Aardman Animations

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Aardman Animations, Ltd.
Type Private company limited by shares
Industry Animation
Founded 1972
Founder(s) Peter Lord
David Sproxton
Headquarters Bristol, England, UK
Key people Peter Lord
Nick Park
David Sproxton
Divisions Aardman Features
Aardman Digital
Aardman Commercials
Aardman Broadcast
Aardman International
Aardman Rights
Aardman Effects
Website aardman.com

Aardman Animations, Ltd., also known as Aardman Studios, or simply as Aardman, is a British animation studio based in Bristol, United Kingdom. The studio is known for films made using stop-motion clay animation techniques, particularly those featuring Plasticine characters Wallace and Gromit. It entered the computer animation market with Flushed Away (2006).

History[edit]

Aardman Animations' headquarters in Bristol

1972–1996[edit]

Aardman was founded in 1972 as a low-budget project by Peter Lord and David Sproxton, who wanted to realise their dream of producing an animated motion picture. The partnership provided animated sequences for the BBC series for deaf children Vision On. After creating a segment called "Greeblies" (1975) using clay animation, became what was the inspiration for creating Morph, a simple clay character. Around the same time Lord and Sproxton made their first foray into adult animation with the shorts Down and Out and Confessions of a Foyer Girl, entries in the BBC's Animated Conversations series using real-life conversations as soundtracks. However, these two shorts were not actual Aardman productions. Aardman also created the title sequence for The Great Egg Race[1] and supplied animation for the multiple award winning music video of Peter Gabriel's song "Sledgehammer".[2] They produced the music video for the song "My Baby Just Cares For Me" by Nina Simone in 1987.

Later Aardman produced a number of shorts for Channel 4 including the Conversation Pieces series. These five shorts worked in the same area as the Animated Conversations pieces, but were more sophisticated. Lord and Sproxton began hiring more animators at this point; three of the newcomers made their directorial debut at Aardman with the Lip Synch series. Of the five Lip Synch shorts two were directed by Peter Lord, one by Barry Purves, one by Richard Goleszowski and one by Nick Park.

Park's short, Creature Comforts, was the first Aardman production to win an Oscar. Park also developed the clay modelled shorts featuring the adventures of Wallace and Gromit, a comical pair of friends: Wallace being a naive English inventor with a love of cheese, and Gromit his best friend, the intelligent but silent dog. These films include A Grand Day Out (1989), The Wrong Trousers (1993) and A Close Shave (1995), the latter two winning Academy Awards.

1997–2006[edit]

In December 1997, Aardman and DreamWorks (later DreamWorks Animation) announced that their companies were teaming up to co-finance and distribute Chicken Run, Aardman's first feature film, which had already been in pre-production for a year.[3] On 27 October 1999, Aardman and DreamWorks signed a $250 million[4] deal to make an additional four films in an estimated next 12 years.[5] With the deal was also announced the first project, titled The Tortoise and the Hare. Intended to be based on Aesop's fable and directed by Richard Goleszowski,[6] it was put on hold two years later because of script issues.[7] On 23 June 2000, Chicken Run was released to a great critical and financial success. In 2005, after ten years of absence, Wallace and Gromit returned in Academy Award-winning Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Next year followed Flushed Away, Aardman's first computer-animated feature.

On 1 October 2006, right before the release of Flushed Away, The New York Times reported that due to creative differences DreamWorks Animation and Aardman would not be extending their contract.[8] The deal was officially terminated on 30 January 2007.[9] According to Aardman's spokesman Arthur Sheriff: "The business model of DreamWorks no longer suits Aardman and vice versa. But the split couldn't have been more amicable."[9] Unofficial reasons for departure were weak performances of the last two movies, for which DreamWorks had to take writedowns,[9] and citing the article, "Aardman executives chafed at the creative control DreamWorks tried to exert, particularly with Flushed Away..."[8] The studio had another film in development, Crood Awakening, which had been announced in 2005, with John Cleese co-writing the screenplay.[10] With the end of the partnership, the film's rights reverted to DreamWorks.[9]

Meanwhile, on 10 October 2005, a serious fire at a storage facility used by Aardman and other Bristol based companies destroyed over 30 years of awards collected by the company as well as props, models, and scenery often built by the Bristol-based Cod Steaks. This warehouse was used for storage of past projects and so did not prevent the production of their current projects at the time. In addition, the company's library of finished films was stored elsewhere and was undamaged. An electrical fault was determined to be the cause of the blaze.[11] Referring to the 2004 South Asia earthquake and tsunami, Park was quoted as saying, "Even though it is a precious and nostalgic collection and valuable to the company, in light of other tragedies, today isn't a big deal."[12]

