Chris “Toots” Tootell
Occupation/Title: Animator, Director, Writer
Chris was born in Preston, England. His uncle helped him get a 4 week internship at Cosgrove Hall where he started by making tea and sweeping the floors. During the final week of his internship, Chris was allowed to take a test for animation using an old puppet and a camera setup. After the test, he was offered a job on a show called “Rotten Ralph”. This was his first animator credit at the age of 16. He was animating at Cosgrove Hall on Kids TV shows when Tim Burton and Warner Bros. started shooting “The Corpse Bride”. His friend and animator Brian Demoskoff was animating on the movie and suggested that Chris try out. His first demo reel was rejected so, over the course of a month, Chris stayed late at the studio and made a new 30 second show reel. This reel got him an animation test for “The Corpse Bride”. After this test, he was offered an animator position by a producer on the film at the age of 22. Since then he has worked as an animator, director and writer on a variety of films, music videos, and commercials.
Chris has two brothers, one older and one younger. His family does not have an artistic or creative mindset yet he was always encouraged to do whatever he wanted with his life. There were no limitations or barriers. His mother was particularly responsible for teaching him he could do anything with his life so long as he worked hard. She would say things like “If anyone tells you it’s just being in the right place at the right time, tell them that if you’re always in the right place the right time will come along…that takes work.”
Chris’s uncle is a businessman and also a huge film buff. His uncle introduced him to all the classics and started Chris on his love of visual effects. Some of the early films include the stop motion work of Ray Harryhausen and the CG films of the 1990s.
Chris has a Bachelor’s Degree in Illustration from Manchester Metropolitan University and has attended three Robert McKee Story seminars. He has no formal training in animation. The biggest form of animation training he received was studying his peers at the various studios. The two animators whose work he would constantly study, breakdown and copy were Brian Demoskoff and Phil Grey. He owes a lot of his training to copying movement from other animators.
Chris Tootell began animating professionally at the age of 16. He started working on children’s television shows in the United Kingdom. At the age of 21 he co-directed a series of commercials for the advertising agency Cheetham Bell. He then moved to London, England to work for Tim Burton and Warner Bros. on the film “Corpse Bride”. Chris continued to make short films and music videos before moving to Portland Oregon to animate for stop motion director Henry Selick at LAIKA on the films “Coraline” and “Paranorman”. In addition to animating professionally, Chris continues to make short films with a strong interest in storytelling through distinct visual styles.
Comments On Style:
Chris has worked in a variety of visual media and styles. These styles include HDR animation, computer animation for characters and effects, motion control and capture, time lapse animation, and stop motion animation. He likes to mix media and use practical effects and CG.
Influences: For staging, Chris is a huge fan of Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis especially during the late 1980s and early 1990s. He also is a huge fan of Alfonso Cuaron for his long takes and minimal exposition. Chris enjoys Alfred Hitchcock’s “innocent man on the run theme” found in the films “North by Northwest” and “The 39 Steps”. Michael Gondry is also an influence, especially his ability to take a technique and put it in a timeline with a specific direction.
Chris was very generous with his information and background. He provided very thorough answers to all the interview questions.
Mike Johnson was his primary director on “The Corpse Bride” and he rarely interacted with Tim Burton. He remembers an animator meeting where Tim Burton spoke to them about pacing in their shot and there was a tendency to keep movements slow and smooth but action needed to be more dynamic and quicker paced. He recalls that Tim Burton was very good at being respectful and appreciative of a skill set but that he can still tell exactly what he needs from you.
Chris worked much more closely with Henry Selick on “Coraline”. Henry is a very hands-on director and the animators would meet with him daily. He is extremely specific but is really good at rolling with the changes during a performance and developing a scene differently as a result. Chris learned a great deal from Henry during that movie.
Chris also goes by the nickname “Toots” derived from his last name, Tootell. He and his brothers all had the same nickname in school even though they had different circles of friends. Even when he started animating professionally, his co-workers at the studio started calling him “Toots”. He would eventually be referred to as Toots and introduced to new crew as Toots. This nickname also appears on official studio documentation as well.
- 2012 “Jingle & Bell’s Christmas Star” (animator)
- 2012 “Paranorman” (animator)
- 2010 “Cellophane” (music video director)
- 2010 “Echo Deep” (short film director)
- 2008 “Flicker” (music video director)
- 2008 “Change for Life” (animator)
- 2008 “Coraline” (animator)
- 2007 “Quinn” (short film director)
- 2007 “Creature Comforts America” (animator)
- 2005 “Look at Her Face” (music video director)
- 2005 “Summer Sun” (music video director)
- 2005 “Corpse Bride” (animator)
- 2004 “Postman Pat” (animator)
- 2003 “Fifi and the Flowertots” (animator)
- 2002 “Bill and Ben” (animator)
- 2002 “Lambrini Commercial” (studio director)
- 2001 “Engie Benjy” (animator)
- 2001 “Andy Pandy” (animator)
- 2001 “Little Robots” (animator)
- 2000 “Fetch the Vet” (animator)
- 1998 “Animal Shelf” (animator)
- 1997 “Rotten Ralph” (animator)
Contributors To This Listing:
Animators Hall of Fame
- Dzu Nguyen
- Chris Tootell