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John Lumgair, Animation Director at Quirky Motion
Episode 31720th May 2024 • Your World of Creativity • Mark Stinson
00:00:00 00:20:48

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Welcome back to "Your World of Creativity," where we dive into unique stories from creators worldwide. Today, we explore a fascinating project with John Lumgair, animation director at Quirky Motion Studios in London, crafting a tale of resistance against technocracy through the eyes of a jazz-playing cow.

John's Website

John on YouTube

@quirkymotion on Instagram

John's Facebook page


- **The Jazz Cow Concept**: Jazz Cow follows the story of a bohemian cow leading a resistance movement against encroaching big tech, with a heist to retrieve his saxophone as the central plot.

- **Influences and Symbolism**: Influenced by classics like "1984" and the symbolism of jazz as freedom, Jazz Cow juxtaposes the liberty of music with the control of technology.

- **Creative Process**: The project evolved from a humorous concept about a jazz-playing superhero cow into a deeper narrative confronting societal issues, driven by collaborative creativity.

- **Artistic Vision**: Drawing from traditional 2D animation, Jazz Cow blends noir aesthetics with vibrant colors and incorporates influences from artists like Aaron Douglas and jazz album covers.

- **Funding and Engagement**: Lumgair adopts a crowdfunding approach, engaging audiences early and offering pre-sales of merchandise and streaming to fund the pilot episode, emphasizing the importance of audience involvement.

**Pull-out Quote:**

"I think in many ways, we've got to laugh at this stuff because everything's got so serious... Satire is good to get us to look at ourselves." - John Lumgair

This episode offers insights into the challenges of animation production, the importance of maintaining relationships, and the journey from concept to execution in creative projects.

As we anticipate the Jazz Cow Kickstarter campaign, let's continue supporting independent creators like John Lumgare, fostering connections and unlocking diverse worlds of creativity. Stay tuned for more inspiring stories on the next episode!

Thanks to our sponsors, White Cloud Coffee Roasters and Exact Rush Publishing.


  Welcome back, friends, to our podcast, Your World of Creativity. On this podcast, we've explored a wide range of stories and themes of work from creators all over the world. We've had a murder mystery in the corporate confines of a coffee shop chain. We've talked about the five secrets of a happy marriage, poetry aligned with seasons.

We even got to the truth behind our excuses. But today, we're going to have a little fun and talk to a creator who's crafting a story of resistance to technocracy through the eyes of a, what, jazz playing cow? This is going to be interesting. Welcome my guest, John Lumgare. John, welcome to the show. Looking forward to this.

Yeah, John's an animation director with Quirky Motion Studios in London, and he's working on a new feature called Jazz Cow, and John, I'd just love to hear this first of all, I guess the basic storyline of Jazz Cow, but even how your creative process has evolved to create it.

So jazz cow is about a jazz playing cow, and he leads a reluctantly leads a resistance movement to all the big tech stuff.

So the algorithms, the AI, all of that stuff that's encroaching on his life. All he wants to do is quietly play a sax, but that's not a possibility. So he unites his. Or the crazy misfits of his bohemian quarter of the town all kind of get together and are part of this resistance movement. And the story that we're trying to, specific story, so it's a series, specific one, we're pushing, will be a heist story about him trying to get his sacks back.

Love that. I feel a:


Yeah it does, we all seem to take on this misfit role sometime when we say, I just don't like algorithms. We have to stop this ai, and yet sometimes do we feel a little bit what would be the word

that it's off or not? That one person can't have an influence. Why does our jazz playing cow feel he can take it on?

I think the thing with the cow is they're not human. So he's already in this kind of hybrid world cause he's humanoid, but he's not human. And I think in many ways, we've got to laugh at this stuff because everything's got so serious and satire is good to get us to look at ourselves.

Cause the thing is, it's not all bad. We. I love the idea, I can click a button and get a book the next day. I love so much of it, but then I hate what social media is doing to people's brains particularly young people. But we're all guilty of having our brains mashed in by this nonsense.

Your project certainly blends a lot of these elements of, there's animation, there's music involved, and then this undercurrent of a cultural commentary. How did you really begin to see these elements intersecting?

Like all things creative, they happen in ways you can't quite pin down, so you post rationalize What really happens, but it started with a group of us just having a big laugh about superheroes animated characters and how they often, when they have powers, they're always powers to fight bad guys and powers to demolish this and that, and they're never.

There was of that set. So we thought what about a cow that has superhero abilities to play jazz? So that was the original kind of joke that we were laughing about and developed from there. But it was So the original impetus of the kind of the bad guy being all about control and against freedom was some laws that were being passed in the UK that were really draconian many years ago.