From 2006–2007, the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo, Japan, had an exhibit featuring the works of Aardman Studios. Sproxton and Lord visited the exhibit in May 2006 and met with animator Hayao Miyazaki during the visit.[13] Miyazaki has long been a fan of the Aardman Animation works.[14]

2007–present[edit]

In April 2007 Aardman signed[15] and in 2010 renewed[16] a three-year deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment to finance, co-produce and distribute feature films. Aardman co-founder Peter Lord remarked "We are all very excited by the potential and have a number of projects we are keen to bring to fruition with this new relationship." In 2008 however, before the first film with Sony, Aardman released a new Wallace and Gromit film, called A Matter of Loaf and Death. The first film, Aardman's first 3-D feature film, a computer-animated Arthur Christmas, was released in 2011. 2012 was the release of The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists (known internationally as The Pirates! Band of Misfits), Aardman's first 3-D stop-motion film and Peter Lord's first film as a director since Chicken Run.

An additional two films were announced in June 2007:[17] The Cat Burglars, a stop-motion directed by Steve Box, about cats that steal milk, and their plans to pull off 'the great milk float robbery'. It is touted as a 'Tarantino' cross Ocean's Eleven style picture and written by Ashley Pharoah and Matthew Graham of Life on Mars; and an untitled Nick Park project (although confirmed not a Wallace and Gromit feature).

Aardman is also known to provide generous resources and training to young animators by providing awards at various animation festivals. For example, The Aardman Award at the UK's Animex Festival in Teesside provides world class story consultation to a promising young animator, for their next film.[18]

In 2008, Aardman joined with Channel 4 and Lupus Films to launch a user-generated content animation portal called 4mations.[19]

They also designed the BBC One Christmas Idents for that year, which featured Wallace and Gromit to tie in with the showing of the new Wallace and Gromit film called A Matter of Loaf and Death on Christmas Day at 8:30pm.

In April 2008, Aardman launched the Aardman YouTube channel, which is a YouTube Partner channel featuring the entire Creature Comforts TV series, the Morph series, Cracking Contraptions and clips from the Wallace and Gromit films.[20]

From December 2008, Aardman also started posting various flash games on Newgrounds, the majority of which are based on Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep.[21]

In 2009, Nintendo announced that Aardman would make twelve short films using only Flipnote Studio from Nintendo DSi. The films were posted on Flipnote's Hatena web service provider. The first film was called The Sandwich Twins and was released on 16 September 2009. The remaining eleven films were released on a weekly basis until Christmas, and can also be downloaded using Hatena.[22]

In October 2013, Peter Lord (co-founder of Aardman Animations) created a fund raising project on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter. The campaign has a target of £75,000 which will be used to fund 12 new one-minute episodes of Morph. Lord is hoping to start production in January 2014 using the original stop-frame animation. Backers of the project will receive a variety of rewards, including early access to the new animations and a small box of clay used in the production, depending on the individual's level of funding.[23][24]

Company name[edit]

The company name is taken from one of its early characters, a superhero created for Vision On in 1972. Unlike the claymation productions that the company are famous for, Aardman was cel-animated. The name derives from the Dutch phrase "aard man" meaning Nature Man, when joined together, "aardman" becomes "Earthman" more commonly translated to: "goblin". However, co-founder David Sproxton has claimed that the name was a result of being unable to "find another word with more A's in it than 'aardvark'" as schoolboys.[25]

Non-Aardman productions by Aardman directors[edit]

A number of Aardman directors have worked at other studios, taking the distinctive Aardman style with them.

Aardman's Steve Box directed the animated music video for the Spice Girls' final single as a five-piece, "Viva Forever". Widely regarded as the Spice Girls' most critically acclaimed song, the video took over 5 months to produce, considerably longer than the group's box office hit movie, Spice World. Barry Purves, director of the Aardman short Next, also directed Hamilton Mattress for Harvest Films. The film, a half-hour special that premiered on Christmas Day 2001, was produced by Chris Moll, producer of the Wallace and Gromit short film The Wrong Trousers. The models were provided by Mackinnon & Saunders, a firm that did the same for Bob the Builder and Corpse Bride.

Similarly, Robbie the Reindeer in Hooves of Fire, a BBC Bristol/Comic Relief production, was directed by Richard Goleszowski, creator of Rex the Runt. Its sequel, Robbie the Reindeer in Legend of the Lost Tribe, was directed by Peter Peake, whose directorial credits for Aardman include Pib and Pog and Humdrum.

