Aardman Animations’ Greatest Hits
Arthur Christmas is hitting our screens this Friday (unseasonably early it seems but remember folks, Christmas starts in October). It’s the new film from Aardman Animations, those geniuses behind The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave.
Aardman have moved from their claymation roots to CGI Animation these days (starting in 2006 with Flushed Away) but let’s take a look back at some of their best work (some of which you might not be familiar with).
Full of charm and wit, most of it from the silent expressions of claymation dog Gromit, The Wrong Trousers won an Academy Award for Animated Short Film in 1993. It’s still one of their best films. Who could forget the diabolical machinations of evil penguin Feathers McGraw or that utterly superb chase scene with Gromit and the model railway? Sublime from start to finish.
Definitely a contender for the best Christmas release of all time, A Close Shave followed in the footsteps of The Wrong Trousers winning the award for Animated Short Film in 1995. Highly inventive and full of the characteristic charm that makes Aardman films special, A Close Shave sees Wallace and Gromit take on the fiendish dog Preston and his sheep rustling scheme.
Wallace and Gromit started here, on a mission to explore the moon and bring back the cheese it’s made of. Wallace and Gromit look a lot cruder than they do in future instalments – Gromit looks okay but Wallace looks more like a real person and less like Ed Miliband than he does these days. Weird. It was nominated for the 1990 Best Animated Short but lost to Creature Comforts, another Aardman creation.
The first feature-length Wallace and Gromit, Curse Of The Were-Rabbit was released to almost universal acclaim and was the fourth Aardman film to win an Academy Award (this time for Best Animated Feature). There were some worries that the short format wouldn’t transfer well to a feature-length format (Peter Sallis who voiced Wallace even said he preferred the shorts) but it’s an undeniably impressive achievement.
Two shadow puppets sit around a table with nothing to do. They’ve tried watching TV and playing chess but to no avail. Eventually they decide to play a game of shadow puppets, only for one to get enraged when the other one can’t guess what it is. Markedly different from a lot of other Aardman films, it’s still funny, charming and was nominated for a Best Animated Short Oscar in 1998.
The fifth Wallace and Gromit film sees the duo open bakery only to come under threat from a cereal killer (hah!) who’s targeting only bakers. Wallace couldn’t care less though as he’s enthralled by his new squeeze Piella Bakewell. It was a lower key release for Aardman but nevertheless scooped a Best Animated Short nomination.
This is what made Aardman a household name. When I was at school, this was always put on the TV when nothing else was on – the sight of a claymation hippo taking a dump to the delightful laughter of children is one of my strongest memories. It’s still bloody brilliant and worth tracking down. Oh yeah, it also won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short.
For many, Morph will be an intrinsic part of their childhood and the main reason that they watched Tony Hart’s Hartbeat in the first place. He’s a testament to the amount of personality you can inject into a character without uttering a word. Magic.
A slightly more adult animation for Aardman (most of whose output it fairly benign), Angry Kid centres on the titular character, a ginger-haired 15 year old obnoxious foul-mouthed little git. It’s extremely puerile but still absolutely hilarious.
What appears on the surface to be a genial children’s animation narrated by a mumsy voice turns rapidly into a dark comedy in which the characters attempt to kill each other. It satisfies everyone’s love for mindless violence in animation and is one of my favourite Aardman animations ever.