This short 3- minute film from BBC Wales features actor Michael Sheen reading Dylan Thomas’s poem The Hunchback in the Park. The beautifully animated piece was produced for the centenary year of the poet’s birth. In this post, you’ll see the 3 minute short, a behind the scenes of the animation and the recording of the music behind the animation
Hunchback in the Park Animated Poem
Animated by Aardman Animations for BBC Wales, the charming video premiered online on National Poetry Day, October 2nd. It is also to be broadcast on BBC One Wales later in October to mark the centenary of Dylan Thomas’s birth.
Michael Sheen (shown above) said “It was a pleasure to perform The Hunchback in the Park for this wonderful little film. The animation brings Dylan Thomas’s poem to life in a very imaginative and striking way and I can only hope that audiences everywhere find it as engaging as I did.”
Jo Pearce, Creative Director at BBC Wales, said: “This project was a joy to produce. As soon as we heard Michael Sheen’s recording of the poem we knew we had something special. We were able to assemble a brilliant and talented team to work on this animation because of the love for Dylan’s work. People immediately wanted to contribute to the production and that is clear to see when watching this beautiful animation.”
The poem tells the story of an isolated man who spends all his time at Cwmdonkin Park in Uplands, Swansea. Elements of the park were recreated in the Aardman studio for this production. Rockeries, underground dens and ponds were assembled there, and people – from the studio cleaner to dancers – were brought in to play various roles.
Aardman director, Bram Ttwheam said: “This project was a special proposition for me – an opportunity to dig deep into a poem that reveals more with each reading. It was a challenge to represent this multi-layered work without allowing any one aspect to dominate. I wanted to make sure that the images were as open to personal interpretation as the poem itself.”
Director, Bram Ttwheam from Aardman Animations discusses the process of animating this Dylan Thomas poem:
The film features original music by John Hardy, Head of Composition at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.
John Hardy has created music for a substantial number of films, TV and stage performances, including Hinterland/Y Gwyll, and he said of the project: “The Hunchback in the Park is an unusually whole and wholesome idea, and I really think it could have ‘legs’. It would be lovely if it brings people to poetry and to orchestral music – and it would be great to think people are going to be listening to this for some time to come.”
Watch Composer John Hardy and BBC NOW Director Michael Garvey on composing and performing the music behind the animation of this Dylan Thomas poem:
Michael Garvey, Director of the BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales, said: “We have a great reputation for our soundtrack recordings at BBC National Orchestra of Wales, but animation is an exciting addition to our work. The combination of the music that John Hardy wrote for us, and the incredible animation from Aardman, creates a wonderful film that we can’t wait to share.”
above: Poet and writer Dylan Thomas, who would turn 100 years old this year
The Hunchback in the Park:
The hunchback in the park
A solitary mister
Propped between trees and water
From the opening of the garden lock
That lets the trees and water enter
Until the Sunday sombre bell at dark
Eating bread from a newspaper
Drinking water from the chained cup
That the children filled with gravel
In the fountain basin where I sailed my ship
Slept at night in a dog kennel
But nobody chained him up.
Like the park birds he came early
Like the water he sat down
And Mister they called Hey Mister
The truant boys from the town
Running when he had heard them clearly
On out of sound
Past lake and rockery
Laughing when he shook his paper
Hunchbacked in mockery
Through the loud zoo of the willow groves
Dodging the park keeper
With his stick that picked up leaves.
And the old dog sleeper
Alone between nurses and swans
While the boys among willows
Made the tigers jump out of their eyes
To roar on the rockery stones
And the groves were blue with sailors
Made all day until bell time
A woman figure without fault
Straight as a young elm
Straight and tall from his crooked bones
That she might stand in the night
After the locks and chains
All night in the unmade park
After the railings and shrubberies
The birds the grass the trees the lake
And the wild boys innocent as strawberries
Had followed the hunchback
To his kennel in the dark.
In related news, at the Swansea Grand Theatre from 11am on October 26 to 11pm on October 27 – exactly 100 years to the day of Thomas’ birth, Hollywood stars Michael Sheen and Matthew Rhys will team up with other famous Welsh names, including Ruth Jones, Rob Brydon and Sian Phillips, for a 36-hour live ‘Dylathon‘ on stage. Tickets for the event can be purchased here
There is also a site celebrating 100 years of Dylan Thomas here.