Interview with Bill Elliott, Founder of Kong Studio Ltd, United Kingdom

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Bill Elliott

Bill’s love for comics when catapulted him into founding Kong Digital and a signature 2D graphic monochrome style.

Interview with the 2020 Vega Digital Awards Winner - Bill Elliott

1Please give us a brief bio of yourself and your background.

I'm from North London and went and studied animation at Edinburgh College of Art, graduating in 2001.

I began my career at Disney Jetix. I've directed, designed, and storyboarded throughout the computer games, advertising and T.V industry. My credits include Lego, Mr Bean: The Animated Series and Black Mirror. Since establishing Kong, I directed several Thomas & Friends online series and award-winning commercials for IMAX.

I've also directed a short film for comedian Touretteshero (Jess Thom), and was nominated for a British Animation Award for his short film, Get Well Soon-Tarrant.

2What made you become/why did you choose to become a digital designer/artist?

I grew up reading all sorts of comics and loved the old Ray Harryhousen movies. . When i was about 12 I picked up a copy of a book about the secrets of ILM special effects. This was pre-digital, and to see the stop motion process behind Empire Strikes Back blew me away.

3What’s your favorite kind of digital design and why?

Our company (Kong Studio) leans towards 2D animation so i guess that's my first love. However, we actively look to develop and try new and interesting styles with each project. I also still have a love of comic books.

4To you, what makes a “good” design?

I predominantly work as our storyboard artist, so composition and narrative are key!

5Describe your design style and its main characteristics.

Personally I lean towards a graphic monochrome style. Tom (Kong's co-founder) has a beautiful colourful UPA influenced look. However, we are a collaborative medium and thus try to look to blend styles and influences for each new project.

6Tell us about your design process.

Script and/or idea is key. From there, i will rough out a design or storyboard in tandem with developing a style. This almost always involves attempting to steal a look and coming up with something new in the process! If it's a larger animation project, the collaberation of various artists almost always creates a new and interesting look.

7Where do you draw inspiration from?

Everywhere! Animation, cinema, comics, painting. Or the shape of a piece of plastic in the recycling. If it's in relation to an animation idea, it's bounced off Tom and our creative producer Emma. A form of an idea either develops or gets dumped!

8What current trends in digital design (or really anything digital related) are you most excited about?

There is a terrifying amount of good content out there. I love the concept of creating animation in different formats. A colleague (Leon Nikoo - a fantastic motion artist) recently had an illustration exhibition in which by using phone AR software, the pictures can be animated and come to life. That blew me away with the possibilities.

9Congratulations! As the winner of the 2020 Vega Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?

It's always lovely to receive an award! We are a young developing company and it shows we are doing something right!

10Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2020 Vega Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?

Our BBC Ideas piece was another new style for us, and the subject (Lucy Hone gives us three invaluable tips on how to be more resilient in every day life) was powerful but ultimately uplifting subject. It was also relevant as it was made during and for the ongoing pandemic.

Our second winner was the perfect antidote to Resilience. It was a colourful and fun Star Wars IMAX ident with the theme of FOMO (fear of missing out).

11What was the biggest challenge with this project?

As is so often the case, with both projects time was against us, and our ambitions outweigh the budget!

Resilience was a particular challenge as we were exceptionally keen to do Dr Lucy Hone's story and advice justice. It was a painful piece, but ultimately uplifting.

12How has winning an Award developed your practice/career?

It reinforces our self belief and keeps us moving forward.

13What are your top three (3) favorite things about the digital industry?

I love the collaboration. We all want each other to do well, whether that be the freelancers we work with or fellow studios. I love the global nature of being digital, and of course, I love the relentlessly new and exciting new work.

14What makes your country specifically unique in the digital industry?
,p>The UK is a hive of creative animation output! London has always been a key animation hub, but thanks to the digital nature we now work with and for companies and freelancers across the UK.

15If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring Vega Award submitter, what advice would you give them?

Work harder than I did, be nice and most importantly, stay in touch! So many juniors I meet who we don't, for whatever reason, have work for, fail to stay in touch. Sadly, when you are busy, out of sight out of mind.

16What resources would you recommend to someone who wants to improve their skills in the design industry?

God, everything is on youtube now! It might be my age but i absorb information better from a nice book.

Also, draw in a sketchbook. You don't have to show it to anyone.....

17Tell us something you have never told anyone else.

There's a photo with me aged seven in a Manchester United top. I don't know what i was thinking.....

18Who has inspired you in your life and why?

Yuri Gagarin. I mean, I feel ashamed being me next to him.

19What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?

Ha! Success? Wisdom? I'll let you know when i come across either of those.

Winning Entries

How to boost your resilience | 2020

How to boost your resilience | Vega Digital Awards

2020 has been a rough ride for many people around the world. The need to be resilient on both personal and societal levels seems ever...
(read more at Vega Digital Awards)

Star Wars - Rise of Skywalker | 2020

Star Wars - Rise of Skywalker | Vega Digital Awards

Kong Studio has delivered its third collaboration with IMAX, creating a digital animation spot to support the IMAX release of...
(read more at Vega Digital Awards)

Kong Studio Ltd

Kong Studio specialises in animation and the visual arts for movie trailers, brands, and more.