Mackinnon & Saunders is one of the world’s leading puppet making companies specialising in the design and construction of characters for television shows, feature films and commercials. “Our puppets are virtually unlike any other puppet”, says Peter Saunders, joint director for Mackinnon & Saunders. “They are based around a metal ball socket and skeleton, allowing each one to be posed and moved incrementally frame by frame, to create the illusion that it is moving by itself.”
From concept maquettes, mould-making and armatures to costume, hair, paint and even animation, Mackinnon & Saunders go the extra mile to ensure that every character creates the maximum impact on screen.
Based in leafy Altrincham, in Greater Manchester, the company’s origins can be traced back to Cosgrove Hall Films, a Manchester based organisation that shaped the British animation industry. Cosgrove Hall created classic cartoons such as Chorlton and the Wheelies, Danger Mouse and the BAFTA award-winning feature length animation, Wind in the Willows.
Ian Mackinnon and Peter Saunders, joint directors of Mackinnon & Saunders both learned their trade at the famous studios and even took on many of the former Cosgrove Hall staff after its closure. Keen on keeping talent in the region, they see Manchester as a hotbed of creative talent, especially for their own growing business. “Greater Manchester attracts and retains a diverse pool of creative talent,” says Peter Saunders. “It has a fantastic history of creativity and innovation, while institutions like the University of Salford, which offers specialist courses like Professional Broadcast Techniques and Animation, and Manchester Metropolitan University’s (MMU) highly acclaimed 3D Product Design course equips fresh talent with the skills needed for working in the industry. “We have great connections with the local universities and MMU in particular. I think it’s fair to say that over the years more than 50% of our workforce received their training at MMU.
Their 3D Product Design course has trained the numerous graduates that have joined our team of puppet makers. The skills learned on the course enable graduates to apply their model making skills to our specialist type of puppet making and animation.”
As natives to the North West, both directors see Manchester as their spiritual home and the lure of the city, the opportunities for collaboration and its networks have ensured that they have been able to continue running a global business from their Manchester base. Peter added, “We have toyed with the idea of moving the business to London or even further afield, but the advancement in digital communications means that we don’t need to be in London on Los Angeles. Added to this, not only is it more financially viable for us to keep a business of our size and nature running in Manchester, but we get the pick of the latest graduates, and get to work in a place we love! “Manchester is a great city, friendly and diverse with a strong creative sector. With the arrival of MediaCityUK, it’s interesting to see that Manchester as a centre of animation is gathering momentum. People are coming to the city to study and to us to work from further afield! This industry, as small and as niche as it is, is set to grow in a dramatic way over the next 10 years and there are so many more opportunities that have been strengthened by the initiatives of the Sharp Project, The Landing and MediaCityUK too.”
Mackinnon & Saunders have set an example for the animation industry in Manchester and the UK. Being located in Greater Manchester with MediaCityUK close by, they are on the doorstep of major broadcasters, post production studios and potential partners. Added to this, as Manchester has the only international internet exchange outside London, they can be sure they are connected with their London and US based clients.
MIDAS initially supported Mackinnon & Saunders to assist the team in showcasing the city to a cohort of overseas clients – producers from the USA. Working with MIDAS helped Mackinnon & Saunders to not only promote and sell themselves, their skills talents and abilities, but ensured that Manchester was showcased to its best, highlighting the cities connections, opportunities for collaboration and its future-proof infrastructure, leaving clients with the best impression of the business and city.
On his experience working with MIDAS, Peter Saunders, joint director for Mackinnon & Saunders commented: “The first time we worked with MIDAS, they were fundamental in helping us to prepare for and arrange a very important visit for our clients from the States. They supported us in a way we never anticipated, not only financially but by connecting us with their numerous influential contacts across the city. “MIDAS is an integral part of the business community in Manchester and are always on hand to offer advice to us, if they don’t have the answer, they’ll know who will!” As the company’s success in the city grows, so are their hopes for creating more animated series’ of their own, with the ultimate goal of producing their own feature films here in Manchester.