(Mr) Bean counters

Revealed: The attention to detail in slapstick animation

The agonising attention to detail needed to create even the broadest slapstick comedy has been revealed in a court case involving Mr Bean.

Legal wranglings between the animators who worked on the cartoon version of the character and production company Tiger Aspect reveal that more than 16,000 emails were exchanged over what might appear to be relatively minor changes in the shows.

It had been claimed that the requests from Tiger Aspect, which was set up by Mr Bean’s creator Rowan Atkinson, caused the budget for the 52 episodes to overrun by £4million.

According to today’s Sunday Times, areas for debate included whether:

  • Mr Bean’s chair at the hairdresser should be lower than the mirror
  • His ‘shushing’ one of the Queen’s corgis should be more forceful
  • A stray leaf fell on the right part of his nose
  • His spaceship’s legs should fold up or retract.
  • Enough light was coming from an open fridge door
  • The angle of a chair leg created the right comic effect.

Andras Erkel, the head of animation studio Varga, said: ‘I still regard Rowan as a comic genius. but animation is better suited to simplification than complexity.

Peter Bennett-Jones, chairman of Tiger Aspect, and Atkinson’s agent, said: ‘ have known Rowan Atkinson for 25 years. He is a perfectionist like all people who are really brilliant at their job.’ But he insisted: ‘I have never met anyone more reasonable in understanding processes.’

Atkinson – who no longer owns a stake in Tiger Aspect – once said of comedy: ‘You know instinctively that a certain length of pause is funny, whereas a longer or shorter pause isn’t. You can’t script, “He looks puzzled for seven seconds”, so there was a lot of work.’

Published: 26 Dec 2010

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