Pigby: when pride comes before a pig’s ear

31 Dec

First Saver Children's Savings

Remember the NatWest piggy banks? I do. I remember that I never had one because most of my family worked for a rival high street bank. Funny how long you can feel hard done by. NatWest have now rebooted their piggy theme with Pigby and Friends, the porcine cuties who are the faces of Natwest’s recently launched children’s savings account. Thanks to BritMums Pro, my 5-year-old daughter and I were lucky enough to get a place on an Animate It! workshop with the Gods of Animation, Aardman, to make our own Pigby. A roomful of kids with their parents trying to make the best plasticine pig the world has ever seen? What could possibly go wrong?

The workshop, held at the M&C Saatchi offices in London, was eagerly awaited in our household. We approached the day with wide-eyed trepidation – for my daughter because she is a big fan of Wallace and Gromit, and for me because I’m new to PR events for bloggers. Neither of us knew quite what to expect but, boy, did we learn a thing or two or three (to be precise).

1. Freebies vs Theft

I’m pretty terrified of meeting anyone I consider to be a ‘proper blogger’. They might wonder who the dickens let me in. I’m even more terrified of freebies. Or, more specifically, what is a freebie and what isn’t. When faced with such a situation, I would encourage you to stand back and get your child to help themselves to the food and drinks. If no one rushes to stop them then you’re okay. They provide a neat scapegoat (who pilfered in all innocence) should the need arise. Think of them as your canary in a coal mine.

2. Helicopter parenting

It’s freakin’ hard not to be a helicopter parent when faced with piles of luscious plasticine. It’s even harder when you are surrounded by parents who think pride might be at stake. During the course of the hour long workshop I had to exert extreme restraint and let my daughter express her creativity (darling). I channeled Montessori. Of course it didn’t matter if Pigby had unevenly sized eyes. Of course it didn’t matter if the fingerprints were so deep it looked like Pigby had lived a very hard life, probably without a bank account of his own and addicted to acne medication. (Actually, she did a bloody good job given the conditions – see point below.)

He’s not smooth like Gromit, he’s not smooth like Gromit, he’s not smoo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-ooth like Gromit.

He’s not smooth like Gromit, he’s not smooth like Gromit, he’s not smoo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-ooth like Gromit.

3. Practice what you preach (aka set a good example mums and dads)

I’m forever telling my children to listen. How many times have you said: “If you just listen then you will find out how to do it.” What makes it okay then for parents to do exactly the opposite? Because we always think we know best, even when being instructed by experts. By experts I mean representatives of a world class animation studio and not a 2-year-old afficionado of homemade playdoh. I get tense when people don’t listen when they ought to be listening. Tense and downright uncomfortable and embarrassed. It was only the presence of children that stopped me from standing on my chair and telling the grown-ups to shut the f*ck up. Oh, and lack of balls. But I did it in my head and all the kids applauded.

It may sound like a stressful morning (at times it was) but it was also a magical experience. As I kowtowed out the door, I felt privileged to have been in the presence of truly imaginative, talented and creative people. (God no, not the other parents – the animators.) Pigby went on to survive a day out in London, only (tragically) losing an ear in the Rainforest Café. And by the end of the day he looked ten years younger, almost as if someone had smoothed out all those tiny fingerprints. You see there’s only so much self-restraint a perfectionist, chopper flying parent can exert.

If you’d like to have a go at stop frame animation, you can download a free trial of the Aardman Animate It! software here. The site also has lots of top tips for budding animators. Sadly nothing though for annoying parents.

Disclosure: We were invited by M&C Saatchi to attend this free event. We didn’t get to pet the real Gromit but we did get a lovely t-shirt.

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