It’s hard to not dish out a slew of puns when talking about New Zealand-born and Lonon-based animation director Robert Strange. The work is in the name: strange. But, it works. “My signature visual language is to feature bold and hallucinatory colours and design styles, complimented by a genuine emotional core,” Robert tells It’s Nice That when we catch up with him off the heels of his BBC 6 Music project. “Humour and emotional depth create a feedback loop that makes the funny moments funnier and the exciting, scary, or sad moments that much more resonant.” It’s an interesting balance that Robert perfectly strikes, and which has led him to a wealth of success. His work is genuinely exciting, and always rewarding to follow. “You can look at each different section in my recent film for BBC 6 Music and see how despite the extremely different design styles, there’s a signature thread running through,” he says. “The film opens in a 1920s black and white rubber hose animation style à la Popeye or Betty Boop, but this sits perfectly with the futuristic 3D animation sequence.” The BBC 6 Music work (made in just four weeks) is indicative of how Robert’s “disparate styles” are wide-ranging, “but the tone and visual approach remain the same,” as the director tells us.
It’s not just BBC 6 that was impressed with Robert’s art – his talents have also recently been seen on the new BBC Three idents in the channel’s reintroduction to television screens. “For the BBC Three idents we had a series of writer’s rooms at the Blinkink studios, which can be daunting, but it forced me to just dive in, like conducting an orchestra of minds,” Robert explains. “Every project is different, so ideas come differently for each type.” Part of Robert’s pack of references for his distinct animation relies on an undisputed classic: The Simpsons. “It’s like the bible of modern animation,” he says. “I like to look at cinematic references as well, like in the recent Mini Cheddars Crunchlets commercial I combined Edgar Wright-style quick cuts and zooms with some very close references to the skydiving sequences in Point Break.” This array of references all align with Robert’s “slightly strange place” of humour, often straddling edgy with hopeful, science fiction with reality, and so on.