Aardman Animations and plasticine go together like Wallace and Gromit.
A record breaking 2,844.9 kg of it was used to make The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) – a record previously held by Aardman’s own Chicken Run (2000). The hand-made look of Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep and the Creature Comforts gang are part of their appeal. The smudge of an animator’s thumbprint on Morph’s arm gives him a tactile, endearing quality that somehow makes him more, not less, life-like.
Yet computer generated imagery is playing an increasingly important role in Aardman’s work. They may be made of pixels, but these CGI productions have the same humour, humanity and charm as their plasticine counterparts.
The wit of Ray’s Big Idea, which sees a pre-historic fish fight his way out of the primordial soup, and Pythagasaurus Full, about a dinosaur that’s good at maths, is pure Aardman. The beautiful and moving Flight of the Stories was commissioned by the Imperial War Museum to commemorate the First World War Centenary and the opening of their new galleries. Earlier this year, Aardman made Inside the Mind of Professor Stephen Hawking to mark the Professor’s Radio 4 Reith Lecture on Black Holes. There have been a host of CGI adverts, including Vimto’s Toad Off, and Aardman put CGI centre stage in their big screen creations Flushed Away (2006) and Arthur Christmas (2011).
The studio has even created a series of apps and computer games, giving fans another way to enjoy their stories. Special Delivery is a downloadable, interactive animation that can be experienced on YouTube, Android and at the National Media Museum during October half term.
For our new Aardman Expression Lab we asked Mathew Rees, the Supervising Senior Animator in Aardman’s CGI department, how it’s done.
The Aardman Expression Lab is on at the National Media Museum from Saturday 22 until Sunday 30 October, 2016.