Leeds Arts University Animation graduates team up to win awards at two major film festivals

02 February 2021

Derek the Sheep, animated by five Leeds Arts University graduates and directed by BA (Hons) Animation Senior Lecturer Ben Simpson a.k.a Doctor Simpo, has won awards at two international film festivals.

‘Derek the Sheep - The Grass is Always Greener’ (Pilot) won the Award of Excellence: Animation at the IndieFEST Film Awards in an announcement on Friday 5 February 2021. The film also won the Best Animation award at the Port Blair International Film Festival 2020 and the Jury Prize at the PRIX ROYAL Paris Animation Awards 2021.

Derek the Sheep was created by cartoonist Gary Northfield and was a regular strip in the Beano, first appearing in 2004. The film has been animated by a team of five Leeds Arts University alumni; Prathik Poojary, Damian Jenorowski, Tisa Rahman, Haraldur Pétursson and Cameron Cook. The graduates set up Schwa Animation Studios after graduating from BA (Hons) Animation in 2020.  

The film was also directed and animated by Senior Lecturer & Subject Specialist, BA Animation & MA Graphic Novel & MA Illustration, Ben Simpson.

Now in it’s 13th year, the IndieFEST Film Awards promotes independent filmmakers of cinematic gems and unique voices to a worldwide audience. The festival is based in La Jolla, San Diego, California, United States, however the 2021 event took place virtually with the winners announced on Friday 5 February 2021.

A spokesperson at the IndieFEST Film Awards said: ‘Winning an IndieFEST is something you and your entire team can be proud of!  Our judges base their decisions on the quality, creativity and technical aspects of each piece.  The award appropriately reflects the endless hours you and your team have spent to create your outstanding production!  Congratulations on your achievement!’

The Port Blair International Film Festival features top films from the world's filmmakers as well as introduces new, talent from around the world.

Derek the Sheep has also been shortlisted in several other festivals including SHORT to the POINT 2020, Ahmedabad International Children Film Festival 2020 and KIDS FIRST! Film and Video Festival. 

The story follows a sheep called Derek in his attempts to reach greener grass on the other side of the river. Carlee S. and Julie S., Jurors on KIDS FIRST! Film and Video Festival said: 

“Derek The Sheep is so creative! It has some humour along with an important message teaching you to be thankful for what you have. The upbeat music in the cool intro makes it all more enjoyable and the animation is terrific.

The story line is silly and fun with lots of humour. Derek’s struggle to cross to the grass on “the other side” presents so many obstacles standing in his way….I give Derek The Sheep 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults.”

Image: Doctor Simpo

Cartoonist Gary Northfield, creator of Derek the Sheep, joined students at Leeds Arts University in November 2020 as a part of the University’s programme of visiting professionals.