Curtis Jobling Book Signing, Friday 27th January, 10am, Zion Arts Centre
Words by Kevin Danson. Photograph by Ade Hunter.
In association with Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester Children’s Library Service and Puffin Books, the first trailblazer of this year’s Manchester Children’s Book Festival kicks off at the Zion Arts Centre with the designer of Bob the Builder and author of the Wereworld Series; Curtis Jobling, here to promote the third book; Shadow of The Hawk.
It’s a treat to be here on a Friday morning packed with children from across Manchester schools and you can tell they feel the same as they welcome Curtis with an enthusiastic, unified roar impersonating one of his T.V. characters, Raa Raa the Noisy Lion. The auditorium has a magical touch as the only illumination is around the large circle of ashen petals sprinkled with rose tops. Curtis enters and already begins to rouse the happy rabble around me even more. It is obvious that his calling was for child entertainment. He gives us a swift explanation of what an illustrator does and already incites further interest from the kids. Continuing in his energetic pace, Curtis breaks down how animation is made. Our attention is caught if not by his constant flow of information, then by his constant moving around the stage. The liveliness is contagious. Aside from learning the difference between drawing, digital and puppet animation (not just the obvious), I was also able to jot down a few new names of animated programmes such as ‘Ooglies’ and one of Curtis’ very own, the hilarious Curious Cow. I feel like Peterpan.
Picking up his mighty sword—the marker—Curtis shows how ‘designing characters for animation is all about playing with shapes’. Bob the Builder smiles at us after 10 seconds of waving his pen and a cowering Knight running from a fire-breathing dragon in… voilá, another 10 seconds. If you blink you miss most of the action. We’re all gawping and, well, very impressed. All I can hear from behind me is ‘Whoa!’
The North is amazing, fact. But to push that statement further, Curtis, a Warringoton local, informs us of all the animation companies based here in the Great North like Altrincham (Bob the Builder) and Chorlton (Danger Mouse & Postman Pat). To learn about such companies certainly has gotten the children thinking about the possibilities of ‘colouring in for a living’.
Curtis’ love of fantasy and adventure sprouted from such books as Where The Wild Things Are and The Hobbit. No wonder his lycanthropic world of kings, spies and pirates is a current must-read. These powerful characters roam the Wereworld but there is only one who is out to seize us, a sixteen-year-old boy named Drew, the last in line of the werewolves. If you need more information you can visit the official website www.wereworldbooks.com, where you’ll find exclusive information not found within the books and also a map of the Wereworld with a quiz to find out which werewolf you are. Otherwise, you can take a sneak peek here at a trailer Puffin Books have put together.
A very interesting Q&A with the students ends our fun morning. Curtis answers one student by saying how he gained work experience on ‘Wallace and Gromit in A Close Shave’ after leaving college. However, after being given that opportunity he wanted to set out on his own path which led him to the creation of Bob the Builder. Another student asks ‘What made you write the Wereworld Series?’ He says it came to him during a simple walk on the Yorkshire Moors while out with his dog. From his already established passion for werewolves and the memory of ‘American Werewolf in London’, the cogs of creation began to turn. It took 3 / 4 years to write Rise of The Wolf, first of the series, though his commitments then were many; ‘You make sacrifices to write the first book. It’s a vanity project’. It’s nice to see that despite most of his career being involved with animation, Curtis confesses his dream job is writing. ‘The liberty to create and see those creations come to life is very satisfying’. His books revolve around fantasy and horror and beware, they are dangerous page-turners.
Kevin Danson is an English Literature student at MMU. Read his blog Pebbleddash and follow him on Twitter @pebbleddash.