When I think about the term ‘digital animation’, the work of the late British animator Run Wrake instantly springs to mind. An early example of his work, Buttmeat (1996), embraces the ability of the drawn line to morph and change over time. Wrake’s recurring loops and multi-layered imagery reveals a visual aesthetic that suggests a link to computer code and digital manipulation. Further evidence of the influence of digital media exists as image glitches, photocopied backdrops, and simulated white noise. Wrake would later embrace advances in digital technology (in particular After Effects) to create innovative and challenging short animations, such as Control Master (2008). Created purely from the pop culture stock library of CSA images, Control Master depicts a city under attack from a sinister figure who has stolen a mysterious electronic box. As a number of characters attempt to retrieve it, the ‘Control Master’ turns its powers against his pursuers, turning them into a menagerie of animals, pop culture icons and random objects from the CSA image archive.[1] Control Master arguably lacks the kinetic and morphing nature of the aforementioned Buttmeat, but the continual exchange of body parts seems oddly appropriate for the pop culture iconography; echoing the disposable nature of our contemporary society.

By utilising digital software packages such as After Effects, Wrake created work that exhibits a playful interplay between stock illustrations, typography, imagery from different eras and motion aesthetics that continue the tradition of paper-cut animation.[2] Lev Manovich, author of The Language of New Media, notes that:

The user of After Effects places image sequences of arbitrary sizes and proportions within the larger frame. Breaking with the conventions of old moving image media, the interface of After Effects assumes that the individual elements making up a moving image can freely move, rotate and change proportions over time.[3]

Manovich’s description illustrates the ease at which individual elements can be manipulated by the digital animator. After Effects virtual cameras and multi-layered timelines enable the contemporary animator to import static visuals, and manipulate them as a movable character or object in a time-based medium. For Wrake, the ability to utilise emerging digital processes had a liberating effect on his work: ‘Computers, and particularly After Effects/ Photoshop, have revolutionised the process for me. Everything pre-1998 was hand drawn and painted, cut out with scalpels and spray-mounted on to cel, shot and cut on film’.[4] The digital animation approaches he adopted, enabled Wrake to digitise audio and visual assets, store them in a digital archive, and manipulate them where appropriate. His recent passing reinforces the notion that few have ever done so with such talent, verve, and conviction.


Run Wrake Vimeo Page.

[ylwm_vimeo width=”600″ height=”336″ ]36157673[/ylwm_vimeo]


Craig is completing a PhD on the topic of ‘Motion Comics’ (Summer 2013). A Masters degree in ‘Film and Visual Studies’, attained at Queens university Belfast in 2009, informed his decision to continue theory-based research in comic book culture and the moving image at Ph.D. level, under the supervision of Dr Daniel Martin, Dr Des O’Rawe and Dr Stefano Baschiera. Craig has accepted a position with Canterbury Christ Church University as a Digital Media lecturer, starting August 2013




[1] https://www.csaimages.com/

[2] It should be noted that Wrake also blended his ‘hand drawn’ approach, with direct manipulation of ‘found’ objects in other digital animations.

[3]Lev Manovich, The Language of New media (Cambridge, Massachussets and London: The MIT Press, 2003), p.156.

[4]Sean Healy, ‘Run Wrake Interview’, in Skynoise.net (25 March 2006) <http://www.skynoise.net/2006/03/25/run-wrake-interview/> [accessed 12 March 2010]