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Family magazine

The Pelican Chorus

Cambridge illustrator brings classic poem to life

Ángel Gurría-Quintana
localsecrets.com Friday, 11 Nov 2011

    “King and Queen of the Pelicans we;
    No other Birds so grand we see!
    None but we have feet like fins!
    With lovely leathery throats and chins!”


    Edward Lear's “The Pelican Chorus” has delighted readers, young and old, since it was published in 1877. This week the poem will get a new lease of life when an animated version, based on illustrations by Cambridge artist Amanda Hall, is released as an iPhone app.

    Hall, who works in her garden shed –she calls it “The Shadowhouse”— was originally commissioned by US children’s magazine Ladybug to make five illustrations for an abbreviated version of the poem. Edward Lear’s pen drawings are as famous as his nonsense poems, so she faced the challenge of reinterpreting well-known images. “I had not only to try to do him justice and pay tribute, but also try not to imitate his original and much loved drawings too much.”

    The resulting illustrations captured Lear’s eccentric playfulness while showcasing Hall’s very own style. The story of the pelican couple cruising down the Nile and inviting all other birds to join in a celebration was well suited to her use of intensely rich colours. It also allowed her to indulge in two of her favourite subjects –animals, and tales of fantasy or myth.

    Hall grew up in Cambridge, where her father was an art-school teacher, a painter and set designer. She studied illustration at the Cambridge School of Art (now Anglia Ruskin), and has since worked as an illustrator for children’s books. She has illustrated 12 story collections and 10 picture books, and has produced many illustrations for educational publishing and advertising. Her latest book is a version of Aesop's Fables, and she is currently working on two more titles. “It feels the most natural thing to me to illustrate stories –this is what I do and have always done.”

    Ladybug’s Bookshelf, which has been successful in transposing children’s books into new interactive formats, approached Hall about the idea of turning her illustrations into an animated app. Ethervision, a company specialising in app creation, was brought in to develop it.

    Hall’s “Pelican Chorus” will be launched on November 17. To judge from the trailer on the artist’s page, it is likely to charm children as well as their parents. It will allow users to explore the rich illustrations and find all sorts of surprises. “I have always dreamed of having my work animated,” says Hall, “as movement takes illustrations into a more complete world to lose yourself in as a viewer…It is just amazing to see my images come to life and to enjoy all the little details that the animator has chosen to play with, like the spinning bow tie and the movement of the boats and the animals.”

    The app can be used in “Read to me” mode, or in “Read it myself” for older children, and includes music to which users can sing along. “The sounds and songs are all part of why it works so well,” Hall adds.

    It is not the first time her work has sprung to life –a young animator called Harriet Gillian took one of her drawings of a furry aardvark and made it move on Hall’s website. “I had to send her drawings of all the separate body parts so that she could animate the aardvark like a puppet.” Seeing her illustrations acquire a life of their own, she says, is always a thrill: “I would love to be involved in more animation!”


    “The Pelican Chorus” iPhone app, based on Amanda Hall’s illustrations, will be launched on November 17. It will be available as a free download from the iTunes store for a limited time following its launch. To see a sample video of the app, or to find out more about Amanda Hall’s work, visit www.amandahall-illustration.com/news.htm

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The Pelican Chorus| Family| localsecrets