Chairman meets animator as she begins project all about Skipton

An exciting project celebrating Skipton and the Yorkshire Dales is under way, featuring familiar local faces with a twist – everyone is a dog.

The future animated series Dogs' Dales is the brainchild of Virpi Kettu, a Skipton-based digital artist and animator with her local digital business Kettu Studios.

North Yorkshire County Council Chair Cllr Jim Clark went to meet Virpi at her studio in Skipton to celebrate how Virpi’s animation brings creative industries to North Yorkshire.

Kettu Studios is an example of how the growth in creative industries is driving new investment into North Yorkshire. Over recent years, the creative industries sector has been growing significantly here in Yorkshire, helped by the region being chosen as the new headquarters for Channel Four. Creative industries remain a key business sector for investment in the county, as we work to support our businesses’ recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Virpi says she loves Skipton and wanted to celebrate the rich cultural heritage that exists in the Dales town, along with the friendly local characters who make the place what it is.

Virpi said: “I want people to come to Skipton and see the special people and special places. Once you do, you realise how magical it is. I wanted to celebrate Skipton and the Dales with a new story."

Virpi’s creative CV most recently includes the music video Resilience, a hit by pop royalty Katy Perry. She has also worked at Aardman, working on Shaun the Sheep and Wallace and Gromit.

She said: “When I first came to Skipton six years ago – with the intention of staying for ten months – I noticed that everyone has dogs.

“I’d also discovered that wool was a good material to make models out of, and Skipton has a rich history with wool and translates as ‘sheep town’ so it all made sense to do the project here.”

Cllr Clark said: “It’s wonderful to see creatives like Virpi in North Yorkshire. It shows that successful creatives like her don’t have to flock to London.

“Creative industries are important in the county and it’s brilliant to see Virpi’s success with projects like the Katy Perry music video.

“The fact she likes Skipton and the wonderful residents so much to dedicate an animation to it, too, is testament to the brilliant people in North Yorkshire.”

Virpi created six characters, based directly on familiar faces in the town.

There’s Jeff, a wise Yorkshire Terrier and captain of a canal tourist-boat; Joan, a local artist and designer; an Italian greyhound, Luc; a French baker Bernese Mountain dog; Judy, the town centre organising cocker spaniel, Mark, ice cream selling philosopher lurcher; and Georgina, an Afghan hound who takes travel photography and loves to meet new people and dance.

Virpi wants people to view Dogs' Dales across the world and be inspired to visit and meet the characters in real life and in an augmented reality trail and support local business.

She said: “There will be no dialogue in the animation, much like Shaun the Sheep, so it is internationally entertaining. I want it to tell a story of the Dales and put it in a different light for new audiences everywhere.

“I like Skipton so much, because I think it has inspirational magic around it, and also the air and water is so much better than Toronto, where I was living.”

To give an idea of the painstaking work Virpi does to animate Dogs' Dales, it took three months to create the video for Resilience using the same technique. The model making for the video took a month, and then Virpi animates about five seconds of film per day.

For Dogs' Dales, she is currently working on the pilot episode, which she expects will be about seven minutes long.

Virpi hopes to implement virtual mobile device app tours of Skipton where people can meet the Dogs' Dales characters in augmented reality through a mobile phone or pad app, and one day to expand Dogs' Dales into other towns in the Dales.

She added: “The people and history here inspire me so much.”