Aardman alumni also produced many of the claymation shorts used in the 1986–1990 American television series Pee-wee's Playhouse.[citation needed]

Filmography[edit]

Released films

# Title Release date Budget Gross RT In partnership with
1 Chicken Run June 30, 2000 $45,000,000 $224,834,564 97% DreamWorks Animation
2 Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit October 14, 2005 $30,000,000 $192,610,372 95%
3 Flushed Away December 1, 2006 $149,000,000 $178,120,010 72%
4 Arthur Christmas November 11, 2011 $100,000,000 $147,230,962 92% Sony Pictures Animation
5 The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists March 28, 2012 $55,000,000 $121,637,328 87%

Upcoming films

Title Release Date Refs.
Shaun the Sheep March 20, 2015 [26][27]

Films in development

Title Ref(s)
The Cat Burglars [17]
Untitled Nick Park project [17]

Television series/series of shorts[edit]

# Title Premiere date End date Network
1 The Great Egg Race (opening titles) 1978 1986 BBC
2 The Amazing Adventures of Morph 13 October 1980 1981 BBC
1 Round the Bend (animated segments; False Teeth from Beyond the Stars, Attack of the Atomic Banana, False Teeth vs. Atom Banana) 6 January 1989 1 July 1991 ITV
3 The Morph Files 1 July 1995 23 September 1995
4 Rex the Runt 21 December 1998 16 December 2001 BBC Two
5 Angry Kid 1999 present
6 Wallace & Gromit's Cracking Contraptions 15 October 2002 present
7 The Presentators 2003 2004 Nickelodeon
8 Creature Comforts 1 October 2003 18 June 2007 ITV
CBS
Animal Planet
9 Planet Sketch 2005 2010 CITV
Teletoon
10 Purple and Brown 2006 2007 Nickelodeon
11 Pib and Pog 2006 2006
12 Shaun the Sheep 5 March 2007 present CBBC
13 Chop Socky Chooks 17 March 2008 28 November 2008 Cartoon Network
14 Timmy Time 6 April 2009 13 July 2012 Cbeebies
15 Wallace and Gromit's World of Invention 3 November 2010 8 December 2010 BBC
16 Canimals[28][29] 9 June 2011 present BRB Internacional
17 Ploo[30] TBA TBA TBA

Short films[edit]

# Title Release date
1 Animated Conversations: Down and Out 1977
2 Animated Conversations: Confessions of a Foyer Girl 1978
3 Conversation Pieces: On Probation 1983
4 Conversation Pieces: Sales Pitch 1983
5 Conversation Pieces: Palmy Days 1983
6 Conversation Pieces: Early Bird 1983
7 Conversation Pieces: Late Edition 1983
8 Sweet Disaster: Babylon 1986
9 Going Equipped 1987
10 Creature Comforts 15 July 1989
11 War Story 1989
12 Ident 1989
13 Next 1989
14 A Grand Day Out 1989
15 Adam 1991
16 Rex the Runt: North by North Pole 1993
17 Loves Me, Loves Me Not 1993
18 Not Without My Handbag 1993
19 The Wrong Trousers 17 December 1993
20 Pib and Pog 1993
21 Pop 1993
22 Wat's Pig 1993
23 Rex the Runt: How the Dinosaurs Became Extinct 1993
24 A Close Shave 24 December 1995
25 The Art Box Bunch 1995
26 Owzat 1997
27 Stage Fright 19 November 1997
28 Humdrum 1998
29 Al Dente 1998
30 Minotaur and Little Nerkin 1999
31 The Non-Voters (for the BBC Election coverage) 2004
32 A Matter of Loaf and Death 25 December 2008
33 Dot 2010
34 Gulp 2011
35 The Itch of The Golden Nit 2011
36 DC's World Funnest ("DC Nation Shorts") 2012-present
37 Wallace & Gromit's Jubilee Bunt-a-thon 2 June 2012
38 So You Want to Be a Pirate! 28 August 2012
39 Wallace & Gromit's Musical Marvels 2012

Music Videos[edit]

# Title Release date
1 Sledgehammer 1986
2 My Baby Just Cares for Me 1987
3 Barefootin 1987
4 Viva Forever 1998

Commercials[edit]

