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Altrincham Puppet and Model Makers Mackinnon & Saunders score Oscar Win

Mackinnon & Saunders, based in Altrincham, collaborated with Hollywood director Guillermo del Toro to manufacture the miniature stars of the hit Netflix stop-motion animation.

“Animation is ready to be taken to the next step,” said director Guillermo del Toro as Pinocchio scooped ‘best-animated feature’ at the Oscars last night.

He asked viewers to “Keep animation in the conversation”.

The touching stop-motion musical fantasy was inspired by the 1883 Italian novel “The Adventures of Pinocchio” by Carlo Collodi, and informed by Gris Grimly’s illustrations of the 2002 edition of the book.

The production was made possible thanks to cutting-edge 3D printing technology, which allowed Mackinnon & Saunders to print the Pinocchio Puppets from Stainless steel.

This ground-breaking technology was possible thanks to the Made Smarter North West adoption programme, a government-funded initiative to help SME manufacturers digitalise, decarbonise and drive growth through new technologies and skills.

Funding support and impartial expert advice enabled Mackinnon & Saunders to test and trial brand-new 3D techniques with Laser Prototype Europe (LPE), a rapid prototyping service bureau based in Belfast.

Speaking to I Love Manchester, Peter Saunders, Co-founder of Mackinnon & Saunders, said: “We are thrilled to have played a part in creating such a successful film which has been watched and loved by so many.

“It means the world to our team to have worked on an Oscar-winning film.”

He was quick to thank Made Smarter, which provided technical support and investment in the new processes.

He continued: “It is also a testament to what can be achieved through programmes like Made Smarter, which gave us such valuable technical support and facilitated our exploration of this game-changing technology.

“That support has kept us ahead of the game and given us great confidence to focus on the next big potential Oscar-winning productions.”

Pinnochio has already won an incredible selection of awards, including a BAFTA, Golden Globe and can now add an Oscar for the ‘best-animated feature’ to that list.

You can read our full interview with the co-founder of Mackinnon & Saunders by clicking here.

Founded by puppeteers Peter Saunders and Ian Mackinnon 30 years ago, Mackinnon & Saunders have brought to life some of the children’s most beloved TV characters including Bob the Builder, Postman Pat and the new Clangers.

The company has built a global reputation through collaboration with Hollywood directors Tim Burton on Mars Attacks!, Frankenweenie and Corpse Bride; and Wes Anderson on Fantastic Mr Fox.

The team of sculptors, costume makers, metal workers and painters have found success blending traditional skills with new technology and processes.

Peter explained: “We have developed a lot of knowledge about 3D printing over the years. All that sum knowledge gathered up was put into Pinocchio.

“Made Smarter arrived at the perfect time. We were able to access funding and advice to trial the latest development in metal printing machines.

“Our collaborators LPE understood what we were striving for and pushed their machines to the absolute maximum to achieve fine metal printing work to retain the details while ensuring the parts fit together to create a moving puppet.

“The animators who used Pinnochio were delighted with the outcome because it was a very delicate puppet, but it was indestructible.”

This is only the second stop-motion animated movie to win the Oscar’s animated feature category, which was first presented in 2002.

The first to win was 2005’s Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. 

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