When Wimbledon gets underway next week, Oscar-nominated animators Alan Smith and Adam Foulkes will have it playing on tv as they work in their London studio. Like people in offices the country over (this one included), they will, from time to time get so lured into a gripping moment, they will down tools as they watch a point play out. This year, they will have even more reason than usual to be watching as they made highly engaging film which has been promoting the event.
Commission by the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) which is celebrating its 150th birthday this year, the film is the history of the tournament told in one long rally. “We wanted to capture all the drama of a single rally, with different shots of the time, through the entire history of the Championships,” says Alan Smith. “One of the reasons they decided on animation is that of course when you go so far back there is no old footage.”
The film begins with genteel Victorians swinging wooden rackets, and ends with Federer or Williams smashing their way to victory. To capture the right atmosphere of the years in between meant a long spell of pleasurable research, trawling through the archive and touring the AELTC. “We have certainly had worse commissions,” says Smith.
Called #TakeOnHistory, the film makes a nod to the most significant changes over the years: the move from white to yellow balls, the manual then digital scoreboard, and the dramatic change in playing styles. Says Smith:
“They wanted it to be not just about famous players, but also about the club, the place itself and the different atmosphere over the years.
“They are very proud of the fact that it was the first tennis tournament in the world to be filmed and they didn’t want, for example, images Roger Federer looking romantically at the Wimbledon clock because that sort of thing has been done before. They wanted something which would be totally new, but still being within their traditional world.”
The most difficult problem was which players to include. “We both had a very long wish list,” says Smith, who like Foulkes is a tennis fan, and says they ‘dabble’ in the sport. The solution was to have three different versions, featuring (very briefly) either Murray, Djokovic or Nadal, for three different television markets (Europe, America and Asia) and two different endings one with Roger Federer and one with Serena Williams.
“I don’t know if there are any offended egos out there,” says Smith “and we have probably missed some players.” But the bar is always set high for Wimbledon. That’s what makes it the best tournament in the world.
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