Books[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lane, Megan (14 October 2010). "What's an egg race got to do with inventing?". BBC News. Archived from the original on 10 November 2010. Retrieved 17 November 2010. 
  2. ^ Peter Gabriel, 'Sledgehammer' (1986) – The 30 All-TIME Best Music Videos Time. Retrieved 23 November 2011
  3. ^ "Chicken Run: Deal clinched with DreamWorks & Pathe". Telepathy Ltd. 3 December 1997. Retrieved 30 August 2011. 
  4. ^ Gibbons, Fiachra (29 October 1999). "Wallace and Gromit's Hollywood deal:Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks signs $250m agreement with animation company that began on kitchen table in Bristol". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 November 2010. 
  5. ^ Moerk, Christian (27 October 2011). "DW-Aardman pact drawn". Variety. Retrieved 3 September 2011. 
  6. ^ Dawtrey, Adam (20 December 1999). "Aardman's 'Hare' to run with Goleszowski". Variety. Retrieved 8 December 2010. 
  7. ^ Linder, Brian (7 July 2001). "Aardman Halts Tortoise vs. Hare". Ign. Retrieved 8 December 2010. 
  8. ^ a b M. Holson, Laura (3 October 2006). "Is Th-Th-That All, Folks?". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 November 2010. 
  9. ^ a b c d Fritz, Ben (30 January 2007). "Aardman, DWA end partnership". Variety. Retrieved 18 November 2010. 
  10. ^ "DreamWorks and Aardman Are in for a 'Crood Awakening'" (Press release). DreamWorks Animation SKG. 12 May 2005. Retrieved 8 December 2010. 
  11. ^ BBC News (9 December 2005). "Aardman fire caused by electrics". BBC News. Retrieved 17 November 2010. 
  12. ^ breakingNEWS.ie (10 October 2005). "Nick Park: Aardman fire 'no big deal' in world context". breakingNEWS.ie. Retrieved 17 November 2010. 
  13. ^ The Japan Times (24 November 2006). "Ghibli brings claymation to Tokyo: Aardman exhibits, new Miyazaki anime on view". The Japan Times. Retrieved 7 November 2010. 
  14. ^ Mulrooney, Marty (27 November 2009). "INTERVIEW – In Conversation With Merlin Crossingham, Lead Animator At Aardman Animation". Alternative Magazine Online. Archived from the original on 16 November 2010. Retrieved 7 November 2010. 
  15. ^ BBC News (2 April 2007). "Gromit animators sign Sony deal". BBC News. Retrieved 7 November 2010. 
  16. ^ Debruge, Peter (18 December 2010). "Aardman charts new course with Sony". Variety. Retrieved 24 January 2011. 
  17. ^ a b c "Aardman reveals new slate". Variety. 18 June 2007. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  18. ^ Hofferman, Jon (12 September 2007). "Animex Adds Aardman Award". Animation Magazine. Retrieved 26 November 2010. 
  19. ^ Kiss, Jemima (28 August 2008). "Channel 4 creates 'home for animation'". London: guardian.co.uk. Archived from the original on 17 May 2009. Retrieved 24 April 2009. 
  20. ^ Holmwood, Leigh (15 October 2008). "Wallace and Gromit get YouTube channel after Aardman deal". Guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 17 November 2010. 
  21. ^ Wildgoose, David (27 August 2010). "LunchTimeWaster: The Physics Of Sheep". Kotaku. Retrieved 17 November 2010. 
  22. ^ Nintendo (10 September 2009). "Oscar-winning Aardman Studios to create 12 Films of Christmas with Nintendo". Nintendo. Retrieved 18 November 2010. 
  23. ^ "All New Adventures of Morph from Aardman Animations". Kickstarter. Retrieved 2 November 2013. 
  24. ^ "'Bring back Morph' campaign launched by Aardman". BBC News. 30 October 2013. Retrieved 2 November 2013. 
  25. ^ "Aardman Podcast Episode 1: The Early Days". Aardman. Retrieved 23 May 2014. 
  26. ^ "Aardman Animations plan new Shaun the Sheep film". BBC. 27 January 2011. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  27. ^ "Shaun the Sheep set for big-screen adventure in 2015". BBC. 25 April 2013. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  28. ^ Clarke, Steve (22 March 2010). "Aardman leads 'Canimals' team". Variety. Retrieved 5 September 2012. 
  29. ^ Zahed, Ramin (4 September 2012). "Aardman/BRB's 'Canimals' Begins Run on CITV". Animation Magazine. Retrieved 5 September 2012. 
  30. ^ "Aardman jobs may move to Germany". This is Somerset. 2 February 2012. Retrieved 20 February 2012. 
  31. ^ "Hotels.com Claymation TV Commercial". YouTube. 2 June 2009. Retrieved 24 September 2013. 

External links[edit]