobs working on TV commercials. My first position was working on ‘Freddie as FRO7’. It was a pretty terrible production but the studio had a training academy run by legendary animator Tiger West. Tiger was an interesting character from the golden era of animation in the US. I was accepted on that training course. Such an incredible opportunity to be paid to train! After graduating I began working as an ‘Inbetweener’ on the film. An inbetweener creates the incremental drawings between the animator’s key drawings. This is the first step on the ladder of becoming an animator. Once I had developed my skills to a high level, I was lucky enough to be offered a job at the elite Richard Williams studio on his project, ‘The Thief and the Cobbler’.
What are your top 5 animations of all time (film, adverts, gaming etc)?
I am a huge fan of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. My favourite film is My Neighbor Totoro.
Miyazaki is the master of animation and film making. There is no-one better.
Do you have a favourite project that you’ve worked on? If so which and why?
‘The Thief and the Cobbler’. It was such a privilege to work with such a talented team of animators. Richard Williams was considered at the time to be the world’s greatest animator.
What do you most enjoy about the creative process within animation?
Pure invention and creativity. It’s a solitary process that allows you to immerse yourself in your craft. It takes amazing patience and there is something mesmerising about that. It’s the fourth dimension — working with time.
Please describe the process of how animation is created:
You’re also a Strengths Coach, what does in entail?
Since working in design education, I have been intrigued by the creative process. As an educator, I have always tried to get the best out of my students. Strengths Coaching is a fascinating process that helps lead students into discovering what is ‘Strong’ and working on that rather than obsessing about fixing what is ‘wrong’. That is what brings most people undone in their careers. We try to fix our weakness instead of understanding and developing our natural strengths. The process has been transformational in the lives of the people I have coached. It has helped me become a better educator. I also describe myself as a Creative Coach. I help creatives overcome their blocks.
Why should we sign up to take the online Bachelor / Diploma of Animation & VFX?
I had been working in and exploring other areas of design education. My other passion is typography. When I moved away from animation, the industry was in decline. Most of the work was being done cheaply overseas and I was interested in exploring other things. What has brought me back is that the industry is about to have it’s second coming. The emerging technology is fascinating. VR & AR. Streaming platforms such as Netflix, youtube etc… You don’t need to bring together a huge team of specialists or buy expensive equipment anymore. You can do amazing things and share your ideas instantly on a world stage from a home studio and a simple laptop. The possibilities are literally endless.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Surfing, fishing, ocean time, making music, walking the dog with my wife, learning and personal development.
Favourite food and place to hang out?
I am British so I love an Indian Curry. A ‘Ruby Murray’ at home with friends would be my perfect evening. I like to hang out anywhere near the ocean.
Bachelor / Diploma of Animation and VFX 2019 Intake
Monday 28 January – Orientation Week
Monday 4 February – Trimester 1 begins
Friday 8 February – Direct Applications close
For more information and to apply visit