First order of business – my apologies for no entry yesterday. As I mentioned on Facebook, Tuesday was a particularly taxing day at work and I was completely wiped out when I got home. There was no energy left for me to do much writing.
Today’s article is a combination of Media Wednesday and Trivia Thursday. We’re going to talk trivia about something involving movies… and animation.
Here’s a question for you. What do all these things have in common:
- The Academy Award
- John Cleese
- Studio Ghibli
If you answered Aardman Productions, you’d be right. If you have no idea who or what Aardman Productions is, keep reading.
The Academy Award
Founded in 1972 by animators Peter Lord and David Sproxton, Aardman Productions was created with the intent of producing animation – both shorts and longer features. The first fifteen years saw the company producing title sequences for a variety of BBC shows and music videos. It wasn’t until 1989 that the company began to branch out into longer affairs.
1989 saw the completion of A Grand Day Out, a stop-motion 20-minute film about an inventor and his dog who travel to the moon for cheese. The film was the brainchild of Nick Park, a writer and animator who had joined Aardman in 1985. A Grand Day Out wound up vying with Creature Comforts, another Aardman project, for the 1990 Academy Award for Best Animated Picture. (Creature Comforts ultimately won)
A Grand Day Out, along with Creature Comforts, marked the start of an impressive foray into animation by Aardman. Over the next six years Aardman produced two more “Wallace and Grommit” shorts. Both of them won Academy Awards for Best Animated Picture. They continued to build on the story of the crazy inventor and his dog, and eventually introduced another character – a sheep – who would eventually make his own debut.
In 1997, DreamWorks and Aardman teamed up to create Chicken Run, a full-length animated movie about chickens who are trying to escape their farm. Chicken Run was the first of several films that DreamWorks and Aardman paired up on. In 2001 came Flushed Away, and the last movie that the two companies produced together was The Croods. As it happened, The Croods was co-written by John Cleese.
Aardman continued to develop, however. Their place in the animation industry was becoming very well known, especially outside England. Japan, in particular, had developed an interest in “Wallace and Grommit”. One of the largest fans in Japan happened to be the infamous Hayao Miyazaki. From 2006 to 2007, the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo carried an exhibit of Aardman works.
Starting in 2007, Aardman signed a deal with Sony Pictures. Arthur Christmas in 2011, and The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! in 2012 marked two of the studio’s newest productions. Arthur Christmas was its first foray into full digital animation.
Meanwhile, the company had released a new short involving its newest character from the “Wallace and Grommit” series, Shaun the Sheep. Shaun, a cheeky sheep who was finding mischief to get into around his farm, debuted in his own movie in 2015.
This brings us to our last point – soccer. In 2018, Aardman released their seventh movie, Early Man. The movie was about a group of Neanderthals who challenged a Bronze-age society to a soccer match to keep their lands. While not as great of a success as the earlier movies, it still generated a positive return at the box office and an 81% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
Aardman has a Shaun the Sheep sequel in the works, and rumors are that a sequel to Chicken Run is also being prepared.
If you get a chance, check Wallace and Grommit out on Amazon Prime, or look up any of Aardman Animations movies on either Prime or Netflix. I think you’ll find that they’re worth watching, no matter if you’re young or young at heart!