Everyone blazes their own path into this crazy industry of ours. A few chosen ones march in a straight line from birth to a beautifully rendered sunset; others find themselves, somehow, at Costco.
And then there’s Australia-born Fletcher Moules, who made his way onto the set of Star Wars before getting into commercial animation. As a director at Psyop’s LA office, he’s helmed the creation of hilarious, character-based works, including the insanely popular Clash of Clans adverts, which have collectively been viewed over 100 million times.
In this Artist Profile, we dive into Fletcher’s story and chat about some of his favorite projects.
How did you get into animation and filmmaking?
I remember walking out of Return of the Jedi in 1983 with my brother, turning to him and saying, “That’s what I want to do.”
I was always doing art at school, and I got into a bachelor of design at the University of Technology in Sydney. When I was in my final year there, one of my film lecturers owned a stop motion company. He worked on commercials in stop motion, and I started working with him.
From there, it’s been a winding journey, rolling my way through the industry. I learned to fabricate puppets and creature armatures. When I learned that Star Wars Episode II was filming in Sydney, I found a way to work on the film in the creatures department, which brought me full circle. I thought, “Well, oh, now I guess I can just die.”
After that, I went to London to work for Cartoon Network and got into 2D artwork there.
What are your biggest animation influences?
Star Wars is definitely the old one, but really it’s anything or anyone that tells a story in a new and unique way. Ray Harryhausen — who really was a pioneer of visual effects — I got to meet him one day, and it was awesome.
Anyone who blends design with true complexities of animation are absolutely amazing. Paul Barry, stop motion animator on Nightmare Before Christmas — I was fortunate to be trained by him in the late 90s. His love of animation is really what has kept me going all this time.
Genndy Tartakovsky (creator of Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack and Star Wars: Clone Wars) was also a huge influence. When I was directing interstitials for Cartoon Network, I was always playing with his characters and in his worlds.
Another inspiration was Smith & Foulkes. I worked as their Art Director and Project Lead for a few years at Nexus Productions in London. I learned so much from them in crafting worlds. Probably the most memorable job would’ve been the 2009 Oscar Nominated Short we made together, “This Way Up”.
I also find myself in many situations thinking, “What would Brad Bird do?”
You joined Psyop back in 2011. What led you there?
I’ve always looked at Psyop as one of the pioneers that were really like, “Why do commercials need to suck?” I think that there were a bunch of people that had the same feeling at the same time in the late 90s, and all of the founders of Psyop did a great job in really crafting an art form around producing short stories.
When I worked at Nexus, I found myself always pitching against Psyop. They seemed like the enemy — in the nicest possible way. Then I met them when I was in LA, and we decided to work together.
What has been your favorite project so far?
I’m going to have to say the Clash of Clans campaign, because it is such a unique and fun world to play in.
When they first approached with the idea, they were just a game, they didn’t have characters to them. So building the characters and that world was just so fun. It’s such a fun world to play on, and it’s been a good ride.
I also really enjoyed the first AMC Coca-Cola spot I directed last year. That one’s definitely a favorite of mine.
Do you approach each project similarly?
With a commercial, it’s different every time, because the clients bring a different level of thinking. It’s really just about isolating the core nugget in the client’s idea, and finding what it’s all about. What’s the one, true message?
Then you find the design style of what feels appropriate, building the story and characters around that. Breaking the script down to the core feeling and emotion.
What was the most interesting and/or challenging project that you worked on last year?
Probably the Honda campaign, because it had so many different pieces.
What was so interesting about the Honda series was that I really got to draw upon my stop motion background. (The characters were animated in stop motion, apart from a couple shots in CG.)
We also shot live action, and then threw the car on a stage for other shots. It was a mixture of almost every method you could use in animation, all wrapped into one campaign. That was exciting. We also had all of these toys that everyone knew from the 80s, and we had to be true to those properties.
What are some other projects you’d like to work on?
A couple of things: Telling longer stories with really compelling animated work that’s feature length. I also like to tell stories that can evolve.
PSAs are always great to work on as well. Anything that’s great for the community.
What interests do you have outside of filmmaking?
I love to go home in the evenings and record weird music in my studio. I also love to be outdoors. When you’re cooped up in the animation studio all day long, you need to do the opposite on the weekends. I love mountain biking skiing and of course, traveling. I left Sydney over a decade ago, and i’m still on the same trip!
Do you have any advice for those who are entering the field?
Really the biggest thing is just to do stuff. Don’t be afraid to do work when you go home. The more you do, the easier it gets — and the better you get. Get your name out there, meet people. The industry is still a pretty small still, and when you build, it builds