I don't even remember they got passed. And the fact that certainly in the UK, we're being spied on constantly by cameras. And so that became part of the thing. And jazz is always. symbolic of freedom. So the kind of contrast of the freedom of jazz and the kind of control. And over the years, tech has been the mode of control and it's become more and more powerful.

So it's evolved into that. And The writer I'm working with, he was very helpful in steering us a lot more in that direction, which has been brilliant.

And do you have a vision for the sort of animated style that in order to tell that story, how would you describe it?

So it's a fairly within the tradition of 2d animation, cartoon animation that we'd be used to.

And then stylistically, and we're quite traditional in that we're not at the kind of furthest end of the kind of pushing the boundaries of that. But within the style of the world, we're taking in all sorts of influences. So there's film noir, but with really bright colors.

So using a lot of those tropes. There's influence of different artists.

There's an African American artist Aaron Douglas. I think his name was in the, who was in the Harlem Renaissance and did these really. Lovely pieces with kind of layering and light, and that's become part of the influence of the kind of geometric feel of some of the blue note album jazz album covers have gone into things.

So there's all these kinds of influences that have come in, but I think they've melded together to become, A singular thing, if that makes any sense.

No, I love that you've drawn on the jazz album genre. Yeah, I could see that fingerprint being applied. It's awesome. John, you have a title that most of us creatives would dream of an animation director.

We all grew up saying, I wonder if we could just make cartoons all day, but I have a sense that it's not all the fun and glory that sometimes we imagine. What are some of the challenges that you face? In that kind of vocation.

So the first thing I would say is it's probably a very grand title for me that I don't quite deserve, but it's just fit.

So this morning I did. I looked at a contract for an illustration job that I might be doing and just checked. It wasn't weird. I did lots of emails. I had phone call with someone in relation to music on the soundtrack and how we'd break all those down. So they were all quite, the music one was fun, but the other stuff was boring and technical.

I've done a tiny bit of illustration stuff today. But most of my day has not been spent doing anything creative or at the most creative end of the spectrum. And I think that's fairly typical, particularly when you're running your own business, not just an employee who's employed to just animate or employed to do whichever part of the process.

Yes. Yeah, I've had a lot of people say that, being the entrepreneur on the side of our creative business, often sort of counterbalances, maybe that we have to have this burst or discipline to do the creative work because we can get buried in the otherwise mundane.

You've got to, you've got to carve out the time and you've constantly got to be learning things that aren't really related to your craft that you don't even want to do.

And. That can take so much time, not actually doing the work. So whoever said it, I'm sure it was one of your guests. They're absolutely right.

It's been a pattern. I wish I could point to one, but it's been a constant, you're in the business of whatever your creative pursuit is so that certainly it needs to be funded and it needs to be, ROI for investors and so forth and so on.

And animation is particularly strange because animation is not that profitable because it's so much labor goes into it that companies like Pixar, which you think, Oh yeah, they make loads of money. They actually make money off the software that they create. That's their main source of money.

And then the merchandise, the animation, I think is a loss maker. But yeah, it's a very strange industry.

Yes I think of the teams that these production companies must build too, and you must be gathering a team to produce this this program because I, obviously at the end of all the major animated features, there's just rolls and rolls of credits take it this will be a slightly smaller operation.

Yeah, so we've got a, we've got a great team, but they are a lot smaller than you typically see. So we're actually working with a animation company in Argentina that have done loads of stuff for Netflix and Amazon. So that takes out quite a lot of the running of individual people from my end.

We've got a great character designer. We've got. Obviously my writer, we've got as a, there's a storyboard veteran who's done everything from kind of Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain through to all the series. I can't even remember the names of all the more recent things. And so he's going to be a great resource to draw on.

And then we, yeah, we've got And then there's the musicians. So today I had a phone call about some of the jazz musicians that are going to be working on this, which was, is really exciting. But yeah, so many different people doing so many different things.


going to be fun.

And there's a certain quality of character.

I'm sure you're looking in these teammates because certainly they must have the skill set. But you also, I'm sure want the collaborative spirit, that the musicians working across to influence animators and then vice versa to really build what your vision is.

Yes. So one of the things that one of the conversations I was having today with.

Musicians was that this, that jazz is all about improvisation and that they would see storyboards and work from the storyboards and be toing and froing. And one of the things I'm looking for in the actors that we're using is that they can improvise. So that's not just, they'll look at the script and it will be that they will, some of them are really funny, so the combination of them in the room will be great.

