By Dave Massey @brumhour
In early May, BrumHour was followed on twitter by an account called Yamination Studios, and right at that moment, I realised a Black Country-influenced animation studio was to be discovered right here in the heart of Birmingham. (Aka Digbeth!)
For those who are not from Birmingham, or indeed the West Midlands, a “yam yam” is someone who speaks with a stereotyped Black Country accent. Previously “yam yam” has been seen as slightly negative. As with many things today, negative words can be reclaimed and that’s exactly what Drew Roper creator of Yamination Studios did. Here’s a man, who is very proud of his working-class roots and how they have shaped who he is.
Drew recently moved his animation studio from the Custard Factory to Floodgate Street, which is in Birmingham’s very cool Digbeth area. Digbeth is home, as I’ve said in previous blogs, to many unique and individual creative businesses.
I arrive on a slightly wet May weekday lunch time, sat inside the foyer is a three foot tall model of a cinema and I’m immediately aware that I’m stepping back in time somehow – it’s all quite 1930’s Hollywood studio.
The walls of the stairs have movie posters of Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr Fox and Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie adorning them, these are both productions Drew has worked on along with along with the studios head of art department, Yossel Simpson-Little, where the two met. This makes me realise that Drew is VERY casual at showing what hard work he puts into his day. He’s a working class Black Country lad with huge Walt Disney inspired dreams.
We pause at the top of the stairs and Drew tells me how excited London friends become when they visit and what their expectations of Birmingham are as a city. It might seem impressions that hung around Birmingham in the 80’s live on, but many that visit our city break those impressions. Money goes a lot further here than it ever would in the south east.
Yamination mixes working on corporate commercial projects, with chasing their own works, short and promotional projects and ultimately the goal of full length feature and series animation. You can see Yamination’s set and model making work on the Cravendale advert here starring Barry the Biscuit Boy!
There’s a model of Bart who is one of Yamination’s future characters in a glass case on the stairs. Models of Bart’s hands are there too. Each pose for his hands is individually made, from pointing fingers to jazz hands!
There are many rooms on this whole floor to discover, the most modern of these being the main office, I felt this was the “deal” room where agreements will be struck for future exciting projects! There’s a studio room where a large detailed “outdoor” model set is housed for a future project, a model making room and a room with “chemical room” on it which slightly unnerves me!
I’ve caught this cool space on what appears to be a quieter day with just Drew and production assistant Kelly Abbey in situ during this lunchtime. However it looks like there could be fifteen people doing work here comfortably. The Walt Disney vibe is felt throughout the whole floor, and I feel excited for this up and coming team’s future.
Here’s a video of Drew talking to ITV Central News in 2014 about Birmingham’s creative businesses:
Look out for the Yamination Studios name in the future and remember its founder Drew Roper!
You can follow Drew on twitter at @YaminationS.