JLife speaks to Danny Cohen, one half of Cartoon Kingdom, the cartoon drawing company for kids bringing its tricks of the trade and workshops to Donisthorpe Hall this summer.
Danny Cohen and his brother Martin head up Cartoon Kingdom, Australia’s largest cartooning company specialising in entertainment and children’s educational programmes.
Its cartoon camps operate in eight counties around the world including the UK, USA, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore and Malaysia. 2019 will be its seventh year running camps in North London and Manchester, but this summer it will be heading to Leeds.
Hi Danny, can you tell us a little about yourselves?
Martin and I were born in Sydney however our parents are from the UK and together with their families immigrated to Sydney after the war like many other people. Now Sydney has a very active Jewish community of over 55,000. My dad was from Leeds and mum is originally from London and we still have a large family in both locations.
I am a professional cartoonist living in Dover Heights and I am married with three children. My brother Martin lives in Point Piper in the suburbs of Sydney, working with radio stations.
Tell us about your popular cartoon camps!
I spend my time travelling throughout Australia and overseas running my camps. Our Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and London camps are mainly frequented by Jewish families.
The children are taught step-by-step how to draw fun cartoons. No previous drawing skills are required. Children just need to be shown how to curve a line, connect one point to another and before you know it – you have created a picture!
When the kids go back to school here in Australia, my time is then available to head to the northern hemisphere to run summer camps in Canada and the UK. We have even worked in Hawaii and Seattle.
How did you get into cartooning?
I was always drawing as a child and I enjoyed the fact I could create on paper whatever I could imagine. I loved all things creative and wanted to be a cartoonist from a very young age. I loved reading Garfield comics and all the Disney cartoons. Mickey Mouse became an obsession and my home and office is decorated with paraphernalia relating to Mickey that I have collected.
What’s it like working with your brother?
My brother Martin is a few years younger than me. When we were children, we use to fight like most siblings but in recent years we have become closer. We live close to one another and meet every week.
Martin is the sensible and serious one and he tends to ground me. I am the big kid – a Peter Pan that never really grew up. I am the ideas man and Martin is the practical one.
Martin comes from a creative classical musical background and has worked in radio media advertising for many years. I come from a creative visual background. Our skills complement each other. When my business was starting out, he would assist me with running the bigger camps across Australia. When I first launched our UK camps, Martin came with me and directed the Wimbledon and Manchester camps.
Why bring the camp to Leeds?
Our London camps are very well established. I wanted to try a new location and we seem to do well in smaller communities. I’ve been to Leeds and I’ve heard wonderful things about the city and community. Also, our father was born there so we have a very large extended family in Leeds – it was a good excuse to visit them as well.
What are the benefits of joining the camp?
There are so many. The camps are not just for children that like to draw. Many of our loyal, long-term customers love all the fun, inclusive, challenging and exciting games.
Children are very imaginative. I love to watch their creative process as they express themselves in so many ways. I like to encourage children to make friends and it is wonderful to hear stories of friendships that have grown beyond the camps, long after I have returned to Australia. In Singapore the children have formed a large chat group to keep contact with one another.
Children also need to play. I enjoy taking them to the local parks for treasure hunts, safe water play fights, have a picnic lunch and just to run around. Children today spend too much time on their devices or sitting at a computer. My policy is to take them out to enjoy nature, have fun and to rediscover the meaning of playing outdoors!
For any beginners out there, what are the best things to try and draw first?
It’s always good to draw things that you are familiar with. I like to start with animals, pets, landscapes. When the children feel more confident, I do specific characters. As a part of my job I keep up to date with the latest movies, books, computer games and comics and take an active interest in what is current with the children. For example, Pokémon came back into fashion again recently.
I think I have one of the best jobs in the world. I get to draw for a living, travel the world, interact with children, meet new people and have fun every day. I love what I do and have made a career out of my hobby.
The Leeds cartoon camp will take place on 12th until 16th August in the Trudi Moss Suite at Donisthorpe Hall. To book, email email@example.com or visit Illustratingman.com.au. A day session is £22, with junior (4-7 years), intermediate (8-11 years) and seniors (12-15 years) in separate sessions.