When Lotta Kokko was nine years old, she used to make films on her Nokia phone with her Bratz dolls and Pokémon toys. Fifteen years later, after completing an animation degree at Arts University Bournemouth (AUB), she’s animating a new series for Sesame Workshop at A Productions.
“I always loved story-telling’’, says Lotta, “and I’m passionate about art and detail so animation was a natural career choice. The animation degree at AUB gave me a chance to explore all the different techniques and gave me an opportunity to find out which part of the process I enjoyed; I quickly realised it was character animation.”
Lotta is one of three AUB graduates working at A Productions on Bea’s Block, a new animated preschool series that draws on the ubiquity of toy blocks to bring the diverse and inclusive neighbourhood of Blocktown to life which will premiere on Cartoonito soon.
On the Bea’s Block production, Lotta is animating facial features, making the eyes, eyebrows and mouth move and lip syncing the dialogue. Lotta says: “I’ve always been fascinated with faces and how you can read someone’s thoughts through their features, so this is a great first job for me. Each character has a different personality; shy or outgoing, pet loving or sporty and it’s interesting to find ways to portray those traits in their faces and gestures.”
Lotta and co-worker Iva Borisova both graduated from AUB in June 2021 and found out about the job opportunities at A Productions via their animation tutor who maintains strong links with the industry.
Iva Borisova was attracted to the AUB course because it is very arts focussed with an emphasis on character design and drawing rather than coding and technology.
Iva says: “I really enjoyed the course, working with so many talented people doing what they love was great. The only drawback was having to complete our final film during lockdown, but actually, because it was a team project, it gave me really useful experience that I could use at work because when I came to A Productions, I soon realised that the process is all about teamwork.”
Iva is also a 2D animator working on facial features. She says: “The A Productions team gave me training on the job so I picked it up fast. I’ve also had the chance to try some 2D animation on Furry Friends Forever: Elmo Gets a Puppy so I was able to practise animating the whole body, which was fun; working out how an animal’s body would move in different scenes was challenging.”
Iva has also signed up for A Productions’ new mentoring programme which will give her the opportunity to try more 2D animation and design enabling her to expand her skillset.
Sam Griffiths is working in the rendering and lighting department. Sam chose AUB for his animation degree because it has such a good reputation in the industry. After leaving the university in 2019 he concentrated on making his own animated short which was selected by Film Hub Wales to be included in their Made in Wales animation catalogue.
At A Productions, Sam uses 3ds Max to prepare scenes for lighting and rendering. He started working at A Productions in November 2021 and, after some training, he jumped straight into the role. He says: “After the animators have finished their scenes, I add lights and change the untextured sets for textured versions, occasionally doing set dressing and animation fixes along the way before sending it to be rendered – rendering is essentially what makes the whole picture more aesthetically pleasing to the audience.”
All three animators are keen to progress in the industry but for now they are focusing on finishing the new show, which is due to be shown later this year, as Lotta says: “It’s cool to work on a TV show that hundreds of kids are going to see and that will be meaningful for them. “