those guys upstairs

Yay, Martin and Ian are back from their trip, we missed our studio lunch buddies! I was just upstairs having a chat with them, in their studio hung with Ordnance Survey maps for curtains and full of retro gaming equipment they found at the local market. They’ve been off in Nottingham, where they gave a talk and showed their animations to 40,000 people on huge screens that set the visual identity for the festival. Apparently, if you’re into any sort of gaming, Nottingham’s Game City Squared was where all the fun was happening.

Me: So what exactly were you both doing for the festival?

Ian: It was an open brief, so we thought long and hard about what Game City means to us, and we realised it’s about people using their imaginations and being creative. Most games these days are about high-definition realism, but we wanted to show that you can have even more fun and be even more imaginative going the other way, less realistic and super low-definition. So we ended up taking popular existing games and re-imagining them in fifteen squares, a 15-pixel grid.
(Click on the Vimeo link to see a much larger version.)

GameCity: Street Fighter Squared! from Alaskan Military School on Vimeo.

I saw that OXFAM video you guys did, that was brilliant! It looked like a computer game but it really made you think about the human effects of climate change. Why did you decide to go for a game format?

Ian: I think Mary Poppins said it best: ‘A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down!’

Martin: Not, ‘let’s go fly a kite’.
(Click on the Vimeo link to see a much larger version.)

OXFAM: Face the Music from Alaskan Military School on Vimeo.

Fabulous. So how did you guys meet each other?

Martin: We met at the Royal College of Art when we were working on a commercial for Kodak together.

Ian: I was drawn to Martin’s stunning blue eyes. Wait, are they blue?

Martin: No, they’re green. I remember you were very chatty. We bonded over music and Gloucester Road sandwiches.

Ian: I was charmed by his immediate knowledge of Star Wars. Actually, I liked how you worked really hard and you were willing to put in everything. We’re both naturally hard workers and very critical thinkers but we still manage to squeeze in a lot of silliness.

I know you’re working on a bunch of stuff at the moment – I just saw the cutest spaceship ever on Martin’s screen – but what kind of work are you looking to do?

Ian: People were really enthusiastic at Game City and we’ll have a lot of work with game studios. But we love all sorts of animation and we love exploring new partnerships with other creative people. What sets us apart from other animators is that we don’t concentrate on a visual style but on coming up wiht new visual languages that have far more impact than any sort of styling could have. We love to take play around with pre-existing footage and put our own twist on it, making sure that the original sense of fun ends up in the final film and gets people talking.

Why do you call yourslef the Alaskan Military School?

Ian: That’s classified.

Alaskan Military School website
Twitter link
These guys have won a bucket load of awards, check it out:
BAFTA Short Animation 2007, BAFTA Short Animation Nomination (co-writer) 2008, Three British Animation Award Nomination 2006, British Animation Award Winner (co-writer) 2008, Royal Television Society Animation Winner 2006, Bradford Animation Festival Student Grand Prix 2006, Platform Animation Festival Student Grand Prix 2007, D&AD Integrated Advertising Workshop Award 2009

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