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Disney and Marvel Comics animator and artist heading up illustration degree course

An established animator, illustrator and artist whose work has featured in Disney productions and Marvel Comics has joined The Northern School of Art to head up its illustration degree course.

Niel Bushnell, who also has had work credited in numerous feature films and computer games, has been appointed as the Programme Leader for the School’s BA (Hons) Illustration for Commercial Application degree course at the School’s university-level campus in Hartlepool.

Born and brought up in Hartlepool, Niel started his career working for Marvel Comics before moving into the animation industry where he worked on a broad range of projects from cereal commercials to feature films including Space Jam and Lost in Space.

He then moved into the computer games industry as a concept artist, illustrator and animator on games including Shadowman and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Niel’s work for Disney included a Lion King short film called ‘The Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable’ which played at the Epcot Centre’s The Land pavilion at the Walt Disney World Resort in Bay Lake, Florida, for over twenty years until it finally closed in 2018.

After a stint in London, Niel returned to his native Hartlepool and formed his own studio, supervising a team of animators and artists, producing work for UK television shows such as Spooks, Hyperdrive, Mongrels, The Windsors and Derry Girls.

More recently, Niel has been involved in the Doctor Who BluRay range, creating new animation, graphics and effects.

When he’s not drawing or animating, Niel enjoys writing and has had nine books published.

Before he had even left school Niel had set up his own comic, a sci-fi publication produced in collaboration with a team he put together after advertising for fellow enthusiasts.

He explained, “I was heavily influenced by Ridley Scott’s work in Blade Runner and Alien as well as the Star Wars films.”

Commenting on his appointment to Ridley Scott’s former college, Niel added, “I am very excited to be here. I’ve always admired the institution and the work produced here.

“The illustration degree is a great course and I’ll be working to reinforce its links with the creative sector so that our students have as much exposure to potential clients and future employers as possible. I’ll also be drumming home the importance of a good work ethic to succeed in the industry, but it’ll be fun too”.

Niel will continue his illustration work alongside his role at the School. “It’s vital to keep my skills current and to maintain my contacts so I can support the students with work experience placements to help with their future employability.”  

The Northern School of Art’s Vice Principal, Pat Chapman, said, “We are delighted to welcome Niel to The Northern School of Art. The great breadth of his experience and professional interests will inspire students as well inform their learning with us. 

“Niel’s background is collaborative, crossing disciplines, which is exactly how we like to work in the School.”

The Northern School of Art is the only specialist provider of creative courses in the North East with a rating of Gold in the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework which means its students receive some of the highest quality teaching in the UK.

In 2019, the independent survey of student satisfaction, the National Student Survey (NSS), reported that 92% students were satisfied overall with their experience at the School, the highest score of all similar arts institutions across the UK and an increase from 90% in 2018, against a backdrop of a decline in student satisfaction in almost half of the UK’s universities and colleges.

Kate Shaw
Article by Kate Shaw
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