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Let me animate you

NEWFOUND FAME: An animation of real-life couple Joyce (left) and Herman (right) has gone viral on the Internet

AN ANIMATOR whose heartwarming cartoon of his Jamaican grandparents sharing their experiences of migrating to Britain has found fame with the video going viral nearly four years after it was first made.

Keston Neunie initially created the captivating video of Joyce and Herman at home in their living room as part of a four-part series for Channel 4 to challenge stereotypes about Jamaicans, single parents and young black men.

But after the two parties failed to reach an agreement over rights, Neunie chose to self-fund the project using his own savings and went on to win an award at the Caribbean Tales Toronto Film Festival in 2012.

Then out of the blue, the clip was recently uploaded to website Banddulu.com and has since been viewed thousands of times in just a few days, winning new fans from a fresh audience.

PERMISSION

Neunie, who runs his own graphic design business and has had his work such as ads for Marc Jacobs perfume displayed on black cabs across London, added: “Banddulu shouldn’t really have uploaded the video without my permission, but I can see that people are enjoying it so I’m not going to tell them to take it down.

“I kind of support it because they’re getting it out there. Some of the people who are watching it on Facebook are an older demographic because they’re saying ‘this reminds me of my mum and dad’ whereas these are my grandparents. It’s nice to see so many people relate to them.”

Neunie revealed he had to convince the elderly pair to be filmed and interviewed first and then used their original voices paired with an animated version of themselves to yield the hilarious results.

In one scene of the eight-minute video, Joyce is shown doing the bogle as she steps off the SS Windrush while she narrates with a laugh: “I said ‘Bwoy! England is good because look how much factories are here’– because I didn’t know the smoke was coming out of people’s houses.”

The couple then talked about the struggle to find work and housing before the conversation turns to their views on religion and their wishes for the future. “Don’t get married!” Herman warns. “That’s my opinion. And who feels it knows it…and I talk from my experience,” before Joyce interrupts him.

“Well, my experience is different,” she said with affection in her voice. “Because I had a good marriage and I have him [gestures to Herman] and he’s a good man.”

Then Herman whispers to the camera: “Keep away from marriage. Keep away from woman!”


ANIMATOR: Keston Neunie

Neunie told The Voice what first inspired him: “Our family is quite close. The whole family go and visit them every Friday and because they are always bickering over any little thing, everyone always says they are characters.

“And I thought, yes, they are characters. Maybe I should animate them. They did need a bit of coercing because I had to record them on video. But with a little bit of persuading and the promise that no one would see the video they agreed and because it’s me there was that trust. It’s not every day you interview your own family, so it was enlightening for me as well.”

Describing the squabbling lovebirds as “modest people”, he revealed the pair was baffled by their newfound fame.
He said: “They find it funny that anyone would listen to what they have to say.

VIDEO

“Not long after the video was done, my gran actually suffered a brain aneurysm and was in intensive care for a year and a half. She has recovered very well, but the first time she watched the video she cried because it helped remind her of how she was and also helped to get her memory back as well.”

The 32-year-old of Enfield, north London, studied animation at Westminster University where he recalled being told by lecturers that he would get marked down if he continued to focus on black characters.

Frustrated, he used his character Tony Blackwood to vent in a university project called ‘I did it anyway’.

He explained: “I didn’t have a particularly smooth experience at university. I was constantly asked why I made films with black characters. I was the only black person on the course and everyone else made characters that looked like them, but when I made characters that looked like me, it suddenly was a big problem.

“Looking back, Tony Blackwood was a bit childish but I felt it was the most important piece I did. It was my way of talking to other artists to say let’s make something of our own. I was studying when [US cartoon] The Boondocks came out and it reaffirmed that it was possible to make film with black stories and be well received. It doesn’t mean that I should make a UK version of The Boondocks because there are so many British stories that don’t get told because we consume so much American culture.”

He added: “I view graphic design as my day job. My own animated sitcom – that’s the dream. I have something in the pipeline now, which is a bit of a secret and an experiment to see what people find entertaining so watch this space.”

Watch the video here:

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