I want, the thing I look for in creative people is is curious, curiosity, really. So it's not just that someone is good at what they do, but they're curious, they're keen to learn. And they're just always interested in stuff because that's where all the fun comes from is where. Someone's just learned something new about something completely weird.

So good. As we think about the creativity and the team and the story, you've also got a creative approach to funding the project. Tell us a little bit about the business side of things.

So when you're poor, you've got to find a way to get money. And so we, So there was a bit of a story because we had a guy that pitched it around streaming services and things, and they were, they all were saying if this was a book or a comic.

Then we could see there was an audience and we might be interested, but that doesn't exist. So he said, you could write a book and we're like, don't fancy writing the book. It's the wrong thing. So we've gone, so he said you could, if you get, get a pilot made and we thought we don't have money for a pilot.

So kickstarter. com and the, basically you, the model of it is you pre sell your merchandise, or it's like buying a cinema ticket. Or before the film is out so they can make the film before the, before you've got cinema tickets. That's right.

That's right.

So we're pre selling streaming to the pilot episode.

We're pre selling, an art of book. We've got various different things that people will be able to. Effectively buy and then if we get enough money, then we'll make this pilot

exciting that this idea more and more that the end user, the customer, the viewer, the listener is engaged and invested in the projects up front.

Is that what you're looking for?

Yes. Because I think it meant one of the great things that being at the early end of stuff. Is the, I can actually have relationships with at least a lot of the supporters early on, which is great. And then we can be listening to them. They can be part of the story. They can go I've got some early merchandise from this before it became a big thing.

So that, that's really. Yeah, that's really good. And I think it's difficult. Big companies are less than they're more risk averse over time. And it gives us an opportunity to, we have to take the risk, but if you can get large numbers of people on board, then the risk is not really, the risk disappears in a way.

We'll be sure to put the contact information in the show notes. And keep us posted as the Kickstarter develops. We want to stay in touch with you. That'd be great. Yes. John, as I mentioned there's a lot of people out there listening to the show. Who are in this early stage of creative development.

Maybe they even want to get into an animation type project. What insights from your experience and what advice would you give them, to get beyond the idea and start working on the development piece. There's this long journey, of course, but a lot of people just stay in the idea phase and they don't take the step to really execute.

Where could we learn from your experience?

Probably, you'll better be so on. I'm a bad case study in so many ways because This idea has been kicking around, going into a draw, being ignored, coming back, being redeveloped for about 20 years. So I'm a terrible person in terms of what was the Steve Jobs phrase, some true artist ship or something like that.

It's no good having something in a draw. That's no good to anyone. And I'm And I actually, one of my big regrets is that I hadn't basically been putting stuff out there for a long time and then building up an audience, building up a mailing list. So my big advice to people would be just build up your mailing list, get Because if you've got a big mailing list, you can then hit them with your project when it's at full, when it's fully grown, and then you've got your audience ready and building an audience is hard work.

Yes. Maybe I asked the question a different way then. Not that it's a bad case study because it sat around for 20 years because we all have that gestation period, how long it takes, but what was the impetus? To get it out of the drawer and get working on.

So the recent impetus was I had no contacts who were able to pitch it to the right people.

And so I thought, wow, I want to work on this, but because I don't have the contacts, what's the point? And then I made a contact of someone that was able to do stuff. So it was. That was the first bit of impetus is Oh, I actually have a contact. I can then get this ready for him and he can pitch it.

Weirdly I could have jumped straight to the Kickstarter without that. So isn't that interesting? You need to go through some of the struggles and the ups and downs and. It do it sitting in a drawer and the idea of modifying over time. But I think grabbing opportunities, you meet all sorts of interesting people through life and actually.

It's very easy to just not maintain the relationship to let things pass. I do that a lot, but I think the thing I would say to anyone is. No, keep maintaining relationships. Keep, yeah, keep pushing things out there. Don't just keep it all hidden for years.

Yes. Great advice. Guess my listeners, my guest has been John Lumgare, animation director in London, working on a new feature, Jazz Cal.

John, it's been so great talking to you today. Thank you. Thanks for sharing your work and your experience, and we'll keep an eye out for that Kickstarter campaign coming very soon and check out his work at jazzcal. co. uk. Thanks again, John. Thank you. And listeners, stay tuned. We're going to have more stories like this on how creatives come up with original ideas, but also organized ideas and most of all gain the confidence and the connections to get the work out into the world and your connection.

is often very important. So continue to support independent creators like John as we work to bring these creative visions to life. And come back again for our next episode. We'll continue traveling around the world to talk to creative practitioners of all kinds as we unlock your world of creativity.

We'll see you soon.



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