Search form

PETER PARR: ARTIST FOR ALL SEASONS

Anyone who attends Animation Festivals immediately recognizes the British gentleman with the warm smile, a twinkle in his eye, and sketchbook in hand.  Peter Parr and his lovely wife Astor have been dominant figures on the animation scene for over three decades.

Peter and Astor Parr

At The Arts University College at Bournemouth (formerly The Arts Institute of Bournemouth) in Bournemouth, England he is a beloved Founder, Principal Lecturer, and Leader of their award winning BA Honors Animation Production Course. It is recognized on an international level and accredited by Skillset.
When I visited Peter and Astor in their lovely home in South West Hampshire on the edge of the New Forest I was fascinated to learn  about Peter's other life.  I should not have been surprised to learn that he has also had a distinguished international career as a designer for film, television, and theater in the United States and London as well as his acclaimed work in animation.
Peter has designed murals for London’s Royal Opera House and the Royal Shakespeare Company.  His murals have gone on world tours in productions of Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice’s renowned stage presentation of Evita and Harold Pinter’s The Doll's Life. His work also appeared in the Hal Prince production of Lulu on Broadway.  These are just a few of the many productions that he has worked on.
Exhibits of his work have been held in diverse locations.   Madame Tussaud’s in London and Amsterdam displayed his Trompe L’oeil Murals and Old Masters Paintings. English Heritage and Yorkshire Television have permanent  displays of figurative murals for The Book Tower at Sudbury Hall.  Figurative murals have been shown at the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Old Masters at Madame Tussaud's in Amsterdam

Mural for Sudbury Hall Book Tower

Mural of the Battle of Trafalgar

Recognized throughout the animation community for his teaching methods and versatile draftsmanship, Peter has contributed to animation periodicals and publications.  Examples of Peter’s drawing from his sketches and story board contributions feature prominently in two of Paul Wells’ books, Fundamentals of Animation and Drawing for Animation, which illustrate the key elements of animation and tips on drawing.

From Peter's sketchbook, in Venice

“Peter Parr is one of the most renowned teachers of animation in Britian. He stresses the core skills of drawing and visualization in his work with students, pointing out the relationships between character, emotion and ‘dramatic” movement. (Paul Wells)

Peter sketching at Annecy

First and foremost, Peter’s name is associated with animation.  In 1965 he joined the London based film optical house Roy Pace Studio, assisting the camera team with shooting on the iconic Yellow Submarine. There he met Bob Godfrey and many other future colleagues in the animation world.  He went on to contribute animation to numerous film and television projects.  His television credits include character designs for the BBC production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, as well as numerous classical portraits for dramas, title sequences, storyboards and animatics.

Concept sheet for the film Lion, Witch and Wardrobe

Rembrandt

Along the way Peter has garnered many awards. He received The British Interactive Multi-Media Award for his visualization of the CD ROM The Art of Singing . His most prestigious honor was his BA Animation Course receiving The Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Film and Animation. When I asked him about his honors, Peter told me in his typically humble, humorous style, that over time he has met most members of the Royal Family, but never all together, and he is not on the Royal Family’s Christmas Card List.
All of Peter Parr’s professional achievements would be enough to fill more than one lifetime, but if you ask him what he is proudest of, he will answer immediately that it is the many students that he has guided along the path to successful careers in all branches of the animation industry.
Peter’s first student in 1967, BAFTA Award winning Clive Juster, says that “one of Peter’s greatest strengths is the deep and genuine personal interest that he takes in all of his students.”  A testament to this is that Clive has remained a lifelong friend of Astor and Peter.
Parr’s talent to help each student develop his or her own distinctive style can be found in the far flung corners of the animation community.  At Aardman Studios Daniel Capozzi is an animation director and production designer.   Guillermo Garcia, the creator of the BAFTA Award winning  Pokoyo, is at Zinkia Studios in Madrid, Andy Grisdale at Pixar, Jason Smith at Lucas Studio where he works in game development. The list goes on and on.  The new generation such as recent graduates Jamie Badminton and Tim O’Sullivan are now making their mark as co-directors at Karrot Animation, which has created many animated segments for CBBC.
Somehow Peter finds time to serve on Animation Festival selection committees and juries from Hiroshima to Zagreb to London.  In 1997 he headed a seminar organized by The Walt Disney Features Animation Company.  Held at the then Arts Institute of Bournemouth, the meeting brought together five European institutions known for the high quality of their teaching and training in Animation.  Gerard Vallin, Co-director of Ecole Superieure D’Arts Graphiques Et D’Architecture Interieure in Paris praised Peter for his “exceptional ability to research and organize” the seminar.  Gerard and Peter developed such a close working rapport that they have gone on to organize a 25 Nation Exhibit, “European Way(s) of Life” at the Louvre in Paris in 2002.
Standing shoulder to shoulder with Peter as an ambassador for the Arts University College at Bournemouth is Peter’s wife Astor.  Together they have pioneered an exchange program which has brought students from all over the world to study in Bournemouth.  Thanks to the ambassadorship of Peter and Astor, young animators from around the world have broadened their study and work experience through  the Leonardo Program, which  has funded student placement and exchange programs with several European animation companies.  Most recently Astor and Peter have negotiated successful collaborations with animation companies and educators in China.
The Peter Parr Appreciation Society page on Facebook was started by Peter's students as a genuine heartfelt tribute to a beloved professor, and even more importantly, a dear friend.  When I posted a request on the page for comments about Peter, I received many responses, all echoing “a grand animation tutor and a mentor for generations of students”.   Matt Cruickshank (Bournemouth 1988 formerly with Warner Bros. and now head of Merchandising at Disney U.K.), summed up what so many former students expressed by saying “Peter gave me something that I will never forget, and that is integrity.”