New initiative, The Secret Story Draw, has launched to find new talent in the animation industry.

The scheme is dedicated to placing illustrators and animators from underrepresented ethnic groups in some of the country’s best animation studios.

The Secret Story Draw will see top UK children’s writers provide an anonymous story, with budding animators and illustrators invited to bring the stories to life. The author of each story will remain anonymous until the winners are revealed in June.

Announced writers contributing stories include: Keith Chapman (Paw Patrol, Bob The Builder), Frank Cottrell-Boyce (Runaway Robot, Millions,Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth), Gillian Cross (The Demon Headmaster), Adam Redfern (The Adventures Of Paddington), Dan Freedman (Jamie Johnson, Unstoppable), Swapna Haddow (Dave Pigeon!), M.G. Leonard (Beetle Boy), Mark Lowery (Socks Are Not Enough, Charlie and Me and The Roman Garstang Series), Will Mabbitt (The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones), E.L. Norry (Son of the Circus), Sam Sedgman (The Highland Falcon Thief) and Chitra Soundar (Where is Gola’s Home).

The Secret Story Draw organisers have recruited a stellar panel from the television and film industries, with winners earning themselves a paid internship with one of the top animation studios in the UK. Internships will run for at least three months and will be based in the studio or remote working as agreed by the participating studio. Current studios taking part include: Aardman, Blue Zoo Animation Studio, DNEG, Factory, Fourth Wall, Jellyfish Pictures, Ltd, King Bert, Hopster and Moonbug.

Chair of The Secret Story Draw judging panel Jamila Metran, (Director of Kids Networks, Sony Pictures Television) said: “Finding ways to make our industry more diverse is not a new debate, but finding real, tangible solutions has been frustratingly slow. I am immensely proud therefore to be part of The Secret Story Draw initiative that pro-actively supports the vast amount of talent from under-represented communities in accessing and progressing through the children’s media industry. Doing everything we can to ensure input from an inclusive creative workforce is vital if we want to make the quality, authentic content that speaks to the diverse viewing community we serve, and we need increased diversity behind the scenes just as much as we need it on screen.”

Announced judges include: Axel Scheffler (The Gruffalo), Jamila Metran (Director of Sony Kids Network), Elliott Palmer (Producer and consultant, King Bert Productions), Steve Harding-Hill (Creative Director at Aardman Animations), Tom Beattie (Head of Kids and Family, Tiger Aspect), Tom Box (MD, Blue Zoo), Tom Brass (Creative Director, Jellyfish Pictures), Jackie Edwards (Head of Fund, Young Audiences Content Fund – BFI), Louise Bucknole (VP Kids Programming UK & Ireland, Nick Network and Milkshake!), Adam Campbell (Director of Product at Azoomee), Ted Ty (Global Head of Character Animation at DNEG), Laura Henry-Allain MBE  (creator CBeebies characters JoJo and Gran Gran), Jodie Hodges (literary agent for children’s authors, United Agents), Darren Nartey (Acquisitions Manager for all acquired Films and Kids content, ITV) and Selom Sunu,(Illustrator and Character Designer).

The Secret Story Draw is in association with various industry partners including the DCMS funded Young Audiences Content Fund, which is managed by the BFI and supports the creation of unique and distinctive content for young audiences, BAFTA Kids, The Children’s Media Conference, ScreenSkills and Macmillan Children’s Books.

Entries are now open at, and applicants must be 18 years or older at the time of the competition closing date, which is 28 May 2021, with winners announced in June 2021.


Jon Creamer

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