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Published 6th Jan 2012


You’ve heard of Scooby Doo and Bolt, now Teesside University presents Nyle – the latest dog to work in the movies who is contributing to Animex – the University’s annual international festival of animation and computer games.

Mel Robson, who is visually impaired, has a long-term passion for modelling animals from plasticine. One of her creations previously caught the eye of Professor Stuart Sumida who has provided advice on the movement and physiology of animals for a range of animated box-office hits, including Beauty and The Beast, The Lion King, Scooby Doo and the Oscar-winning Ratatouille.

The Professor of Biology at California State University, who has previously spoken at and delivered animation workshops at Animex, personally commissioned Mel to make a new model of a Labrador last year. So Mel and university staff set about covering Nyle, her Labrador guide dog, in sensory markers to capture his movements and translate them onto a digital model.

The motion capture, produced at the University, is being used to produce a short animated film to highlight some of the issues surrounding people with visual impairments. It is being made by Mel and four others with visual impairments.

They aim to premiere the film at a local cinema as part of this year’s Animex, which runs from 6 to 10 February at Teesside University.

Mel, 23, from Billingham, said: “This was all part of the animation process, to learn about a dog’s movement and include in the film. Although Nyle was used for the motion capture the dog we’ll create in the film will probably be a Jack Russell. We’ll give Nyle a mention in the credits. It’s the first time we’ve all made a film and I think we’ll be working to the wire for our February 2012 opening! We’ve already recorded the voices.”

The link with Professor Sumida started in October 2010, when Mel created a wild cat and a dragon, while taking part in a Culture Shock project at Blind Voice UK in Stockton.

Dougy Pincott, a former Teesside University student and freelance artist who works each year on Animex’s community projects, went on to run a children’s workshop at The Carnegie Natural History Museum in Pittsburgh, USA. He showed pictures of Mel’s work to Professor Sumida, and Tony West from Disney, and the response from both was phenomenal. Her work was also exhibited at last year’s Animex.

Mel’s Labrador was again made from plasticine. She said: “I’m quite impressed that Professor Sumida wanted me to personally make something for him. It’s quite an honour to be honest. I’m really, really happy and my parents Denise and Nigel are happy as well. I find animals fascinating and enjoy observing their general behaviour. Predators are my personal favourite.”

Useful links


Animex on facebook

AnimexFestival on twitter

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