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‘Whibbits!’ are little dogs made from random bits (bots, bike chain, corks, cable ties etc). With the help of crowdfunding support these little guys have been bought to life in a series of animations with more to come this year.

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Who makes this stuff? And Why?!

My name is James. I’m 38 and live in Manchester, UK. I am an art tutor working mainly with learning disabled artists and young people at an awesome organisation called Venture Arts. I have also been illustrator, working in medical textbooks. For the past 3 years I have also been having fun as an experimental animator and puppet maker. We have 2 whippets, Penny and Eric, who inspire a lot of my work

 
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My First Puppet…

I had always loved stop motion films and wanted to try it myself, but never took the leap. I knew very little about stop motion and didn’t want to learn from online tutorials or standard techniques... I like a challenge and I like to do things differently, so one day in 2015 I decided to challenge myself to make a puppet inspired by my dogs made only from the items in my tool box! ‘BITZ’ (the original whibbit) was born. I wanted to use this puppet to make and share some animation experiments with the world- however bad they were...! I wanted to learn 'on the job' and keep challenging myself and experimenting- I just hoped the projects would have some kind of handmade charm.

 

Experimental Projects...

This approach took me on a journey through several animation projects; Hairwoof!, Paper Airman (my first short film), Foldz, animated origami spider, Mini Jim Henson, Bitz (the award winning short film), Bitz & Bobz... and more…. All the while learning more about stopmotion and how to use my unique designs. The Bitz films were crowd funded by some of my generous social media following- I was been amazed by how people have got behind the idea! I also found a talented composer along the way- Danny Ryan. He has provided the score (and occasional singing!) on most of my projects.

 
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A world of whibbits…

Whilst running my campaigns I had lots of requests to sell my dog puppets, so In 2018 I refined the 'junk dog puppet' idea into something I could replicate and sell- These were no longer a one off puppet experiments, they were a breed of dog- Whibbits! (Currently over 50 whibbits have been built and sent all over the world!) I use the sale of the models and other merchandise (such as books, bags, T-shirts and posters) to bring the whibbits to life and fund the next stages of the project- the whibbits star in a promotional film with a catchy theme song (composed and sang by Danny Ryan) and some short animated loop sequences designed to seamlessly play over and over on social media channels.

 
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Project Development…

I have stopped selling models for this year and will be focussing on animating again. My next aim is to make a series 'Whibbits!' animations starring different variations of these little desktop friends. I have designed some new colour variations of whibbit which I’m looking forward to animating. Each will have their own desktop, set and props… I have already begun storyboarding some fun, slapstick antics for them to get up to.

I am currently raising funds to bring the ‘Otto’ whibbit to life. Throughout July I’m selling raffle tickets (to ‘win a whibbit') and other merchandise through my website shop. All six of my new whibbit designs are on display in various venues as part of Sale Arts Trail. I am really pleased to be part of this event and happy the whibbits are being seen while they wait for their turn to be animated.