The Tate Movie Project

Tate, Aardman Animations, Fallon, and the BBC have all joined forces on a new film project that they hope will involve the participation of one million UK school kids…

Tate, Aardman Animations, Fallon, and the BBC have all joined forces on a new film project that they hope will involve the participation of one million UK school kids…

The aim of the Tate Movie Project is to create a 20-minute film, which is made up entirely of contributions from children, from the initial storyline ideas, to the characters featured, to the soundtrack. From today, the team is inviting contributions to the project from kids.


The funding for the project comes largely from The Legacy Trust, and the film will become part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. The finished film will be broadcast on the BBC mid-next year, and throughout the coming year, the production team will be looking for contributions from children aged 5-13.

They have come up with a number of ways to facilitate this. At the project’s core is a website,, which is created by Aardman Animations. Here the children can upload their ideas, drawings, animations and even sound effects, as well as look at other kids’ work and interact with the production team for the film. A still of the site is shown above.

As you might imagine from Aardman, the site is totally charming, and features a set of characters (shown above) to represent the different members of the production team, including the director, writer, composer, art director and editor. “We quite quickly formed this idea of a virtual studio,” explains Dan Efergan, digital creative director at Aardman, “and within the studio is a set of characters that represent all the heads of department. We didn’t want to preach to the kids and say ‘this is how you make a film’, so we’ve got this flawed director who loves himself but isn’t actually that good, and this way everyone is going ‘please help us out’. So while we’re actually building a real film, we’ve also got this soap opera of chaos going on within the virtual film studio.”


The site will be constantly updated in order to try and keep the kids interested during the year-long production period. There will also be a truck, rigged up to look like the studio on the website, that will travel around schools and to festivals and other events to try and encourage children to get involved. One of the aims of the project is to get ‘hard-to-reach’ kids to take part, so the truck will hopefully be a way of speaking to kids who may not have easy access to the internet, plus there will be a freepost address to send physical work in to as well. Workshops have also already begun taking place at Tate – these will continue over the coming months, alongside workshops at a network of partner galleries across the UK. BBC’s Blue Peter will also be following the real-life production process and encouraging kids to get involved.


The kids on the workshops are given as little instruction as possible, in order to encourage them to use their imaginations. “We decided to input nothing adult, to impose nothing on them apart from an invisible story structure,” explains the director on the project, Sarah Cox. “I’ve worked very closely with a script editor, Lucy Murphy, who’s worked on a lot of children’s programmes, and we’ve built a question tree based on the classic structure of a narrative. It includes things like ‘who’s the hero?’, ‘where does the action happen?’, ‘who’s the villain?’ – it’s all the things that you need for a story, but apart from those questions, we’re not going to lead them.”


The team do have a loose structure for the film in mind though. “Because we know we want to have lots of crowd scenes, because we want to use as many assets as possible, and lots of different locations, it’s probably going to be some kind of journey, some kind of epic adventure, quest type thing,” says Cox. “We know we want to make it funny, because that’s what all kids will want to watch, and that’s what we do best. So things like that we know, but we don’t know where the journey will be, we don’t know whether it’s one hero, or a buddy movie with two heroes, or a gang of kids, or a gang of aliens, or it could be super dogs in space! We just don’t know.”

The final animation will be created by Aardman animators. “Very much the inspiration at the beginning was ‘let’s make a film that everyone is really proud of’,” says Heather Wright, executive producer on the project. “So take all the ideas, take all the assets and put a professional polish on it. We’ve got professionals as all the heads of the departments but we’ll be using all the assets that the children provide. We definitely didn’t want to make a piece of community art.”

The kids whose work is picked will be consulted throughout, and their initial drawings will be scanned in and used as the basis for the animated characters. And kids who don’t want to draw are encouraged to get involved in other ways, including suggesting character names and pieces of dialogue, or even just voting for their favourites on the site. Any child whose work is featured in the film will be listed in the film’s credits. “If there’s any place where you can go to get good imagination, it’s kids,” says Dan Efergan. “There’s bound to be a hell of a lot of good ideas in there.”

For more info on the Tate Movie Project, visit



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