Claymation artist Will Child animates three of Tim Key’s poems

As part of the promotion for Key’s new anthology Chapters, the Bristol-based animator brings three of the poet’s works to life in his charming, distinctive style

“I got chatting to Tim in the bar after he performed here in Bristol, sometime last year. I’d been a fan of his work for a while and proposed this idea to him when he came to my studio the day after,” explains Will Child, who has created three animated shorts for the upcoming release of comedian Tim Key’s latest poetry anthology Chapters, published by “Utter” & Press.

Child worked on the three films this summer where he visualised the poems Nuisance, Clacker, and Cuppa. The creative process was relatively straightforward in that Key sent over some poems that were going to be in the book and Child chose the ones that stood out as having the potential to work well visually.

“Tim gave me free rein with the animation and direction, so it was essentially a case of him supplying the words and me supplying the imagery,” says Child. “The poems are so precise and already so vivid in their imagery that I felt like the best route was a pretty literal depiction of the poem line-for-line, with my visual stamp on them.”

Child’s claymation style is unpolished, witty, and full of unusual charm, which lends itself well to Key’s poetry which is typically set in mundane, everyday situations but always with a few surreal and absurd twists. “My set builds and characters are exaggerated and disproportioned, but still feel recognisable and in some way related to the ‘real world’ due to the fact we’re seeing real light hitting real objects and a vaguely un-cartoonish character style,” explains Child. “I’ve thought Tim’s poetry would be perfect for visualising this way for a long time.”

With Key’s poems so crammed full of imagery, initially Child says he found it tricky to match the pace in terms of referencing everything mentioned without making the shorts feel too hectic. Of course, there were also the other expected challenges of stop-motion animation, such as props falling over, models getting smushed and the general “fiddly” nature of this kind of work. “With these poems each taking place in one set, and with minimal character builds, it was a fairly containable production though,” notes Child.

In the past Child has worked with clients including Old Spice, Reebok and Capri Sun, as well as a handful of musicians and artists to create music videos, including Drake, Young Thug, and Kenny Beats. He sees this project with Key as an extension of that work in that he’s “visualising a narrative that already has a skeleton in place”.

“I’ve wanted to animate little stories like these in various different formats for a while, and the concisely packed humour of Tim’s poems were perfect for the kind of thing I’d been looking for,” Child says. “Having something as solid, tight and funny as those to work off makes my job a lot easier.”

More recently Child has realised he wants to start taking on more long format, narrative projects in film and TV and this project with Key has felt like a positive move towards this. “I’ve got other ideas at various stages of development and pitching as well, so I wanted to work on my comedic animation and the direction of each film, which I’m really happy with,” says Child. “I’d really love to make an animated comedy series or film one day, so this definitely felt like a step in the right direction in that regard.”