NYC Gifathon, 30 days of animated GIFs by James Curran

For the month of November, James Curran created a New York City-inspired GIF every day while he was visiting the city from London.


Paging through the NYC Gifathon Tumblr is like eating a delicious buffet of loopable candies. James sampled from NYC staples like the Guggenheim, the Empire State Building and the Meatball Shop while mixing in more topical references to the Thanksgiving Day parade, the NYC Marathon, and of course, the Paris attacks, which shocked the entire world.

Q&A with James Curran, creator of NYC Gifathon

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m James Curran, and I’m an animator/director based in London, England.

Why did you start the NYC Gifathon project?

There were a few reasons, but the main one was probably that I’ve always wanted to live in New York. I’d visited quite a few times before but never for more than a week, so a month seemed like enough time to feel like I’d lived there. If I was really living there I’d also need to work there, so I thought it would be a good chance to work on a personal project while treating it sort of like a full time job.


I’ve made a lot of individual GIFs just for fun over the last couple of years, but I haven’t managed to complete a larger personal project in that time. Any self initiated project that I do manage to finish always ends up being a series of smaller things joined together, so I thought that creating a self contained series of short GIFs on the same theme could be a good way to go.

Was it hard creating a GIF every day?

I wouldn’t say that it was particularly hard. It was mainly a case of finding a few hours at some point in the day to animate in. I tried to keep to a rough schedule of doing something in the morning and animating in the afternoon, with evenings kept free, but it often didn’t work out like that.

I just didn’t really allow myself to take a break, so if I wasn’t actually doing something else worthwhile, then I was animating.

Space Shuttle Enterprise on USS Intrepid and penguin feeding at Central Park Zoo

Space Shuttle Enterprise on USS Intrepid and penguin feeding at Central Park Zoo

What was your design approach? Did you have a bunch of ideas already on tap, or did you just search the city for ideas?

Before I went, I made a backup list things I could do if I didn’t have any other ideas, but I wanted to try to keep the whole thing as spontaneous as possible.


Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

I knew that I was going to reuse myself as the main character in most of the GIFs, mainly to save time, but I also thought that it would help to make the whole thing a bit more unique/weird by having duplicates of me running around the city.


Chasing doughnuts around the Guggenheim’s famous spiral ramp

Some days, I’d have a plan to go to a particular place, but I wouldn’t generally have a specific idea for an animation until after I’d been there. Some days I’d wake up with no plan at all and just wander around until I came up with something, like walking through Little Italy and then doing an animation about miniature pizza.

What tools did you use?

The majority of the animation was made in After Effects with a few bits of 3D added from Maya. I try to make the 2D parts look 3D and the 3D look 2D, so it’s not always that obvious which is which.


A fitting tribute to Paris after the November attacks

You’ve been very busy since we posted your Tintin project back in 2011! What are you working on now?

I’m working on turning all of the NYC GIFs into a longer video with added sound by the awesome David Kamp, so I’m excited to see how that turns out.

Otherwise, I’m animating/directing a couple of client projects right now, but also thinking about maybe doing another Gifathon in a few months time, somewhere else in the world…


Walking (swimming?) on the Brooklyn bridge

What kind of work do you want to do more of?

I really want to keep doing more work that’s spontaneous, whether that’s personal or client work, but I do also want to work on more longer projects too so I’m not only focused on GIFs. The main thing I want to avoid is spending months obsessing over projects, when I just want be creating and sharing as much as possible.

The last day of the project, November 30th

The last day of the project, November 30th


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About the author

Justin Cone

Together with Carlos El Asmar, Justin co-founded Motionographer, F5 and The Motion Awards. He currently lives in Austin, Texas with is wife, son and fluffball of a dog. Before taking on Motionographer full-time, Justin worked in various capacities at Psyop, NBC-Universal, Apple, Adobe and SCAD.