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Mark Ayres Praises “Experimental” Animation of Doctor Who: The Celestial Toymaker

At the recent BFI event for the upcoming animated release of Doctor Who: The Celestial Toymaker, Mark Ayres was invited on stage to talk about the work undertaken by himself and the animation team at Shapeshifter Studios and praised the hard work that has gone into the upcoming release.

Now I have to be honest, I went to the BFI event and while the animation was a massive improvement on the team’s previous attempt with The Web of Fear, it was still a little bit hit and miss for me. Luckily though, it does suit the fantastical aspects of this story. But I wouldn’t want to see all twelve episodes of The Daleks’ Master Plan in this format.

One of the biggest things with this animation that Ayres was keen to talk about is how the motion capture technique was blended with the surviving soundtrack by getting the motion capture actors to actually speak the lines the characters say which then gives the animated characters an almost perfect lip sync.

I have to be honest again, the lip-sync was one of the things I thought the animation did quite poorly; however, the version we saw at the BFI wasn’t the final version — there were still some tweaks to be made and Ayres was the first to admit that he had to do some work to make sure the soundtrack matched up with the animation. He explained:

“It’s all synchronised to the soundtrack – sometimes it doesn’t work and I have to tweak the soundtrack where the dialogue hasn’t quite synchronised. But it is a new technique, it is a motion capture technique, and it means the characters are far more fluid.”

Ayres said that the animation style will no doubt still divide opinion and the studio is happy to admit that The Web of Fear was an experimental use of the motion capture animation that didn’t really work, but it is clear that there has been a lot of work done since then and visually, The Celestial Toymaker looks fantastic.

It was also nice that this is the first animation to use the better quality recordings that were found a few years ago at a landfill site which gives us a much better sounding story than we previously had with the official BBC audio releases. Ayres had a little work to do with enhancing the soundtrack, though the new tracks didn’t need as much work as some of the earlier ones, which gave him more of a chance to work on the sound effects while staying as faithful to the original as possible.

The Celestial Toymaker is a very visual story which the soundtrack never really did justice to. The surviving episode 4 shows the limited budget they had which fortunately the new animation makes the most of: there are things here that the original story could never have dreamed of doing, but it’s all the better for it. Give The Celestial Toymaker a go — you might be surprised!

The Celestial Toymaker will be available on DVDBlu-ray, and limited edition steelbook.

Jordan Shortman

Mark Ayres Praises “Experimental” Animation of Doctor Who: The Celestial Toymaker

by Jordan Shortman time to read: 2 min
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