With just AN HOUR away until the first episode of “Degree” drops, we manage to catch up with Peter Lay the mastermind himself and ask him about the UK animation industry and why he has decide to make this his career.
Peter Lay realised that animation has been dominated by the Japanese and the Americans for many many years. While the Japanese dominated nerdy futuristic fantasies such as “Sailor Moon”, “Dragonball Z” & “Pokemon”, the Americans dominated the mature adult/family genre of animation from shows such as “The Simpsons”, “Powerpuff Girls”, “Family Guy”, “The Proud Family”, and “Boondocks” to “South Park” and “American Dad”. Not only has it influenced an audience, it has also become in a weird way the nerdy part of the comic-pop culture.
All of these animations and yet no UK competition? Until now. Lay’s new show “Degree” Britain’s first adult content done in an animated form. We all know that Britain is successful with cinematography, but Lay believes that animation is the new avenue that will showcase talent that exist on our shores, as well as placing the multi-million billion industry on the UK emerging market on the map.
In this interview, Lay talks about finally finishing the first season of “Degree”, choosing to animation has his ideal career and the rise of Black animators conquering the market with help of the internet. We also get an insight into the show’s synopsis, characters and execution as well as future plans for the series. Plus, he provides advice to any other cartoon fanatics out there on what they need to consider before pursuing an idea and career in animation.
1. Peter! You’re embarking on a career in animation. How does it feel?
It feels great and the beginning of what could be an amazing journey. It’s one thing having a passion, it’s another thing pursuing it but the cherry on top is people appreciating it. So yeah great!
2. With “Family Guy” no longer being aired on BBC Three, do you think there’s a market opportunity for adult cartoons, that’ll rival alongside the likes of America’s “Simpsons“?
I think there’s a market for adult animation from the UK period. Animation is currently being dominated by the Americans and Japanese so the world is waiting for an adult animation to dramatise the silly events that happens over here, and let’s be honest- this country is crazy. Hopefully, my show will do just that.
3. a) What made to decide to pursue an animation career instead of film?
Well, animation has been my first love from since I can remember and it still is. The idea of making cartoons for a living excites me and is a dream job in my books. However, as writer I would love to branch and do other things some day, such as film!
b) Which cartoon shows were your favourite whilst growing up?
c) How have these shows influenced your body of work when it comes to animation?
Well I know what I like to see in shows; what makes me laugh, what works and what doesn’t work. I study these shows and use what I learn on my show.
4. “Degree” is an innovative cartoon webseries from the UK, as it consists of a diverse group of characters. Not only that, but the storyline is set around four friends who are students. How important is it to you to display the uniqueness of people in the world?
I think it’s very important to understand that we live in a very diverse world with so many different cultures. Growing up in London, you meet so many people from different backgrounds and I wanted to embrace this through my show. “Degree” can appeal to different types people and not just one demographic which in my eyes is important for longevity.
b) Did you take this sense of diversity inspiration from American adult shows?
I actually didn’t. In fact, most American adult shows are the complete opposite. My inspiration came from growing up in London and living in such a diverse society.
First of all, I think its great that more and more Black people are contributing to the industry, it’s refreshing to see. I would strongly recommend independently starting any project in animation on your own before considering a major corporation or production company. I think it’s important to be free to create a show the way YOU want, enjoy the process and not have the pressure of business or meeting certain requirements if you catch my drift. Once you have a proven formula then you can consider working with media corporations, you’ll have more of a say regarding the direction of your show. This is just my opinion though folks!
b) Is there a possibility that Blacks across the diaspora should create their own line of adult shows that is similar to “Boondocks”?
I think it’s possible and with support these type of shows can do very well. The internet is such a powerful tool so if you utilise well, there’s nothing you can’t do. We are fortunately living in an era where Black creatives are doing very well.
6) Is there an issue in terms of the amount of animators from BAME backgrounds that they employ into the corporate world?
I don’t think there’s an issue with employment but more with what type of shows are aired and accepted. However more and more ethnic shows are being produced which is a great step forward .
7 a) what can we expect from your new show “Degree” and how is it different from other adult shows such as “Family Guy”?
What you can expect is a funny but true representation of today’s British society through the eyes of four uni students. So relatable humour that will have you thinking ‘that’s happened to me before’ or ‘I remember being there and that happened’. The strong British influence, topical humour and diverse cultural references is what will separate “Degree” from the others…Plus it’s written by me so that helps haha.
b) Is there possibility that you’ll also have star guests in the show?
Definitely, we have a few people in mind for season two so watch this space.
8) Reflect on the creation, production and execution of “Degree”. Feel free to reflect on the idea, challenges, passion and triumphs that you’ve experience?
It has been an enjoyable but challenging journey and it’s only the beginning. Coming up with the show was easy as I have always had a weird imagination so it was an organic process. I wanted “Degree” to be a true representation of London/UK so it was important to me to have diversity and culture in the show which I feel we have in “Degree”. The four main characters are so different and unusual which makes for better writing, conflict and humour. The real challenge for me with this show was getting the right team which took ages. I had to get rid of a lot people who weren’t serious, this show means a lot to me and I need people who understand this and believe in its potential. Eventually I finally found an amazing and loyal group. Everyone in my team is passionate and I think that can now be seen in our work. We are constantly working on the show and trying to find ways to improve it. We are excited to show you guys season one and already we are preparing season two. Hope you guys enjoy it!
9) How is animation different from filming? What is one of the top three things that an aspiring independent animator needs to consider?
Well, animation has A LOT of stages before it gets to a finished product. There is a lot of passing around of work from one team member to the next and production takes a lot longer. Although I love the process and very much enjoy it, it can be quite stressful and time consuming, especially when you’re trying to perfect each episode. Bearing in mind every frame is hand drawn so you can imagine how hard we work to get a 3 minute episode done. Three things they must consider are:
a) Is this really your passion?
b) Are you willing to invest A LOT of money and time into it? and
c) Have you got the right team?
The answer to those 3 questions should tell you if this is really for you.
10) A few music artists such as JME, Daft Punk and Kanye West have used animation for their music videos. Do you have prospects of producing animation for the music industry? Or you just want to settle with producing content for film & television?
I’m asked this question on a regular basis, to be honest I’m focusing only on “Degree” for now. However, if the right song and artist came a long I’ll probably give it a go, at least once, I do enjoy creative challenges.
11) What are your long-term aims with your new show?
I want “Degree” to be broadcast across world and be a global success. I want this show to be an official pioneer of UK adult animation and to be an essential part of a young individuals evening…“Degree” and chill.
12) Here’s a tough one. How important is it to keep the copyright, as well as legal rights of your animations? One of the issues that animators have with corporations is the process of changing the show’s synopsis that isn’t familiar with consumers.
It is important to copyright any work in any industry PERIOD. Unfortunately, the world we live in has thieves that can steal your work, change it slightly, call it their own and make money from it. Corporations will always want to put their stamp on your work and make it like everything else on tv so it’s less risk for them. This draws me back to what I said earlier and this applies to everything not just animation, do it independently first. If your show is unique, make it work on your own so you can prove that your idea works, it puts you in such a powerful position. Again my opinion though.
13) How many episodes are there in the first season, and how can people stay updated with the webseries?